This was in the year 2018, Jyoti was living with her parents in Pathankot for almost an year . This was to ensure our infant was getting enough care and attention at her parental home. She has many people to attend kids their. I have also talked about this issue in my series on Dubai . Since, it was our marriage anniversary , I wanted to utilize this opportunity to visit few unseen places like Bir Himachal, which is around 141 KMs from Pathankot. I had already reserved the hotel and taxi . We started the journey early morning, the day before our anniversary . By afternoon , we arrived at hotel RS Sarovar portico, which is in Palampur. I loved the view from hotel’s restaurant.
We spent some time in the restaurant in the evening when surroundings became even more pleasant, with a cup of tea.
Later, we enjoyed dinner and family time together. Although, we were tired due to mountain journey with kids. We had great evening, partially because I was meeting them after few months. After marriage and kids, its not easy to stay alone without them. Evening felt really special as we all were together at nice hotel, in gorgeous mountains. We had long conversations about how I spent time alone, work, kids. Discussions about Aryaman , his continued behavior issues due to Autism was a continuous challenge for Jyoti to manage, even at her parents home. Aryaman although had found his new school administrated by Army but Jyoti’s life was still not easy
For our anniversary day , we planned to spend our special day in Bir Himachal and have anniversary dinner back in Hotel, in its revolving restaurant with views of gorgeous mountains.
In this post, I m sharing our sweet memories of Dalhousie. It was 15th of October, next day of my 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.
Marriage and Doli
It was a cold early morning in Pathankot, it was occasion of Doli, which is daughters departure ceremony after marriage from her home. We arrived at the rest house, where our family was staying. I had not seen her upclose since I arrived Pathankot. My sisters, although had shown me her photographs of the Mehndi night. 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. I 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.
Drive to Dalhousie
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 . My dad was in railways , 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.
Entering into mountains
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. Those days I used to smoke. I was never a chain smoker .But I 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.
Arrival to dalhousie
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. May be it was due to my belief on this concept of “we will get a hotel room when we will get there”. I was lucky that it was off season. Finally, I got hotel room with beautiful view ,rather easily. As always my first order usually is a tea. So I ordered that . Once again I 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, went to balcony to get a view of the mountains outside. I 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 . 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 . There was beauty outside spread across the mountains. But another look inside my room, I was excited to see inside it too.
Visit to Khajjiar
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 . Additionally , there is mandir(temple of Hindu gods) near by. In additiona, 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 .
Our memorable pictures
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. He promised to send pictures to us later by mail on my Bangalore address. He took lot of pictures of us, in different poses. 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. Jyoti realized that I was a hardcore romantic. Also 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.
Finding an Inspiration
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 . The view from the balcony of that restaurant was mesmerizing. Subsequently , 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 saw.
I also pointed Jyoti to that couple with my views about them. I told her that this is the kind of love I see for us . We will also be like them . After 50 or 60 years from now, we will also inspire others like them. I wish all the couples be like them and spend time with each other and stay in love forever.
Evening by fireside
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 to catch flight from Delhi to Bangalore next day.
In conclusion , this small but beautiful trip had set the tone for our relationship with sweet memories of Dalhousie . That got more and more beautiful with every day spent there after. Although , we never received the pictures taken by the photographer. But those images are living in my memory forever .I can replay them at any time . They appear as fresh as any beautiful morning.
Please also check my other posts on mountain drives here
I came home little late after office on a Friday evening . My little boy was asleep, my wife was making sure I do not wake him up and pretended to sleep as well, else he would wake up. I started watching TV , there was this program on Fox Traveler called Boys weekend. It was about a group of friends, all of them great chefs , they go out on weekend , cook delicious food , have some great time. There was a scene where they play poker and cards , whoever loses had to cook a dish. That reminded me of all boys trip I had with my friends .It was a group of 6 guys, I, Kumar, deepak, Kiran, Manuj and Junaid. We had similar scene in our trip. All the memories of that trip just flashed back .
