Sweet Memories of Dalhousie
It was 15th of October, next day of my marriage, which was a typical Hindu Rajput arrange marriage. I barely knew my wife Jyoti at that time, I m not too fond of talking for hours, over the phone . So, I also did not have long phone conversations with her before marriage. Why over phone? because those days, she lived in Pathankot and I was in Delhi . Although at time of marriage , I had just moved to Bangalore to join Microsoft.
It was a cold early morning in Pathankot, it was occasion of Doli, which is daughters departure ceremony after marriage from her home. Indian girls usually have sad departures, after getting married. On this occasion all the family members cry as formal departure of their girl from her home, as a marking of a new era in her life, as she would start living with a new family. Even my mom used to cry while watching scene of doli ceremony in any Bollywood movie. Its a very emotional moment, even I cried during my sister’s Doli.
We arrived at the rest house, where our family was staying. I had not seen her, since I arrived Pathankot, during this whole marriage process. My sisters, although had shown me her photographs of the Mehndi night, when I arrived two days earlier. On Mehndi night, she got henna painted on her hands and feet, It was one of the most beautiful henna work I have seen, she was looking so beautiful with that. Ever romantic in me started falling in love with that.
In the rest house, finally I got a glimpse of her in her red suit, after the home coming ceremonies were complete. Our eyes met, there was this strange look , a look when two strangers know that they will be spending life together. But I was no usual stranger. I m born romantic, who was falling in love with those beautiful eyes.
Since I did not have long leave, I had informed our parents that immediately after the home coming ceremony ,I will travel to Dalhousie, which is a nearby hill station. My friends, who will read this know the history behind the short leave period but I m saving that story for some other day. I already had my bags packed, I put those in my car and took leave from my family.
It was around 1 o’clock . Dalhousie is around 83 Km from Pathankot. I was driving my car on Pathankot Dalhousie road . I looked at her once, while driving. My mind traveled back to my teenage days in Pathankot earlier, my dad was in railways and he was posted in Pathankot for 5 years. I used to come for a bike ride with my friends on this road . I never imagined I will get married in Pathankot and I will be going with my wife on this road someday, to Dalhousie. This moment, of being on that road with her and looking back in times was so beautiful.
I m not a fast driver, but that day I was driving even slower then my usual speed, I was enjoying every mile of that road with her by my side, that feeling of being her husband and this new relationship was sinking slowly, in most beautiful way. Both of us don’t talk much, as a habit, which we realized later is a common trait, we had moments of small talks but mostly it was that beautiful silence that I was enjoying every coming moment.
October is the beginning of winters in northern parts of India, after an hour I was in foothills of Dalhousie, it was mild cold, I found a beautiful spot, to stop the car and look at the mountain view and have a smoke, yes I used to smoke those days, I was never a chain smoker but used to enjoy smoking once a while on special occasions. Jyoti also came out of the car to enjoy the view with me. After enjoying the view and smoke for few minutes, we continued the journey again. It was a beautiful road with beautiful scenery around.
However, we had a problem, it was snake shaped hilly road with turns on every minute, Jyoti has mountain sickness, so she started feeling unwell , I had to drive even slower. The distance of 83 KM usually takes 2 hours, even on those mountain roads but I had only covered 50 KM in 2 hours by then, Although, I was enjoying every moment of it but these frequent turns on the road were troubling my wife , she was consistently feeling uneasy but slowly, she recovered from it.
Due to slow drive, it was almost 4 hours and we still hadn’t reached Dalhousie then came the first innocent question from my wife i.e. “suraj Dalhousie kab ayega?” translation, suraj, when will Dalhousie come? I read the milestone, in fact kilometer stone, it said 5 KM to Dalhousie, After that Jyoti started asking this question every few minutes, which was a clear signal of the long drive has gone little longer for her, In spite of my romantic talk during this drive.
we finally reached Dalhousie and it was big relief for jyoti and me as well, yes me obviously from that innocent question that was coming back again and again after every few kilometers.
