The light had already begun to fade when I found myself standing at the Taxi depot, trying to figure out how to get a cheap and livable place to spend the night. Being a traveler who is terrible at ‘planning’, it was no surprise that I was stuck at a place where one has to find shelter before it gets too late. Not to forget, too dark and too cold.
But I was not overtly perturbed, for I am one of those lucky individuals who always seem to find help somehow, be it in the guise of a kind stranger or the very rare (yet priceless!) bouts of ‘reason’ and ‘practical thinking’ that grace my forever-befuddled mind. This time, it was the kind-hearted taxi driver who had brought me to that magical place. He told me about a decent place that is run by a person he’s acquainted with, and also asked me to mention him when I checked in. Why? Well, for discounts!
Tosh, like many other places in India, is inhabited by people who still believe in goodwill, and still choose heart-warming hospitality over ‘profit’. For them, it’s a matter of pride and pleasure to be able to cater to the few visitors who brace the tough roads in order to reach the village. So, yeah, the discounts did come by for sure once I found my way through the rugged and narrow lanes and finally spotted the place that stood at the very end of the village.
I was delighted to see the place that would not only accommodate me for the night but would also be my home for the next few days. Pinky Didi, the owner, beamed at the mention of the taxi-driver, agreed to the unbelievably low prices and quickly led me to my room. I found out later that they were cousins.
The first thing I noticed as I entered the sparsely furnished room was the bed and the blanket! Cozy and inviting, they were to be my luxuries for the night. However, the bed was soon forgotten as Pinky Didi busied herself in parting the curtains on the windows to show me the view (Sigh, the view!) and telling me about how they had been managing without electricity for the last five days. She also told me that there was no way to find out when the ‘problem’ would be fixed. Without any regret whatsoever, I switched off my phone with its already crippled battery and tucked all the electronic devices deep down somewhere in my bag for it was their time to rest, for a long, long time!
After a much-needed meal and several cups of tea, I decided to call it a night. I tucked myself in bed and sat there for a couple of hours, gazing into the dark night. The mountains stood at a distance. The ones at the very end, with snow-capped peaks, glistened in the light of the moon. As silence overwhelmed a tired mind and happy heart, I closed my eyes with a mental note to wake up early in the morning to see the sun rise, and count the number of peaks that I could see from the terrace of the guest-house.
Well, that never happened, watching the sun rise, I mean. Miss Lazy Bones woke up to the call of birds at around 8 am (instead of 6!) and lazily made her way to the terrace with a glass of tea. But I remembered I had to count the number of peaks, though! Why, you may ask? Well, why not? I could skim through 17 before I lost count and myself in the process. As I stood there on the terrace and my eyes opened to the dim rays of the morning sun, I finally realized that I was there, for real!
Tosh looked so pretty that morning. The mist rose like fluffy cotton balls and the clouds brushed past the peaks every now and then. Tiny houses positioned on the green slopes stood next to each other forming rows of many shades, and towering mountains encompassed them to protect them from the fierce winds and intolerable cacophony of city-life.
Surrounded by forests and fields, waterfalls and streams, a seemingly puny construction stood apart from the green crowd. It was the dam (the reservoir) the only token of ‘modernity’ in the otherwise primitive village. There were not many people in sight, for the sleepy village is known for its quietness. It is one of those places where there are times when everything gets so quiet that you can almost hear your own heartbeat.
After a hearty breakfast and another round of tea, I paved my way out of the guesthouse to wander in the village. I made my way through wooden houses, narrow lanes bedecked with blooms, apple orchards, looming pines and gurgling streams until I reached my destination- the waterfall!
I sat there for some time, soaking in the ethereal beauty. It seemed like the world had suddenly decided to embark on a quest to look unbelievably pretty! At times the sun peeped from the clouds and its slender rays just about managed to touch the surface of gushing water. And the misty sprays, that arose when the water lashed against the rocks and pebbles, shone like tiny crystals!
Somewhere afar, I could see some kites circling over a prized find. The sound of pots brushing against the metal cases that is used to hold goods, pierced through the silence, as the man with three donkeys walked by. Had I been at some other place, the interference would have annoyed me. But perched atop a huge rock, with the waterfall dancing behind me, even the momentary loss of silence came as a pleasant distraction. He smiled at me as he walked by, and so did I.
After exploring the nearby places that were mostly hilly terrains, sparsely speckled with meadows and houses, I decided to leave for home (er, the guest house) before it got dark. After spending one of the best days of my life, it was quite surprising when I was suddenly struck with an irrevocable hankering to don my mischievous hat; one that had always been the source of many spankings that came my way when I was a kid. Yes, the very same one that I eventually lost to the tragedy of adulthood.
Wandering amidst the merry lanes of Tosh, it was an apple tree that ignited the desire in me to do something that I had not done for a long, long time. And anyway, the sight of those red, ripe and luscious beauties can indeed make a heart melt and the resolve wither. I decided to relieve the tree of some its burden and was too happy to be a thief for once! As I munched on my spoils and set forth on my way back home, I could not help but remember my childhood days when such things were not merely the ‘adventures’ of life, but they defined the very ‘meaning’ of living it.
It was in those solitary paths, snaking through the emerald forests of Tosh, where I found myself closest to my own life, my own being.
At times I wonder, what our lives would be like if we had no memories.