Dear Himachal Pradesh…

I dreamt about you yesterday.

It was a lovely dream where my 10-day trip to Fagu, Sarahan, Kalpa, Sangla, Narkhanda and Chail in September was relived all over again. I usually don’t remember my dreams when I wake up, but this one was so crystal clear and real that I’m pretty sure that I must have spoken in my sleep !

I dreamt of the trip of many firsts — the first time I visited your state, the first time I saw the mighty Himalayas, the first time my under-graduate and post-graduate classes on Himalayan Geology came alive, the first time I saw apples on trees, the first time I tasted a yellow plum, the first time I saw the confluence of two rivers … and so much more.

Himachal Pradesh, FaguI dreamt about the rainstorm you welcomed me and the group I was travelling with. And how in the space of a few hours, we went from hot and humid Mumbai to cold, almost freezing, weather in Fagu. That night, I slept under two blankets and had a heater in the room.

I dreamt of that first morning I woke up to in Fagu. Clouds had covered the entire valley and I delighted in watching the clouds vanish like wisps of vapour as the sun rose in the sky to reveal the distant snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas. And closer, much closer, was the vegetation associated with the Himalayan ecosystem. Not that I could identify any, but still… 🙂

I dreamt of that first glimpse of the snow-clad Himalayan peaks. I thought they were clouds the first time I saw them; I didn’t make the same mistake the second time around.

I dreamt of the sacred stories of the various peaks narrated to me by the local people and felt and shared the reverence they have for the Himalayas.

Himachal Pradesh
Snow-clad Himalayan Peaks of the Srikhand Mahadeo range

I dreamt of the long rides on the winding roads of the NH22 / Hindustan-Tibetan Road — a lifeline for your state and also one of the world’s most dangerous roads. Travelling on this road made me realise what living on the edge really meant. I came away with respect for those who drive on these roads for their living every single day. I also agree with a statement that Pawan, our driver, made:

Once you have driven on these roads, you can drive anywhere else.

A picturesque portion of the NH22
A picturesque portion of the NH22

Himachal Pradesh, Sutlej

I dreamt of the sacred, much revered and worshipped, River Sutlej. During the trip I saw the Sutlej in many colours and shades — from brilliant blue to a coppery red to the most depressing shade of liquid cement.

I dreamt of that first clear glimpse of the river and the sound it made as it tumbled over rocks and boulders.

I dreamt of all the gorgeous sunrises, sunsets and moonrises that I experienced every single day, each one more beautiful than the other. The changing colours, the dancing light on the snow-clad peaks, the clear skies… I dreamt of it all.

Himachal Pradesh, Kalpa
Sunrise at Kalpa

I dreamt of all the rocks and rock formations that I saw — marbles, schists, gneisses, slates, conglomerates, migmatites, folds, faults… I finally understood what my graduate lecturer had meant when he said that “Himalayan Geology is an entirely different branch of Geology”. The scale, complexity and variety that I had till then only read in books or seen in photographs was right there for me to see and experience and realise just how unique and different it was. I actually got pretty emotional, you know.

Himachal Pradesh, Kalpa Roghi road, Schists, Himalayan Geology
Schists on the Kalpa-Roghi Road

Himachal, Sarahan

I dreamt of the lovely, long walks I took along winding roads, and pine-scented walking trails. Sometimes, there were little streams and rivulets to be navigated and sometimes there were little boulders to be clambered over.

Each walk was one of discovery — of an interesting rock, a fern or a lichen or a mushroom or a flower to delight over. There were always local people to exchange greetings with and try to answer their curious questions about where I was from…

Himachal Pradesh, Chail
Cat’s Ears
Himachal Pradesh, Sangla
Kinnauri women in their traditional attire, Sangla

Himachal Pradesh, Kalpa, Apples

I dreamt of all the fruit trees I saw and the variety of fruits I ate — apricots, plums, pears, peaches, figs and apples. This was the first time I was seeing so many fruits on trees, especially apples. The fruits tasted so fresh and so different from the ones, I’ve eaten in Mumbai. Do you know that I have not been able to eat a single apple after my return to Mumbai? They just don’t taste the same, you know. 😦

On an aside, do you think with all the apples I ate and the fresh apple juice I drank every day, not to mention the hundreds of apples I saw, I’ll ever need a doctor again?

