We are in a cheerful mood today since we are back from a nice weekend break in Mcleodganj / Dharamsala. As we have done in the past, we will duly document the trip in a few (ok, more than a few) words, partly for our own nostalgia trips sometime in the future, and partly to remind ourselves that we do need to take more such breaks. As some of you may recall, we use the ‘royal’ we (or the Bihari ‘hum’) whenever we are happy.
The genesis of the trip started in yet another mail written to our friends screaming “I NEED A BREAK!” in the middle of some really frustrating week. Considering that most of our weekends have been wasted in house hunting, and strenuously avoiding bride hunting, we were most assuredly in need of a break. Not just any 2 day back before you even started break, but a slightly longer one. And so, we mailed, proposed places, rejected them, held conference calls, negotiated over how many days can we take off and at one point, it looked as if this project will also stall like the many others which preceded it. But by some miraculous coincidence, 3 perfectly sane, well-educated, smart, professional people agreed to trade an eminently enjoyable long weekend for spending time to go on a trip with… ME! Makes us doubt the part about their sanity and their smarts. But what the hell, off we were, to the place of the Dalai Lama.
We landed in Delhi on Thursday and took a train to Chakki Bank. The train journey was made interesting by the fact that there were some 120 people sitting in the 3A coach that was clearly meant to seat half that number. And we (this time, I mean myself and the friend RK i.e. 2 people) had 1 reserved berth between us. Let’s just say that the TTE didn’t budge, and people in Jallandhar and Udhampur are still laughing at the memory of seeing two rotund guys trying unsuccessfully to fit into one 'side upper' berth. But we managed to reach Chakki Bank without incident, slightly groggy and promptly took a cab to Mcleodganj. And reached the Bhagsu at 6.30 am, only to be told that since the check-in time is 12.00 noon, we couldn’t be given the room. Whatthe! So, we placed our luggage in the room taken by the 2 other friends (let’s call them MT and SK, and let them choose whether they want to identify themselves with their blogger / twitter profiles) who had reached earlier, and set off for a walk.
Only to be greeted by pleasant visuals of snow-capped peaks in the distance glimmering in the early morning rays. And air which didn’t smell of sweat and smoke. And greenery all around, as far as the eye can see. Truly Magical!
Our agenda for the vacation was very simple: Do Nothing. Except of course, eat a lot, laze around, chat and read a bit. And crack a few bad PJs. (The last item was only on one person’s agenda). So, we had a nice breakfast at the roof-top of a place called Jimmy’s Kitchen. Chocolate pancake (I like to indulge my sweet tooth at vacations… and at all other times) and French toast, with a majestic view of the mountains to go.
Most Indians vacationing in India have a minor flaw: they are what I call ‘checklist’ tourists. So, instead of soaking up the place and drowning in the majestic beauty of it all, they hop from one ‘must-see’ place to another, ticking items off a list which they would have copied from the some travel blog / journal / magazine. The routine usually consists of going to the place, creating a loud ruckus, littering a bit and posing for pictures focused on themselves while the really beautiful mountain / sunset / beach is hidden behind a group photo of all 27 people in the joint family posing together. I take this detour in my narrative not to criticize my countrymen, but to admit that we succumbed to the check-list mentality briefly (thankfully, without the loud noises or the littering).
And hence we set off to St. John’s church (chapel?). A nice, lovely stone building with stained glass windows and wooden ceiling, with tragic blots of ugly electric wires and weird white lights hanging about. It was Good Friday, and there was a sermon going on. The priest said “He sacrificed himself so that you may be absolved of all your sins” and I happily decided to commit some more sins by eating some more (gluttony) and lazing around (sloth).
From there, we caught a bus to Dal Lake (note, it is not pronounced like the food, more like Dull Lake). I still think they got the pronunciation right and the spelling wrong. If that rectangular hole with stinking, stagnant, green water was a lake, then my house in Mumbai is Buckingham Palace. There was a board that helpfully said people take a ‘holy dip’ in the lake, so I guess their collective sins made the place so dirty. If only the people had realized Jesus had already taken their sins. Poor, misguided souls.
And from there, we went to Talon De Naddi (or something like that). For a wonderful lunch again in the open with views of the mountains, mildly distracted by the cootchie-cooing firang couple in the next table. I am not judging, but the lady had her hair dyed pink, something that made my heart sink (Rhyme!).
(to be continued…)