Friday, November 6, 2009

Just a view

I tread a track through woods

The hallway was absolutely quiet. Few liveried waiters were bustling about in the restaurant that was visible from the archway of the hall. They appeared to be making arrangements for guests coming down for dinners and late evening drinks. The sounds of cutlery and plates was cutting through the dull silence of the evening. The heavy drapes on the French windows were drawn back and I saw a thick mass of mist surging against the sky. I filled out the details on the booking page and my pen lingered a little at the departure date. I did not know when I would leave. As usual, I had packed on impulse, to get away for some quiet times. Walking away from things.
But he needed a figure. I wrote a date ten days ahead from the current one. He told me that since it was an off-season period with lesser tourists, I am getting a huge rebate on the cottage. I thanked him.
He ran a careful glance at my details and turned around to select the key to my cottage from the red lacquered board on the back wall. He called the passing bell boy with the flick of his forefinger and thumb.
‘Have a pleasant stay ma’am’. He smiled again. I wish that too. I thought secretly, nodding at him. Pleasant is translated to peace. Just peace.
The bellboy trudged up the corridor that led to the row of tiny cottages outside, with my luggage. I followed on the graveled path. No one was around. The corridor was empty and the cottages that lined up at one side appeared to be unoccupied.
I felt I was at that palace in the fairy tale ‘Sleeping Beauty’, where everyone is waking up from a hundred years of sleep.
I was allotted a corner one, secluded from the rest and with the best view of the snow peaked mountains.
The wooden floor was covered with a soft green carpet, and there was a comfortable looking queen sized bed in the center, neatly made with pristine sheets and moss green woolen blanket. The rather ornate dressing table had a cheval glass mirror above it. There was a heart shaped mirror on the headboard of the bed and another one was on the ceiling. All the mirrors threw back my reflections in the pale light of the room. Perhaps it was meant for the honeymooning couples, who would have welcomed the manifestations of their prurient activities all around in this charming room; and not for a hassled, weary fugitive such as me; with no idea how long she is going to hide in this room.
I drew aside the heavy curtains. A thick layer of blue mist has stretched over the unstirred stillness of the mountains.
The windows had got stuck due to being shut for long period and the wind was extremely cold on this late October evening. I shivered as it entered the room with a sudden rush, touching my body through my thin jumper. The window looked out on miles and miles of undulating hills, their snow tipped peaks drenched in the fading rays of a bruised sun. The distant hills were smattered with little white cottages and tiny inns and bald patches of crisscross pathways that sloped down the dense deodar trees. The silence felt eerie.
The air was turning icy now, as the hills changed colour under a fine film of mist that embraced the snowy peaks. From dark blue to turquoise, to grey, it flitted from one mood to another, as the mist disappeared into the great unknown. Finally I was having my fill of the space. Breathing it in, filling my lungs with the smell of pine and wet grass in the air around…

Photos: Nazia

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Retreat

Once again, I found ways to escape in the sounds of silence.

The pictures above are of a beautiful hill station, located near Chamba valley in Himachal.
I was here, for thirteen days with the blessed peace and calm of nature, and nothing else but the mystic serenity all around me.
Not much human contact, except the distant waiter who brought me my meals and few walkers whom I met in the quiet pathways. Beyond my cottage, just opposite my window there, was that majestic mountain peak covered with the first winter snow. The mountain called on me at evening leaning upon my window, and I spent the twilight there with it.
While I was asleep, it stood on sentry till morning of the following day...

Today I am back within the dusty walls of my crowded city life. Amongst the rat race of humans. To get entangled once again in the crazy whirl of urbane living.
To the deafening screech of skidding wheels, when egos are more inflated than the tryes of the car.
How I remember my friend, the mountain peak that stood so high, so aloof, so quiet at its loftiness, reaching out to me everyday in its calm magnificence.