"Deep within the winter forest among the snowdrift wide,
You can find a magic place where all the fairies hide".
Tucked away in the mountains, secluded and protected by nature, somewhere between heaven and earth, is Sonapani. Literally meaning, the “golden-water”. Even as I start writing, I realise, I’m at a loss for words. And I know, that any written words would not bring it to life, not even a namesake. But I want to write about it, as I want to remember what it feels like being here. Being alive.
The Himalayan village, Sonapani. How do you describe something that seems so ordinary to write about, and yet looks so spectacular? Mud paths, lined with flower beds on both sides, a vibrant splash of colours on an artist’s canvas. Carelessly strewn, carefully planted, and lovingly nurtured. Not the perfectly manicured lawns that you find elsewhere, but a blissful harmony of the wild and the tame. The cottages, with the mud plastered walls, with the hand drawn intricacies. Simplicity, as they say, is the ultimate sophistication. The food, different and special in its own way. Pickles, jams, cakes, chips and everything that’s fresh, home grown and home-made. Takes you back to the days of Famous Fives and Malory Towers, of summer holidays at granny's. The rainbow’s have never looked prettier, with the mountains and the clouds forming the perfect backdrop. The Himalayan mountain range, with their snow-capped peaks, on a bright sunny day. Just like the painting you probably wake up to, every morning. With just one difference. Real, and Surreal.
The lightning lights up the sky, and the sound of thunder reverberates, loud and clear. On some nights, the moon comes out from behind the clouds, melodramatically eerie and bright. The scents, of flowers, ripe pears and apricots hanging from the trees. And the air. The freshness of it. Pure and virgin. Untouched and un-adulterated. The sounds of crickets and bees, the silent flutter of butterflies and birds.
A view of the Almora city, across the valley, resplendent with changing colours. Patches of white,brown and blue during the day, and the criss cross wire of lights at night, lit up like a diwali evening. Or a multitude of twinkling stars, in different colours against the black sky, an expanse of nothingness.
The place brings the senses to life, making you feel alive. Aware of every breath you take, every sight you see, every sound you hear. And as I sit here trying to commit these sounds, sights and scents into memory, it gives me goosebumps. Sometimes,you can hear your own thoughts echoing, the silence is so deafening. And its surreal. A fairy tale. Or something that makes you believe in one. Or in magic! It’s not loud, it does not over power you. It’s just what it is. And you have to be here to feel it. Believe it.
There’s a lot one can do here. Take off on one of the wilderness trails. Or a walk through the village. Or a hike till the river and the temple beyond. Amidst the muted browns, the grays and the greens, the moss and the leaves, the scattered rocks and pebbles, and the unshakeable pull of the mountains. Or just sit around and chat with Ashish and Deepa (the conjurers of this magical fairytale), their equally wonderful son Aranya, or play with the dogs. Of the wonderful things they do, of the spirit of “chaandi-maati”. Or listen to the stories of the wonderful people who come here. Or just be there, and watch the poetry in motion, the kind that leaves you speechless, spell-bound and overwhelmingly aware of your existence, of being able to think, to smile, to love, to hope, to inspire,to dream, to wonder, to believe!
And there I was, standing at the crossroads of life, trying to balance between losing myself, and finding myself. Sometimes maybe,a little magic is all we need!