Dehra Dun- A blunderful experience.

Traveling- A dear friend of mine had once commented with disdain about the few people who hated traveling – that they, either had to be lazy , or misers, criminals or sick- in the real sense . Logically she did make sense but I will not be so harsh as to speak thus. To each his own you see. But yes it is the rarest who do not like traveling, who do not get thrilled at the prospect of visiting a new place, seeing new sights.

Well, I am not about to give a long winded lecture on the benefits of traveling or a graphic description of how exactly it feels to come upon a new place or sight. Instead I would like to share my travel adventures with you; stories of blunders, accidental humor and adventures when we were prepared for none; stories that may give a reason to smile to those travel-evaders and make them go -“hmm , see we told you so”. Not that I had the worst of experiences, but yes, they were quite an armful. Though they did give me some tense moments, looking back , I have to say that they were fun. Adventures and experiences are always fun , that is once you come out of it unscathed.

I traveled mostly in the last five years, along with family members of all shapes and sizes at various point of time and in a couple of occasions with friends, taking around seven or eight trips a year just for fun. How? Don’t even ask how we managed the time. We just managed without being kicked out from our offices , but I swear upon God that I speak the truth, when I say that only few of them could qualify as being normal, relaxing and hassle free. Thanks to the management of yours truly and the over zealous enthusiasm of my co passengers. Not that we encountered dacoits or animals…hold on! we in fact had encountered dacoits too, dear me, how could I forget that one. Yes as I was saying , our adventures ranged from getting lost in the wintry fog on our way to Sariska and spending the night in the ca,r to getting our car windows smashed in a freak accident at Rohtang Pass with still two hours of late evening journey left in a cold terrain with a nine month old baby; A real accident in Goa , not to mention missing the flight back in the same trip, from traveling ticket less in Shatabdi from Dehra Dun to Delhi , just because I had packed the wrong tickets ; Of being almost stranded in the wilderness of Spiti after the gear box of our car went kaput and almost drowning in a nullah near Nalagarh while attempting to drive through the stream (ok, ok that was a slight exaggeration. We did not drown exactly but water rushed inside the car creating quite a panic) and so on went the goof ups and giggles.

Each travel had a story. I do not much remember about the monuments or temples as I am not much into religion or history. Nor do I remember the parks or picnic spots, but I still vividly remember the meadow at Ranikhet where I had laid back and gazed at the clouds peeking from behind the pine trees. I remember the sun rays against the snow capped peaks in Chaukori; the layered mountains against the wide green fields at Bageswar, I remember the barren stark grey and brown mountains of Spiti and Keylong, the small hamlet that one could see from the highway just before Sundernagar in HP and the bends and curves of the hilly roads, the trees and meadows or bugiyals, the orchards in Naggar from where we stole some apples;every thing that nature had offered generously with its welcoming hands- for nature was what I loved, and nature was the only thing to which I felt connected to during my travels which you will realise when you see the pictures taken by my untrained unsteady hands

So where do I begin? From the beginning? The most adventurous? The shortest one? Which one? Wait a moment . The word count till here is 566 and I know that a normal attention span of a normal person isn’t normally much. So I will get on with a short one this time and start from the beginning from the next. Yes I do plan to continue as a series . But only if the stats recommend it and the stats will go by your decision. So ultimately it is your decision.

But this time I will go with a short but blunderful one.

the doon valley

I guess it was our third or fourth family trip. I was in to the second year of my marriage and I so very much wanted to make a great impression on my Ma in Law. It was her birthday and I planned to gift her something unique , something different when I remembered her confiding in me her wish to fly once in her lifetime. I knew that she had a wish to experience a journey by an airplane and so there I thought- Why not a short trip? The means were modest and budget was low , but intentions were honorable. Hence after searching for some reasonable fares, (come on, it was just an experience I was looking for) I zeroed in for the Delhi to Dehra Dun flight tickets. The plan was to be back after spending the day in Dehra Dun and the night at Mussourie, by the Shatabdi train the next day. When all was done and set, came the first hitch. We could not afford a two day leave, a day was the most. So the return tickets were canceled and new ones made for the same day. That left us with six hours of sightseeing. Enough for Dehra Dun we had thought, after all it was the experience we were looking for. Dehra Dun is the capital city of the state of Uttarakhand but it is more famous as the gateway to Mussourie, the hill station. It also earned quite a reputation for itself because of the Doon School, where all the biggies used to send their smallies, I mean children for education. Other than that it is a quiet picturesque city at the foothills of the Himalayas and houses some great educational institutes like the IMA or Indian Military Academy and Forest Research Institute.