Himachal Pradesh, Kalpa, Apple Trees
Red apples

I dreamt about the various hotels I stayed in — the excellent Grand Shangri-La (Kalpa) and The Palace (Chail); the good Kinner Camps (Sangla); the average Apple Blossom (Fagu) and The Srikhand (Sarahan); and the downright awful Bushehar Regency (Rampur).

Himachal Pradesh, Kinner Camps, Sangla
Kinner Camps, Sangla
Himachal Pradesh, Grand Shagrila, Kalpa
The cozy library at The Grand Shangri-La, Kalpa

Himachal Pradesh, Kaalchakra  BuddhaI dreamt about all the temples and gompas visited. From the shaktipeeth Bhimakali Temple at Sarahan to the roadside shrine of Tarandaa Devi on the NH22 (that all drivers pray to without fail), to the Badrinarayan Temple at Batseri, to the Kaalchakra Gompa at Kalpa… each one gave a glimpse into the culture and beliefs of the local people, and how beautifully and seamlessly Hindu and Buddhist beliefs have syncretised over centuries.

I dreamt about the surprise I felt at not seeing a single beggar at the temples or gompas and also at how clean they were.

Himachal Pradesh, Sarahan, Bhimakali Temple
The Bhimakali Temple, Sarahan

Himachal Pradesh, Woeden house, traditional architecture, Batseri village

I dreamt about the beautiful wooden houses I saw and the palaces I visited. Painted or unpainted, with traditional slate roofs or tin or asbestos roofs, I loved them all. I also dreamt about the ugly, modern and tiled buildings that are now replacing the traditional houses. Sorry to say, dear Himachal Pradesh, I hated them.

Himachal Pradesh, Sarahan
The palace of the King of Bushehar, Sarahan

I dreamt about the best meal I’ve ever had during my travels in India or elsewhere. The Sharma Vaisno Dhabha at Junedghat near Chail was a real find. The simple finger-licking lunch of aloo matar, kadhi pakoda, rajma, chutney and chapatis followed by chapatis and ghee-shakkar for dessert is a meal that I can never forget for as long as I live. 😀

Himachal Pradesh, Junedghat, Sharma Vaishno Dhaba
Sharma Vaishno Dhaba

I also dreamt about the not-so-nice aspects of the trip — the unchecked development, the large hydroelectric projects, the river pollution, the landslides… I fear that there is a major disaster just waiting to unfold behind your scenic vista.

Himachal Pradesh, Karcham
Jaypee Hydel Power Project at Karcham
Himachal Pradesh, Karcham
Landslide at Karcham

I dreamt about the time we got stranded in Sangla due to bad weather and landslides leading to part of the road out of Sangla disappearing. The wait for the roads to get repaired and to re-open was a scary time for me, but one where I learnt a very important lesson. I learnt to be patient, I learnt to wait things out and really and truly understand that every process has its own time and place and certain things cannot be rushed.

Himachal Pradesh, sangla
Bad weather at Sangla

I also dreamt about the conversation I had with my boss earlier this week, when after a meeting he suddenly remarked:

“That Himachal trip of yours must have been very good.”

“Yes, it was” I said, wondering why my trip to Himachal had suddenly come up.

<

p style=”padding-left:30px;”>As if reading my thoughts, my boss continued, “Well, you haven’t coughed even once during the meeting. I can’t think of any reason other than the clean mountain air of Himachal being responsible for this. I think you should take an annual trip to Himachal every year”

Himachal Pradesh

I can’t agree more with him as my allergic bronchial cough, an almost constant companion the last decade or so, has almost disappeared. And my doctor is thrilled as well ! 😀

I dreamt about you yesterday, dear Himachal. And this reminded me that it has been 3 months and 2 days since I returned and for some lazy reason or the other have not written about my trip. Thank you for the beautiful and gentle reminder.

This is just the first of the many posts that I have planned and there are more coming up.

