Diwali 2015 was full of firsts. After seven Diwalis away from home, this year, I was able to spend the festival of lights with my family and close friends. And obviously, I went all out. Mom and I created a stunning (if I do say so myself) Rangoli, a modern-art-gradient-esque Ganesh complete with some jhataak gold and silver glitter. I threw a party for all my old school friends, a mini-reunion of sorts, that turned into a night of watermelon mimosas, wine, gossip and lots of laughter.
By the time the Wednesday of Diwali finally rolled around, I’d already watched a firecracker show, eaten probably half my weight in desserts and mithai (there goes my diet) and dressed up in varieties of Indian attire. The day I was anxiously waiting for though, was New Year’s Day, the Thursday I would fly out for a four-day vacation in the beautiful town of Mussoorie.
Mussoorie is two flights and a three-hour driving trip away from Bombay. It’s definitely far up North, but the journey is more than worth the destination. Nestled in the Garhwal mountains, part of the Himalayan range in Uttarakhand, Mussoorie is a picturesque little town, that was initially a retreat for the Britishers during colonial times. The winding roads are lined with stalls that are almost hanging off the mountain faces, all promising a wonderful view and a bowl of hot Maggi.
There are many people that criticize the overwhelming amount of urbanization that has taken place in some of India’s most rural and scenic areas. While some may say Mussoorie is a victim of the same, the impression I left with was slightly different. Mussoorie has indeed been modernized, but arguably to a point of necessity. My three days showed me that Mussoorie is one of those places that perfectly balances the onset of urbanization with its abundance in untouched natural beauty. In short, one of the masks of Mussoorie could be described as “classy traditionalist”, what with it’s modern day conveniences melded seamlessly into its rustic core.
I was fortunate enough to go for a 3-hour trek on Day 2 of my trip. We climbed up a narrow forest path, our guide frequently stopping to point out the healing properties of various leaves and berries. As we climbed higher and higher, the green waters of Kempty lake faded away into the distance, and the smell of fresh earth and clean air thoroughly enveloped us. I’ve only gone trekking in the North once as a child and back then, my sole goal was to “win the race”, and reach the destination faster than the rest of the group. So really, this was my first trek in the North India where I enjoyed the journey and was able to fully take in the beauty my surroundings. After an hour and a half, we reached an area of flat land, a platform that was surrounded by pine trees in every imaginable direction. A lone cow stood on our right, oblivious to the loud family that had so intentionally stumbled into this abode. My pictures don’t do the views justice, as it was more than just sight that made this made this place wondrous. An experience for the senses, it was the smell of purity, the feel of a breeze, light but powerfully cold, and the sounds of silence punctuated by the soft gossip of villagers from huts on the mountainside that resonated up to where we stood – it was all this combined that made the little opening in the trees perfectly mesmeric. Very modestly called, “The Pine Forest Trek”, I would recommended this expedition that is really so much more to anyone that makes it up to Mussoorie.
It’s safe to say the magic of Mussoorie left quite an impression, further stoking the fire of wanderlust that seems to perpetually course through me. I’ve added a couple of pictures here, but more can be seen in entirety on the new “Memories of Travel” section on this blog. Considering my return to India has led to multiple weekend (and longer) “adventures” if you will, I thought it only fitting to start a section to display the beauty of the places I visit. On that note, I’m thrilled to announce that come January 10th, I will be spending around two months in the coastal city of Pondicherry! I’ll be scuba diving every weekend, completing my PADI Divemaster certification, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m going to try and document my time in this quaint city – my Pondicherry Ponderings – somewhere on this blog, so keep reading!