It was June of 2012 , we started early in the morning in two cars. Deepak, Junaid and I were in one car. Manuj, Kiran and Kumar were in the other. It was a rare boys outing after a long time. After light breakfast and fueling our car tanks, we hit the road , after an hour we reached Mysore. That year was of loneliness for me , my father is a diabetic , due to his health issues , my wife had to stay with my parents for almost six months. I believe Kumar’s wife was also not at home , Junaid was was single. Deepak had his permission from his wife. Kiran a free spirit like me, always ready for an outing. Manuj like Deepak, who is always life of our parties, agreed to join us.
We were switching drivers, to make sure nobody gets tired. But I heard later, there was another scene going on in Kumar’s car, where Kiran and Manuj were pulling Kumar’s leg and not letting him drive and we all know, how much he loves to drive, especially if it’s his car. We played all kind of music and repeated few songs a lot of times like Imran khan’s Amplifier. It was such a fun drive. The moment we reached near the heights of Ooty’s niligiri mountains, the hairpin bends, Deepak took the driving wheel, as that allows him to avoid mountain sickness.
It was cold in Ooty, it was afternoon already and we had not pre-booked any hotels for stay. So we started our hunt for a nice hotel. After searching for a while, we came to know about king’s cliff, in fact Kiran found it. King’s cliff is a heritage British style hotel and restaurant. They had resort on a cliff which was near to king’s cliff’s restaurant and main resort. Since its main resort rooms were all booked, we decided to stay in the resort on the Cliffside.
We were starving after long drive. We finally got table and ordered food. On food table, we were pulling each other’s leg. I was catching that on camera. Finally , food arrived. On a trip, food can make huge difference about how much you loved it. It was mouth watering authentic north Indian food , tandori chicken, butter chicken, garlic naans and much more, we all jumped on it.
Later , all of us took a nap. Around 6 pm we went out to the market. It was not far away, we walked on the streets like college kids, wandered around a bit. Due to cold weather , we bought jackets and sweaters. Later ,we clicked few snaps while having fun there , bought drinks and other stuff for the party.
Bon fire and party
Kiran is multilingual, that also includes southern languages. He used this skill with the house keeper in the resort to arrange wood for the bon fire. We then started the bon fire and circled around it. Our DJ and cocktail king Manuj started helping guys with cocktails and other drinks. We did not have the music though but we never felt its need as we had special talent deepak with us. I had my own fake beers and other non-alcoholic drinks with me, Junaid who also lives on fruit juices gave company to me. Few guys tried my beers and finally gave up due to its bitterness. Kumar had huge plans for the night but somehow he was not able to throw a drink inside his throat. We had photo sessions in between, while having fun.
Coversations and Songs
As night slowly progressed, the heat of the fire started to feel even better as it was getting colder. Drinks started to show its effect as well on few guys. Everyone talked about their times with their girlfriends or wife. Later, Deepak sang few nice ghazals and songs. Few of us got back in time , remembered some of their romantic encounters. For hours, we talked about the times we spent in Bangalore, about our friends , also about a special friend Ashvini, who could not join us on the trip and wished if he was also there.
It was very late in the night, the food we had ordered got cold long time back. Junaid got a brilliant idea of using this fire to heat up the Tandoori rootis , Naans , Daal makhni ,chicken dishes etc. We started having food while we were heating it on the fire. It tasted even better that way. I even imagined to repeat that on a future trip.
Calling it night
We finally went to sleep. After few hours in sleep, I noticed I was working on a complex case , probably I was analyzing data , to put the pieces of puzzle into an order to make sense of it. Later, I realized it was a dream .When I opened my eyes and checked time on phone , it was 6 in the morning. I also realized my head was aching. I had some biscuits and medicine, which I usually carry with me. Felt better after some time, went to sleep again. I woke up after few hours to the noise around. Apparently everybody was awake.
Somebody carried pack of cards with him and brought it, that’s when the card playing started. We enjoyed that for a while, probably it was first time we could do that on an outing, usually on an outing ,we follow orders of our women to get ready to go out, for sightseeing or shopping. There was no such compulsion and we loved it.