I had been a impulsive traveler till that point of my life and had not done advance booking of hotel. I was a believer of this concept of “we will get a hotel room when we will get there”. I was lucky that it was off season and I got hotel room with beautiful view ,rather easily. As always my first order usually is a tea, so I ordered that and once again sat in hotel balcony with Jyoti, enjoying tea and yes smoke as well. Yes in that winter, I smoked a lot, warm smoke felt really good in that cold weather , tea was like icing on the cake.
In few minutes, it was dark and very cold, we ordered for dinner and meanwhile enjoyed the heat in the fireplace, I don’t know what they call it, it was a British style hotel room and they have a fireplace in it for heating. Dinner was one of the best you can get in northern India, Typical Dal makhni ,vegetarian delicacies and Tandori rotis and Nans.
Morning was beautiful, I woke up early and went to balcony to get a view of the mountains outside, lighted another cigarette and ordered tea that used to be my favorite combo for such cold weather. Just a note for reader, its more then 4 years since I left smoking after the birth of my son as a promise to my self that he would never see me smoking. There are things in life, that you do, as you like them at that point of time ,then you move on, leaving those things behind, but memories do have those moments stored somewhere. I stayed there in balcony for sometime, soaking that experience and the beauty that was spread across the mountains and another look inside my room it was there in my room too.
After sometime my wife also woke up, Then we got ready to visit another place nearby called Khajjiar. Khajjiar is 23 KM from Dalhousie. So we started early to get there. It was supposed to be a lake as per old legends but at present there is a huge plain area like a ground near a small lake and there is mandir(temple of Hindu gods) near by. There are lot of small restaurants around this area. We first wandered around this huge plain area, where I could see lot of amusement activities, for tourists, were going on by local vendors . Height of my readiness, for this trip was that i did not even brought my camera with me and yes it was my honeymoon starter trip. Yes Honeymoon starter trip, its a concept developed by me, During my journey from Pathankot to Dalhousie. One of the things, I explained to my wife, was about my recent joining to Microsoft ,due to which i could not get much leave, as my training was suppose to start very soon. So our trip to Dalhousie shall be considered as honeymoon starter trip, like we have starters before main course, so main course honey moon shall happen in Goa later that year as a promise.
There were lot of professional cameramen, moving around the tourist couples, offering their services. Since i did not bring my own camera, i asked one of them to take our pictures, we managed a good deal with him, about certain number of pictures, which he will send us later by mail on my Bangalore address. He took lot of pictures of us, in different poses and once we were done, in almost every area of that place, he left with money and my Bangalore address.
By this time, We had long conversations about life ,love and romance. My Romantic self did not hide for long, so as honest as i can always be, Jyoti realized that i was a hardcore romantic and that a romantic can see things more beautifully then others, life is more beautiful with romance and love, then without it. After spending long time walking on sideways, talking, we decided to go back to the entrance point of that place.
We then visited the temples nearby and offered our prayers there. Then we sat in a restaurant for lunch, It was beautiful weather and the scenery was breath taking , view from the balcony of that restaurant was mesmerizing. Then my eyes stopped on an unusual couple, there was an old couple, old but handsome Sikh gentleman, he probably was older then my dad, with him was an old but very beautiful lady. Its not common for Indian old couples to come out as tourists, they usually prefer pilgrimage in that age rather then a romantic place like that. It was one of the most romantic thing i ever saw before.
I also pointed Jyoti to that couple, Explained my views about them to Jyoti. I told her that this is the kind of love I see for us , we will also be like them and after 50 or 60 years from now, someone would look at us, at beautiful place like that and will be inspired by us, for eternal love. I wish all the couples be like them and keep going out to beautiful places like that, to spend time with each other and stay in love forever.
After spending that beautiful afternoon there, we left khajjiar for Dalhousie. By the time we reached Dalhousie, it was dark and very cold again, we once again spent time near the fireplace, talking for hours. It was again dinner time , food in that hotel was extremely delicious, so we ordered our favorite delicacies ,enjoyed them, then started packing our bags. as we had to leave early next morning, as we had flight from Delhi to Bangalore next day.
This small but beautiful trip had set the tone for our relationship ,which got more and more beautiful with every day spent there after. We never received the pictures taken by the photographer but those images are living in my memory forever and i can replay them at any time and they appear as fresh as any beautiful morning.