17th November, 2016, 1950 hours
The city’s hustle-bustle wanes off, as we change lanes to take the highway.
The chirpy, giggly gang of girls, slowly fall silent, as we move on in the journey.
I sense my excitement (read over excitement) wants to burst out of my body and it makes me want to laugh the crazy laugh and jump on my seat like its a trampoline. With much difficulty, I contain myself.
The big bright orange moon doesn’t leave my side even for a minute, not even when tall silhouette of trees come in the way. Nor does the song ‘Rang sa ye jahaan’
17th November 2016, 2200 hours
I grudgingly get off at Ambala Haveli where the bus stops, ‘for strictly aadha ghanta only.’ I plan to grab a quick bite since here I am surrounded by punjabbi mundas and haryaanvi jatts who make me uncomfortable with their long stares and crooked smiles.
18th November, 2016, 0630 hours
Reaching McLeodganj at 5:30 AM, feels a little lost, since I’ve also been woken from my deep cozy slumber. Up the hill and down the hill and I reach the Backpackers’ Inn. I watch the sun come up from my balcony, and retire to catch some sleep, feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
18th November 2016, 0945 hours
Morning is when I put on my new birthday clothes and try to read a little, amid birthday calls, sipping my cuppa lemon-ginger-honey tea and the view which is oh so seductively distracting! And as if this wasn’t enough, I am greeted by Changu the the cute little dog. While I am lost in the sheer happy aura of the place, the receptionist comes out to confirm if its my birthday, and also says that there’s a surprise that awaits me. I am both amazed and shocked in equal measure, as he brings out a cake that reads ‘Happy Birthday Zomato.’ Some friends will follow you everywhere. 🙂
18th November 2016, 1110 hours
Soon enough, I start my trek to Bhagsu Waterfall, which was completely worth it, for the simple sight and sound that I was witness to. Could have spent a lifetime there, in that picturesque view and the clear freezing water.
Thank You Komal and sister for the light-hearted laugh here, and for helping me avoid the over friendly weirdo. You guys made me miss my sister a little. Though we would never have had the courage to jump in the freezing water like you did!
One thing I realized during the trek- Mountain Goats are the most brainless, stupid animals ever to roam the earth. Tread close, at your own risk and even if you think you’re safe, you never know when an entire tribe will decide to run towards you, in an attempt to attack or befriend, only they know.
18th November 2016, 1330 hours
On my way back, I stop to grab some coffee and I meet 3 lovely ladies, who had been friends for 45 years, and had come all the way from Mumbai, for a short girly trip! It is people like them who inspire!
18th November 2016, 1500 hours
I decide to give myself a Birthday Treat at the popular Jimmy’s Kitchen, where I once again bump into Chavvi and her friend. Thanks to you guys, Jimmy’s Kitchen will always be ‘Jimmy…..Aajaa Ajaa..’ to me! Thanks for the insanity and the crazy laughter!
18th November 2016, 1820 hours
I then decide to go to the nearby church, which it turns out was a bad idea, for I suddenly find myself in the middle of a graveyard, pitch dark, surrounded by only tall pine trees and the eerie song of the birds. Heart racing, I find my way back.
To my surprise, I join the group dancing their traditional Tibetan Dance, in a yoga institute near my hotel, to celebrate a birthday 🙂
18th November 2016, 1820 hours
There is a different kind of freedom in catching up with strangers. Strangers with a different point of view. From a different country, with a different story, a different kind of life, and yet find some familiarity in their smile and in their thoughts. Jennifer and Teresa, thank you for keeping your promise and dropping by to celebrate my birthday with me. Thank you for your company and the conversations which were both deep and fun. 🙂
19th November 2016, 1200 hours
2 days here and I realize that the culture of this small town of McLeodganj was different from Delhi. That the people here are more open minded, (which could also be due to the throng of foreigners who come visiting) that when a car slows down beside you, it could really be to give you a quick ride to wherever you are walking down to and not always to rape you! And that when someone offers you a joint and you take it, he won’t judge you or think you are available!
In the silence of the serene greenery, the Tibetan flags and the sound of flowing water in the distance, I settle down at the Humming Bird Cafe, at the Norbulinka Institute for my pancake and coffee fix.
You find company, deep and refreshing conversations when you least expect it. It happens when you open your heart and your mind to it. Thanks Nilanjan! Look forward to your Movie. Good Luck!
19th November 2016, 1440 hours
As I wait calmly for the workshops and to re-start work post lunch, sitting in that beautiful setting, I think to myself that its only when you pull yourself out of the routine, that you are able to look around and realize that there’s so much more to do, explore and discover. It is so important to follow the butterfly, to smell the wild flowers and to gaze at the stars.
As the clock strikes 3, I excitedly take a tour of the intricate workmanship, to uphold the traditional Tibetan arts.
19th November 2016, 1530 hours
I finally leave leave Dharamshala, and on my way back-
Bollywood dream of running in a tea garden- CHECK!
19th November 2016, 1620 hours
A visit to the the quaint little Cafe Illiterati, was totally worth it. The vibe, the books and of course the food. The sun smiling amidst the bright pink bougainvilleas, a view of the mountains, olive and cheese on my platter and a great book in hand. I could live here for a decade. Song- Taanke Jhaanke..
19th November 2016, 2030 hours
As I completely overdo it today, with the steep climb to and from the Dalai Lama Temple, its Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ all the way.
I finally settle down to read at the cafe in my hotel, as a group outside is singing and playing the guitar. What Bliss 🙂
The steep climb had made me hungry again! I decide to grab an early dinner at the Tibetan Kitchen. I would like to believe that I am a very non-judgmental, open minded person. However, if you make me nauseous by ordering chicken tikka, dal makhni and naan, at a Tibetan Restaurant, while I devour my pork and rice, I will judge you mister!
19th November 2016, 0100 hours
And though I’ve been sleeping peacefully these 2 days, tonight I just cannot sleep. The idea of going back to Delhi, makes me want to cry. If only I could live here Longer. This place was PEACE and BLISS, in bold capital letters.
20th November 2016, 1400 hours
I spend the next day at the roof top cafe, with my book, Changu the dog and some interesting conversation with Adityanan. I try to somehow etch the view in memory, wanting time to freeze. However, time just flies, and I must leave to catch my bus and some dessert on the way. I bid adieu to the friendly staff of Backpackers’ Inn, with the promise of being back soon.
20th November 2016, 1440 hours
On my way, I buy the famous yak milk cheese and quickly grab a slice of lemon pie and my last glassful of the ginger-honey-lemon tea I had been sipping everyday, at Lamo’s Kitchen.
20th November 2016, 1520 hours
I walk the lanes towards my bus and I realize how openly Mcleodganj accepted and embraced me, as I wave goodbyes to people I met only 3 days back.
20th November 2016, 1610 hours
I turn to say one last goodbye to the gorgeous Mcleodanj Sunset. Thank you for the experience and for putting a song back in my heart. Can’t wait to step out again, all by myself, to rediscover what my heart says and what song it sings. I also realise that we always carry a little bit of the place with us, wherever we go..
PS- There’s something I left for another time- The trek to Triud and the overnight stay in camps amidst bonfire, music and the stars. Au revoir for now.. Until next time!