Sitting on a wooden stool, carved out of the trunk of a tree, overlooking a valley formed by the Kumaoni hills, even as the cool breeze played with my plumage, life felt wonderful !!
The Kampland Nainital ( a pretty resort located at Sigri, Nainital district) near Pangot (Pangot : where the birds rule) is very aesthetically built and perfectly located. Comprising of a few cottages, the place offers beautiful views of the densely forested hillsides. These mountains of the Kumaon region are not like their elder brethren of the Greater Himalayas... they do not evoke, in the mortals, a sense of incomprehensible greatness.... the spiritual serenity or the humbling experience highlighting the miniscule human existence, that one associates with the Himalayas, is missing. These 9000 footers make one fall in absolute love with them...so lively and rich... a feast for the tired senses. Decades ago, an exceptional gentleman - Jim Corbett, found the calling of his life in these mountains. He helped improve the lives of the naive villagers..... hunted man-eaters, spending scorching noons, misty evenings and star-struck nights in sub-alpine jungles. Today, he has pubs, cafes and eateries named after him. I love to imagine that on chilly winter mornings, he strolls through the forests.... treading intrepidly on dry leaves, playing with shy sun rays, fondling new-born leopard cubs.
The ills of tourism are yet to infect these hills. While much beauty of Nainital - Bhimtal and the likes is rubbed off, Pangot still survives. There are no queues for parking cars, no dazzling multi-storey hotels. no flashy eateries or departmental stores.The flutter of an Eurasian Jay makes more noise than that of wheels rolling on rubble. The anxious call of the Barbet, as it flies across the valley below and settles on a bald apple tree in front of you cottage, thrills the simple souls. A black, heavy - browed giant of a dog shall surely come over.....have a sniff of two....woo you with its compassionate gazes, before settling royally nearby, not a bark though !!! While I love to have my drinks with music, the evenings at Pangot were so fulfilling that i never needed to turn on my MP3 player. Rising up before sunrise was easy, and driving through the forest, negotiating bends with headlights on, was fun... all in an effort to find the perfect spot to capture the sun rise........a spot where I was the only onlooker....... my blessed eyes feeling the pride all on its own, while Nature - the eternal artist painted non-chalantly.
Sometimes the black clouds gather together and decide to give these mountains a nice splash !!! There are nights when rain and wind make it impossible to move around ..... there is not much to do after sunset anyway!! On such a night in the hills, I found myself gazing out from inside my cottage, towards the blackness outside...the flashes of lightning revealing scenes from the big screen.... the silhoutte of the tress on the slopes...the dark clouds...and then, the brontide would shake a few loose joints !! One truly feels numbed by the powerful stimuli one's senses are exposed to.... the response being a thought in your head and a thrill in your heart. The response thrives long though, so much that it has driven me, many weeks later, to give form to my thoughts !!
The empty mind that is ready to perceive shall be surprised happily every moment....there is so much joy around in the Kumaon....the stark red colour of the drooping Guraas ( local name for Rhododendron)...the red Guraas extract spread on your halwa... the Russet's sparrow chipping away at your cottage's roof ( For a true Himalayan birding experience : Sattal)... the tale of a leopard, who is habitual trespasser and dog-lover (!!)..... most fertile seeds for figments of imagination.