I’ve been trying to get out early in the morning nowadays. The wee hours that I normally devoted to my writing are being spent roaming the streets of Delhi. Not that the city can boast of an early morning breeze but it’s enough that I can now afford to give the strident noise of the evening rush hours a clear miss.
I’ve always enjoyed long walks, particularly in the hills. My love for the mountains has always been evident, and anyone who has been visiting the blog regularly would know how I always pine for them. My stay in Gangtok, in the lap of the Himalayas, was almost three-years long. The roads in the capital town were serpentine and steep. Walking on them was like riding on the back of a huge python. The low clouds would make the valley appear misty, especially because I chose to go out in the evenings.
Another place where I spent a little less than a year was Wellington, Coonoor- a tiny, little town of sublime beauty tucked in the Nilgiris. Walks in Wellington were different from those in Gangtok. Covered by pines and the jacaranda trees, the roads would lovingly run into the arms of forests, as if besotted by them.
Pines always remind me of my own hill town, Shimla. Unlike Gangtok and Wellington, where I liked to venture out in the evenings, it was always an early morning walk in Shimla. I was lucky to stay closer to the lonely jungle roads that made me swoon over them. But that wasn’t always the case. There was also a time when Shimla hills made me feel sick and caged. I felt as if the mountains were always closing in on me. Maybe that’s how I got the claustrophobia.
My husband came visiting two months prior to our marriage and we decided to go for a stroll one evening. As we climbed a slope close to the house that overlooked a valley, the sky appeared drenched in an orange light as the sun went down behind the mountains on the other end. We turned to catch a glimpse of the setting sun, when he said to me, “Enjoy this. You are going to miss it.”
His words sounded almost sacrilegious. “Never!” I replied.
As I look back on that day, I think the mountains heard me and vowed to prove me wrong. For they ensured that I longed for their company after feasting on the plains of the subcontinent. The party was great but not great enough to hold me for long. Soon, I felt no more than being in a “rats’ alley/ Where the dead men lost their bones”. (T S Eliot)
I have been fortunate to visit my hometown once or twice a year to see my parents. The mountains don’t close in on me anymore. Instead my first impulse is to gulp down a fistful of air rushing down their slopes.
2020 hasn’t allowed me a visit home. The pain is piercing. And to my rescue come the morning walks along with the Delhi trees. No, I don’t see the mountains here but the relative quiet of an otherwise humdrum life is helpful. There are barely people on the roads just after sunrise and that is great by the standards of this city. I try moving through the lanes lined up with these trees─ a semblance of peace, quiet and maybe landscape in an otherwise disorderly world. I also take the liberty to remove the mask and take in my fistful of air.
It’s hard for me to tear myself apart from the sights of the mountains I behold in my heart. But for now, these Dilli trees are doing fine by me. They help me listen to the stillness I crave for. I think they will also help me sustain longer than I had hoped!
How about you? Are you lucky enough to be living in the lap of the natural world? Or, just like me, do you miss the company of nature? How do you make up for it?