You may have heard a million sayings on rain and on mountains, but there is something about rain in the mountains that brings out the best in writers. “It is a good sound to read by – the rain outside, the quiet within – and there is a general feeling of being untouched by, and yet in touch with, the rain,” Ruskin Bond writes in Rain in the Mountains.
It is not every day that you get some time from the routine chores of office and can enjoy the glory of mountains which have just turned verdant after unexpected showers. I spent a few such days recently in the mountains before the winter set in, enjoying the scenic wonders at the Ayarpatta slopes in Nainital.
We had an unhindered view of the Naini Lake and the Naina Devi Mandir from our location. The rain clouds hovering above the lake with Kumaon hills in the backdrop provided a picturesque setting. Since we had travelled to the hills after the monsoon – which is past the peak season – the mountains provided much-needed calm solitude.
I found the cliche in fact rang true — the silence of the mountains does give you an opportunity to talk to yourself.
The mist-covered Ayarpatta slopes around Nainital. (Photo: Himanshu Shekhar)
Tourism is the primary source of living for people in the hills. So if you are a traveller, you might find the stuff that you purchase from the Mall Road shops perhaps a bit overpriced. However, a bit of research could ensure that the joy of travel is not lost when you count the expenses. A bit of planning can indeed help you save money and make your stay worthy and memorable. We thus moved to a place where the view would be even more serene, earthy and rustic. The idea was a home-stay away from home.
We went to Ramgarh hence, a place famous because of its many ashrams, including one established by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
Noted Hindi author Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Mahadevi Varma and Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan 'Agyeya' had once made this place their home. Unlike Nainital, Ramgarh is quaint and sleepy — it gave me much time to think and that solitude might just be one reason why writers often head for this place.
Quaint and quiet Ramgarh presents you an unhindered view of nature. (Photo: Himanshu Shekhar)
We stayed at a home property, deciding to savour home-cooked authentic Kumaoni food and a rest in nature’s own backyard. The house had splendid views of the lower Himalayas and rain clouds hanging low on the peaks added volumes to the mystic charm of the place. We could even hear the birds sing — a sound that is extremely rare in urban locations these days.
We were treated to authentic Kumaoni cuisine that included special pulses cooked overnight on wood logs fetched from the trees lining the hills. As we sat on the terrace, watching the sun gradually hide itself behind the hills, we were presented with surka – a drink made from tomato, wheat and a lot of herbs.
I thought the best part about Kumaoni food were the local herbs and even flowers that go into its preparation. “It gives you a taste that you won’t get in masalas you buy from the market. We ensure that the flowers are tasted by the cook and then treated before being put in surka or whatever dish you are creating,” said the in-charge of the place we stayed at.
Refreshing the mind: A breathtaking view of the hills works wonders. (Photo: Himanshu Shekhar)
The cool breeze and mists added to the atmosphere as we discussed how time away from social media or Netflix can help you contemplate.
Needless to say, I was awed by the solitude, the untamed beauty of nature and the earthy, yet light taste of the Kumaoni food and pahadi kheer (a sweet dish made of milk, sugar and rice).
Kumaoni delicacies offer an authentic taste, one that even includes local flowers. (Photo: Himanshu Shekhar)
At the end, refreshed from my tiring urban life, away in the hills, I felt inspired enough to jot down my thoughts. I suppose this is why they say that writing is an art that requires one to experience nature first-hand. I found why Bond himself says, nature “automatically started seeping into my writing.”