But some of us are so habitual of the routine, of getting ready and go for sightseeing or shopping with wife on a trip, that they follow it even when they are not with wife. Kumar was the one who became butt of jokes, when he mechanically followed that routine.
After breakfast, we were enjoying sunshine and the view from the cliff. That’s when Kumar came out, all suited up , Deepak asked him, if he was seeing his wife around. Kumar was surprised at question , then another question came from one of us ,”why are you so dressed up as if you are going to shopping or sightseeing with your wife?” Kumar knew he was caught in a wrong situation,he ran to his room , changed to short and t-shirt ,then sat with all of us, doing nothing. We enjoyed that morning in the sun, just lying there in the garden on the cliff.
Point of return
At noon we packed our bags for return. It was cloudy . Ooty was looking beautiful from that cliff. We were back in our cars and started our journey for home, enjoying the beautiful views on the way and the talks about last night.
All of us remembered that journey after returning home. We even planned another with Deepak, before he leaves Bangalore for Australia but it did not happen again. That is why as a rule, I do not deny a sudden request by a friend, to go on a trip ,as trips with friends are hardly planned, they just happen and leave long lasting memories.
Please also check my other posts on mountains here
It was summer of 2008, it was only few months since I came to Bangalore and joined Microsoft. Back then, I used to smoke and Kumar was a great source of cigarettes. As usual women do not like cigarettes and its smell, so we use to find excuses to have a smoke. One of the excuse was tea, yes a weird excuse of having tea and cigarette together, justification was that we usually have cigarette with tea, so our logic ,cigarette is a side kick of tea which was what we wanted to have.
We were in night shift those days, one day on Saturday morning, when Kumar and I came back from office, Kumar called me and asked me if I would like to go for a drive for a tea (which meant cigarette on tea shack after a long drive) and yours truly is always ready for such a proposal. Obviously, we will be joined by the ladies on this tea hunting drive and we loved that too, I won’t lie.
Last minute call
I asked my wife to get ready as we were going for a drive with Kumar, to have tea on some road side shack. I was already in the same dress in which I came back from office. Kumar and his wife were waiting for us in their car. We lived near a very well connected road called Bannerghatta Road, famous for IIM Bangalore and Bannerghatta national park. So plan, was to go on this road for a long drive, which leads to Bannerghatta national park and have tea on any road side tea shack and obviously the smokes.
We were on the road ,we saw patch of broken path way . Kumar had intuition about that patch, that it goes to a road called NICE road that connects to Mysore road. He asked me, if we shall go that way . As usual, I nodded in yes. We were then on that patchy road, which finally led us to NICE road. But It was not completely built then. Following it, we reached Mysore road to Mysore. There is famous south Indian restaurant called Kamath , on Mysore road. So our new plan was to have our tea there. After we reached kamath.We saw sign board saying Mysore 100 KMs. We asked ladies, what they say about seeing the famous palace. They could not believe if we were serious about it and agreed to that. They thought we were joking and will take U turn after some time.
After driving for another 40 KMs, we reached mandya, which is a smaller city then Bangalore , we found ATM there , withdrew some money for travel. Till that point, ladies thought we will take a U turn and get back to Bangalore. But now, they realized that we were actually serious about going to Mysore. We took a small tea break , ensured ladies that it will be fun.
However , when we reached near Mysore, we saw a sign board that said OOTY around 160 KMs from Mysore. I asked Kumar, what he thinks about this 160 KMs. As always, he loved that thought and announced that we were then going to OOTY, which is a famous hill station of south India. It was almost 12 pm in the noon and it was so tempting that we decided to take the road for OOTY after reaching Mysore. Kumar was pretty confident that in another 2 hours he will cover 160 KMs and we shall be in OOTY around 2pm.