Lots of love,

Sudha

PS: Where in Himachal do you think I should plan my 2014 trip to? 😀

53 thoughts on “Dear Himachal Pradesh…

  1. You have covered the better know parts of Himachal, I would suggest try Kangra Valley next year… much less touristy, with a small forts and temples from the Katoch kings and the few surviving Tea Gardens that grow some of the best unknown Teas in the world.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Desi Traveler. I am also interested in attending the Dussera celebrations at Kulu so have to see a way to club the two if I can for next year.

      The places I visited may have been the better known parts of Himachal, but in some places our group was the only ones around.

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  2. Cannot agree more !! The coverup of these most enchanting places of Himachal is lovely. Lovely write up there. I love so much this NH-22 road that almost every other month I feel going there. Time to soon make a trip there. The Kinnaur Valley is something that never goes away from dreams as soon as you ome back 🙂

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    1. A very warm welcome here, Dheeraj. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and commenting and for liking the post.

      I know exactly what you mean when you speak about the NH-22. I fell in love with the Kinnaur Valley and I want to visit it again. But perhaps I should visit some other places in Himachal before going back to Kinnaur. Let’s see how it goes.

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    1. Thank you, Anu. There was so much I wanted to say about my Himachal trip that I thought it would be better if I wrote one post about the trip and get it out of my system (if that is possible at all :-P), and then write about the places in detail post by post.

      I have not visited the parts of Himachal that you have done so maybe we should do a swap. What say?

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  3. Beautifully written letter to Himachal Sudha! And the pictures too. The trip takes me back to my trip to the Garhwal Himalayas… the food, the people and the beauty of the flowing rivers
    …and yes, the destruction of the ecosystem by modern development projects like the Tehri Dam.
    I hope you get to make another trip to the Himachal and the other Himalayan regions.

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    1. The development projects are scary, Neena. And when you see them everywhere, it is a perfect trigger for a nightmare. 😦

      I have not visited the Garhwal Himalayas yet, and that now goes on my list after the Kangra region. Thanks for your wishes.

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  4. You are indeed a wordsmith, Sudha. I have visited Himachal, but not gone to Sarahan and Fagu. We have gone upto Kufri, Tattapani etc., but if I had to write about the places, I would either have rambled or written it like a tourist brochure, not in such lyrical prose 🙂 Kufri was still pristine in those days but I hear that ‘development’ is catching up with it too. You are so right about a catastrophe lurking behind the scenic beauty of the mountains. The hydel project looks so awesomely ugly and scary, as if it is holding a hidden threat to the valley, as it surely does 😦 Loved the picture postcard snaps. Ahem…about that photograph I had wanted…..

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    1. Thank you, Alarmelvalli. 🙂

      Kufri is a tourist trap today and I couldn’t wait to get away from there. As for the development projects, what more can I say apart from the fact that there are disasters waiting to happen. 😦

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  5. Wow! Brought back memories my own travels there. And that hydraulic project reference reminded me of my visit to Tattapani by the banks of the Sutlej which was expected to be underwater – at least by the residents there. Hope the Shiv Gufa survived.

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  6. Must visit Tirthan valley (village Naglari) and Parvarti valley (stay at kasol and visit manikaran gurudwara) in Kullu distt …this time…Good places to visit..

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  7. thank you for the post with beautiful pictures. all these pics are tempting me to visit himachel once in my life time.

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  8. So happy to know that the allergic bronchial cough had disappeared in the clean air 🙂

    Highly recommend Tirthan Valley, Seraj Valley and Barot Valley among places to visit in Himachal; and for a heritage lover like you – there are so so many fascinating temples to explore. And did I even forget mentioning Chamba – Bharmour side? :))

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    1. Oh yes, I find that if I travel to any place which is not a city and is far away from industrial plants, I instantly get better. The hills, of course, are the best followed by the small beach towns. Last year, I had visited Landour around this time and I felt so good. I went to Delhi after that and promptly fell ill !

      Thanks so much for the recommendationsin Himachal. Chamba, Kanngra and Bharmour have been on my list of “places to visit before I get too old to travel” for long, wonder when I will get around to visiting them.

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