I was reading a Jim Corbett book the other day. One of the pages mentioned Rishikesh in passing and all of a sudden, my brain pulled out a vivid snapshot of an extremely beautiful evening that I had spent in Rishikesh, back in the spring of 2012.
It is a curious matter that out of the countless hours I have spent peering at scenes through my camera’s lens, none come close to the mental images I register while travelling. This blog post is devoted to 2 such snapshots and I will try to describe them to the best of my abilities, without resorting to any photographs.
An evening in Rishikesh
Back in 2012, I had spent a week’s time on the road covering Shimla, Kufri, Kullu, Manali and Dharamsala and had the misfortune of gulping down an old croissant in a bakery in McLeodGanj. The next 2 days were spent trying to calm down a revolting stomach in Amritsar, before I landed up in the religious and cultural center of Rishikesh.
Here, while my stomach calmed down, the infection had not subsided completely. As a result, I was laid up for most of the day cooped up in a tent on the banks of the Ganges, shivering slightly with fever.
I distinctly remember that it was close to sunset then. My friends had cajoled me to step outside the tent for some tea, and break my languidness. As soon as I stepped out, I knew the moment was picture perfect, and somehow, my mind was feeble enough to dissuage my body from stepping back into the tent for my camera.
The sun still had nearly an hour to go down, and it had cast a golden yellow glow all over the surrounding hills. The forests on the hills were lit up spectacularly with this mellow sunlight, with odd patches of orange and vermilion providing some relief from the monotony of green.
The sunlight had also brought the otherwise chilly weather down, making it feel warm and salubrious.
In front of me, the Ganges gently babbled her way across hundreds of white rounded stones. There was an odd fish that we could spot in places where the river was shallow. On the opposite bank, there were 2 horses grazing on the sparse green grass. One had a rich lustrous skin, brown in color while the other had pale shade of white, turned slightly creamy due to the sunlight. Sometimes, the white one would gracefully toss its mane aside, without ceasing to graze.
I think I must have sat down on a boulder on the banks for half an hour, trying to implant in my mind, the beauty of everything that lay in front of me. It was a panacea, from the agony of the past few days and a memory of a beautiful moment, that I will carry with me to my grave.
A morning in Sakleshpur
In the monsoons of 2016, we were in Sakleshpur, in a colonial era bungalow surrounded by 7000 acres of tea estate. There, our previous day had been a sharp antithesis to the term monsoon capital, for we didn’t experience anything more than a slight drizzle, compared to the torrential rains that Sakleshpur receives every year.
Our host had told us that the previous 2 weekends had been a blur, with guests not even being able to venture out of their cottages due to the incessant rain.
Therefore, after a sumptuous dinner, we had gone to sleep amidst the cacophony of crickets and other nocturnal inhabitants of the estate.
The next morning, sharply around 6, I had woken up since it had grown deathly silent. I groggily pushed open the doors of our cottage and a veritable fairy tale setting came alive in front of my eyes.
There had been no rain at night, but the absolutely thickest fog I have ever seen in my life, covered miles and miles of estate ground and the forests beyond. I couldn’t see beyond a few yards.
The lights dotting the estate were still lit. The ground was wet and it smelt heavenly, and dew drops hung onto virtually every blade of grass. The fog seemed to be alive, darting in and out of places, revealing tea bushes in one instant and hiding them in the next. There was a slight chill in the air, but one that you wished would never go away.
It was a window of time when the birds had not yet stirred from their nests but the insects had all retired, so the silence was deafening. It felt like mother nature herself had a good night’s sleep and had woken up before everyone else, feeling fresh and wishing every one a hearty good morning.
That morning left an indelible mark in my mind too.
Ironically, I think I will visit these places again someday and try to capture vestiges of these scenes on a camera. Before I grow old and hopefully, before my memory fails me.