After 80 KMs from Mysore, towards OOTY, we found a restaurant which was just before the Bandipur forest and national park, we had another short break and had lunch there. Then, we went through this awesome forest, where we could see few wild animals as well. After another 50 KMs we reached Masingudi forest, which is in Tamilnadu and after another 20 KMs we reached famous 36 hair pin bend steep mountain road. Kumar is a good driver and these are really painful bends but he smoothly drove us and we finally reached OOTY around 3pm.
Getting right hotel
It was really cold there, we searched through whole mountain town to get a good hotel to stay. After checking different hotels in all categories, we picked a luxury hotel and got suites on the name of British Kings and Queens. By this time, it was almost 5pm, we rushed towards the OOTY Lake, for boating. Our phone batteries were dead, we could not use the cameras in the phone. So before hitting the lake, we found a shop in the market selling the non-digital camera. We finally had few clicks on the pedal boats. It started raining after some time.
By 7pm, it was chilling evening . We did not bring any winter clothes with us . As we originally planned for a long drive to have a tea. We then shopped for winter clothes in OOTY’s small market , finally got some relief from that chilly weather. After wandering around in OOTY’s market, we went back to hotel and had dinner. To my surprise, the dinner was very well cooked. All the dishes were authentic north Indian dishes, which was unexpected in southern India.
Lazy romantic morning
I woke up to a very beautiful morning, it was a beautiful view of the lake from the Hotel’s garden. Hotel garden itself was very beautiful. This hotel was surrounded by Niligiris, on a mountain top overlooking OOTY’s town and its lake.
As I mentioned in most of my travel write-ups. Best part of my travel is waking up in a hotel and dialing room service for a nice hot tea. So I ordered my tea, my wife is not so found of tea. She just watches me, having my tea during such moments since our Dalhousie trip. At times, we get into that romantic talk, which makes those mornings even so much more beautiful. I was enjoying my tea with my wife . We got knock on the door. It was Kumar, he was enjoying the morning in the garden with his wife. We also joined them in the garden , took some photographs with our new old fashioned non-digital camera.
Although, in such cold but beautiful mornings, I’m usually lazy and love to lay back and enjoy. But it was Sunday, last day of the weekend , on Monday we had to be in office. We decided to get ready and have breakfast quickly and leave for conoor, which is nearby beautiful mountain town. Again, Breakfast was also very well cooked and hit our taste buds well.
We were all in the car quickly for conoor, soon we were in the middle of conoor’s Tea gardens. All those mountains covered with Tea plantation, is a treat for the eyes. We visited some well-known points, clicked photos stopping at any beautiful location we found. Driving through those Tea gardens was more beautiful than the famous crowded points. We then decided to get back, as it was already noon and we had to travel some 400 KMs to get back to Bangalore.
On our journey back to Mysore , we stopped at a hill point, it seemed it was in the middle of clouds, there was a tea shack there ,serving various types of masala, cardamom and other flavored teas.
We had different flavors of tea and smoked too. It was such a wonderful experience, in the middle of the clouds, with my friends and my beautiful wife. My heart did not want to go anywhere else . But I also knew, the beauty lies in small moments, not in overstaying them or over living them. So we moved on.
Someone felt tired and bored
We were on our way back and were near Mysore . It was around 7pm and all of us were really tired. My wife, although loves to see the places with me. But hates to be on the road continuously on a single stretch. I could see her tired . She wanted to reach home and relax. Kumar and I started some obnoxious talks to entertain the ladies. The talks about the famous brigand of that area, on the fly made up stories to entertain them. My wife finally got so bored by it. She bit me on my arm so hard that I could not say a single word that moment . I silently suggested Kumar to not to go on with those stories.
We continued traveling even after reaching Mysore, We had dinner on a Road side dhaba, dhaba is a typical Punjabi restaurant that serves Punjabi food, at times this keyword has also took us to restaurants which were nowhere near to be a Punjabi dhaba and their Food was nowhere near to Punjabi food. But on Mysore road, one can find some good dhabas as well. After dinner, Kumar pushed accelerator and got us home and stopped by another Tea shack to have a tea and a smoke.
