The common sunrise is pretty uncommon in Mcleodganj.
The first day I woke up in Mcleodganj, and looked out of my window...Wow...Boom!...Wow.
Where was I all this time?
Well, I grew up in the bustling city of Mumbai and the closest mountains were over 80 kms away. So a days’ trip to Lonavala was the only time I got with them. As the years raced, the hill- station got extensively commercial, severing my relationship with the mountains.
Then, through the months, I would read in the newspapers about the quaint towns of Himachal, about roadblocks, about how someone's cow died on an extremely cold day, and spent a decade of my life reading these articles, about life in the mountains. Always wondering, if I'd ever get a chance to experience mountain life.
So two years ago, when my college decided to take the class to Himachal Pradesh, I rejoiced. Although the itinerary was predominantly clustered with the landscapes of Manali and the winding roads of Shimla, nestled cozily between these busy days was Mcleodganj, a quaint suburb that changed my life forever.
Yes, Manali was gorgeous and Shimla was out of a Bollywood movie, but let’s get to the town that really inspired this travelogue.
DAY 6: ‘Leave Manali at 12:00 pm. Arrive at Mcleodganj at 7:00 pm. Rest.’ That made me cringe, to be honest. I had never heard of the place, and I was very nervous to visit any offbeat place that would spoil my Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani- state- of- mind.
So as per schedule, we checked-in at 7, and my friends and I thought ‘Yeah nice place! Two days, and then Manali. Yayy! ”. It was dark and cold, but there was something in the air. I just knew I had some unfinished business with this land.
7:00 am- Rise and shine!!!! Naah! More like leftover fries and spilled wine. We walked out of the hotel, all groggy and half-asleep, but the roads were guiding me, towards happiness. Well actually Bhagsu Falls, but I was happy. Slowly, I took in every element around me. The river, the birds, the dogs, the strangers, the conversations with them, the cloudy skies, the light breeze and the fluttering prayer flags. I was home! The mountains had called me, and destiny took me there!
Well, I had gone in hopes to meet a stripped down version of Ranbir (at the least), but found true love instead. Can someone’s true love be a place? What happened to a well-trimmed stubble and that dizzying cologne? I had to know.
Walking through the cobbled streets, strutting through allies and jumping with joy on every slope, the land of Mcleodganj had meandered its way into my heart.
After a while, I decided to leave my friends and wander alone ( things I do in an attempt to seek some sort of adrenaline), for I believe, one can truly befriend a town by walking its' streets. Found a local cafe and thought ‘Ahh! The perfect place to sip hot chocolate and observe’.
Here’s what I saw- A usual Mcleodganj afternoon. The backpacker takes out her laptop from the bag and sits by the window, beginning work. The sky is overcast outside. She waits for the rays, but all she gets is the cold wind. So she drapes herself in woolens. Soft Tibetan music plays, and though the town is blanketed in gloom, hearts are at ease. Mountains continue playing hide and seek with the clouds, and the usual Mcleodganj afternoon continues.
I walk out, filled with inexplicable ecstasy, and begin my ascend toward the Dalai Lama Temple. A true beauty. Brimming with gratitude, I prayed - ‘May we all always walk somewhere between the realms of the seen and the unseen’.
So smitten by the beauty of the town, I was curious about the hearts of the people in it. I looked around, and they impressed me in so many ways. It didn’t matter if there were snowflakes or a sun beams, hail stones or heavy rain, the mountain people would brave it all to go about their daily chores. They're surely some of the toughest people I've ever come across.
As the day went by, and heaven fell in the form of powder, I asked myself- ‘Would I survive here?’. Over the years, my idea of a ‘good time’ changed from an energetic teenager, jumping like a kangaroo in clubs, to finding a cozy corner to sit with close ones or just myself, with a glass of good old whiskey. And so I knew I would come back here! Back home. The Little Lhasa of India and the big chunk of my heart.
At the end of the day, as I looked around the exposed-brick walls of my hotel room, everything was perfect. A warm fire and no cell- service. The snuggle was real.
I surely didn’t want to, but I left the following day, only to realise how much this place meant to me. No amount of shopping on Shimla’s Mall Road, no amount of partying in Manali, and no amount of coffee in Kullu did what this real life Windows desktop did to me.