D day dawned. The birthday gal was all ready and smiling and I was grinning from ear to ear with all the brownie points that I was collecting. We reached the airport with much excitement but the excitement tapered down by a slight degree as the size of the machine stared down at me contemptuously. No it wasn’t a monoplane , slightly bigger. Alright I am exaggerating again,it was smaller in size than the normal ones- something like the Fokker planes that used to be quite famous way back. Though dear spouse looked quite embarrassed, Ma in law was fine with the thing. Hell! wasn’t it all about the experience anyways? The duration of the flight was about half an hour and we tried to have the best out of it. The Himalayan foothills looked beautiful from up above as we peered out the window and the size of the plane was soon forgotten.

The airport at Dehra Dun was a major disappointment if you could call it an airport and there was nothing Jolly about Jolly Grant airport.It was located quite far away from main town and you have had it if you haven’t booked a taxi prior to landing there. You still had a chance if it was Mussourie you were heading for, but for Dehra Dun, well well! And so there we were in a soup with our precious moments ticking away. Finally we found an autorickshaw wala who conceded only after he struck a fat deal with us- of hooking himself up with us for the whole time we were there.

Shahashtra Dhara

Shahashtra Dhara was first on our agenda. It is supposed to be a collection of multiple sulphur springs and other than being known to be endowed with healing properties, it is also a famous picnic spot of Dehra Dun. It was good 14 kms away from the city and took near about an hour and a half to reach there. The cool gushing water of the manicured stream (yes the natural spring had been totally made over and made up to give an amusement park sort of feel)was a relief in the slightly humid and hot weather. September is still hot and humid in North India.We splashed around in the cool water for a while, explored the nearby gardens, took photographs, did all the stuff that half of the population there were doing.. Nothing eventful happened, other than the fall that our handycam took right out of the birthday girl’s hands into the concrete. Thank fully there was no damage to the day, hubby had controlled his temper beautifully… Oh the camera? No major damage to that either other than a superficial scratch. After loitering around for sometime in the shops that dotted the large area. we had lunch , a little bit of shopping for souvenirs and we were done.

The next stop was Tapkeswar Mahadev Mandir which boasted of a natural shivling in a cave formed out of rock and upon which water streamed continuously from the roof of the cave and which then disappeared in the floor to reappear again in a nearby pool. I guess the name of the temple was derived from that dripping or tapakna. It dates back during the time of Mahabharata and is said to be one of the meditating place of Guru Dronacharya.

The trek to the cave was a long way down by the side of a river beside thick green growth (as we went there during monsoons), and the more we went down, the more we dreaded coming up.Finally after the darshan and puja we dragged ourselves up to mainland somehow, all three of us wheezing and gasping for breath -So much for our city breeding. We realised there was not much time left for any other site visit. We had to let the deer park and other places go. We decided to just drive through the city ,onwards to railway station, and so our Autowallah did a hurried city tour where he kept on pointing to the landmarks as we breezed past, while three heads at the back kept on bobbing up and down trying to locate them. Hence officially we saw the Doon school, the famous Gompa and some other important places , that I couldn’t catch a word of. But what I liked best was the view of the nearby hills of Mussourie when we drove through a peaceful lush countryside which was just perfect for a small house with a lovely garden in the front with a balcony towards the Hills. Enjoy the view,enjoy the weather (which seemed cooler at the foothills) and enjoy life.

We still had around half an hour to spare when we reached the railway station and that was when I decided to check the tickets …just in case.. The case turned out to be a big ‘case’. Remember I had mentioned about rescheduling our return tickets? Well, yours truly had by mistake neatly folded and packed the previous tickets instead of the current ones. By the time the arguments and shock had settled down, we had already lost ten of our precious thirty minutes. I jumped into an autorickshaw to hunt for a cyber cafe nearby while hubby raced towards the reservation office, but Dehra Dun hadn’t gone that hi tech, when was it now , yeah- in 2005. And I failed to come upon any within the next ten minutes.Hubby by then had contacted the reservation officials to explain the situation, but the rules had simply no loopholes to let us out of the tricky situation. The only way out , I mean out of even Dehra Dun was to just travel ticket less from Dehra Dun and hope for the best , which was what we did. I felt disgusted at my blunder and was unable to meet my ma in law’s eyes. Hubby made it worse by sighing throughout journey. I would have kissed his feet if only he had belched throughout the journey instead of the mournful Sighs. What happened inside was an anticlimax of sorts after all the dreadful scenes I was imagining happening with us, but nothing monumental happened. It was the regular thing. Pay the fine, pay for the ticket. Yes sir! Satyameva Jayate. So there you see, that was exactly how I had gifted my mother in law an experience that was quite heavy with adventure and heavier on the wallet. Did I make an impression on her? I never dared to ask.

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