I was in 8th standard and my father who used to work for Indian Railways, was posted in Jammu which is part of J & K state. I am the eldest son in the family, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. But this is not about my family. This is about a short trip I had, with my friends to a forest near by Jammu. Our school sent 5 students including me and four other students to speak in a function about preservation of forests, Trees and wild life. I was too young, to understand lot of things but I knew few things, for example this function was organized by father of one of my friends, who was going with us. In fact my friend Vikas and his brother Vicky who was also my friend, was also going to attend the function. Vikas’s father was Forest officer of that forest. We had to travel from Jammu to that forest. Next morning, we had this function. All the students spoke about the topic. Once function was over, I stayed back with Vikas and Vicky, while other students went back to Jammu.
It was a nice bungalow in the middle of the forest. Since its long time back, so I don’t remember exactly if that was office cum home stay of Vikas’s Dad or just residence. Anyways, it was a nice bungalow with beautiful garden. Vikas’s Dad, I used to call him uncle, they had already got the food ready by the cook. We had lunch and after that Me Vikas and Vicky started our little walk towards the woods. It was dense mountain forest and October noon are usually pleasant, so we kept walking in the forest lanes, admiring the beauty of jungle and mountains and talking about girls. It sounds funny now but even in 8th standard, we thought that we are grownups and can have girlfriends or thoughts of having girlfriends. We discussed about girls we knew, during those days and what other boys are doing to make them friends and how a new girl in school looks so beautiful. Wishing they were with us on this forest walk with us. At times our talk’s diverted to how brave and macho we were and how any one of us could beat gang of 3 to 4 guys.
While having our talks, we went to thick forest and at a point we found that we were on a dead end, it was kind of a cliff and when we looked below from that, we could see huge rocks and little stream of water flowing. There was another huge mountain cliff opposite to us. There were huge trees on this mountain end that looked like a cliff. On our side one of the huge tree had fallen, one end of this tree was on our side and its other side was on opposite mountain cliff, which was around 15 to 20 feet from this cliff where we were standing.
It was a very interesting situation. Vicky is more adventurous and suggested that we should go across using the fallen tree as its acting as a bridge between two ends. Then we looked below to understand the depth or height. It was scary, but Vicky was adamant to cross it and reach the other side. We finally had to agree with him as Vikas was elder to Vicky and he could not let him go alone and I could not leave my friends. So we decided to cross it using the fallen tree.
I don’t remember exactly who went first on the tree, one by one we sat on the tree as standing on it was scary and started moving slowly towards the other end. As we moved in the middle of the tree, one look below towards the gigantic rocks gave me jitters and stopped looking below and kept moving forward slowly. As we reached near the other end, the tree started moving slightly downwards with our weight and that scared the hell out of us, it seemed that it will fall and we will fall with it. But luckily it only moved slightly low and with our gradual movement it was moving lower and we actually could not see how properly this tree was landed on the other end due to leaves and branches and bushes on that mountain, So we were not sure how safely this tree was landed on this mountain as it was moving slightly low with every inch we were moving towards it. I remember at this moment when tree was moving low I saw a small thick plant or a bush on the edge and planned to grab it the moment I reach near it. So when I reached near that end, while the tree was moving slightly low with the movement, I grabbed that small bush and pulled myself up. I asked vikas to use that as well. We used that to pull ourselves up. I again looked back and thought god saved us that day as tree was not very well landed on this side and over movement on it was causing it to shake and it could have fallen and we could have fallen with it on those rocks.
We again kept going the way we were earlier, talking about school, girls and macho stuff. We then sat on a tree and talked for a while. Then decided to return and used another route on our way back to forest bungalow.
Looking back at this small unplanned adventure trip, I remember it as a sweet memory of my child hood. But there is another thought,I have a 3 and half year old son and when I imagine my son in my place doing something like that, I feel how my parents would have felt, if I would have told them what I did on that trip with my friends. But there are too many such incidents in my life and may be in everyone’s life, so I feel, Beauty of life is in exploring it and not sitting on sofa and watch bear grills do Man vs wild stuff.