Growing up, we all read about the stellar hill stations that India is dotted with. But the only hill station most of us remember out of our faded memory is Nainital. Nestled in the Kumaon foothills of the Himalayas at an altitude of 1,938 meters, Nainital is one of the most paradisiacal hill stations of Uttarakhand.
A 7 hour’s drive from Delhi takes you to the lake district of Uttarakhand. The scenic North Indian highways and the sporadic vista of the Corbett region won’t let you take your eyes off the road. As I reclined on the car seat, eagerly waiting to reach the destination, I perked up to a multitude of stars glittering in the night sky. The whole city twinkled like a jewel under the city lights. Every triad of lights formed their own rhythmic patterns with the stars. I checked into the hotel around 8.30 p.m. and dozed off early to watch the wintry sunrise.
I got up around 5.30 a.m. in the frosty December morning and went to the cafe cum terrace of the hotel to watch the sunrise. The panoramic view of the Naini-lake, the dazzling mountains on either side of the lake, the azure sky, and the sunlight popping out in between the mountains charmed the soul. I muffled myself with everything I could find and took a stroll down to the lake to be closer to the view. Ten minutes ambled walk from the hotel took me to the lake. As I settled myself on the watermen’s stairs, a helmsman came by and asked me, ” Bhaiya, Boat ki seher karva du kya?” I told him that I’ll have a ride later on with my cousins and he sat with me in search of his first customer of the day. I curiously asked him about the places we can explore in and around Nainital. He named around seven places and even acquainted me with some intriguing mythological facts about Nainital.
According to the helmsman, “Naini” in “Nainital” means “the eye”. The Naini-lake was formed when the goddess “Sati” lost her eyes at this spot when she was being carried by Lord Shiva. “Tal” means “a freshwater body surrounded by land on all the sides”. The vicinage of Nainital has seven such “tals” namely Bhimtal, Sattal, Khurpatal, Sariyatal, Naukuchiatal, Malwatal, and Harishtal. I plodded my way to the hotel with a novel soul.
The most expedient way to discover Nainital is to hire a local taxi, usually in plenteous number around the Mall Road. A little over 20 kilometers from Nainital is Bhimtal, an idyllic place which is believed to have been built when Bhima visited the place during the “vanvas” of Pandavas. The fuzzy sierra en-route to Bhimtal and the varicolored hillside houses squares off the heat. This pristine lakeside destination has become a nucleus for adventure sports lovers especially paragliding. And that was our sole reason to visit Bhimtal, to try out paragliding. As daunting as it seemed at first, it became as irenic as a monk when I started floating in the air. To have a bird’s-eye view of the mellow green acreages, the placid Bhimtal lake, and the storybook mountain ranges is an absolute Zen. We headed back to explore the seven wonders of Nainital.