A narrow gauge train is cool stuff. I have travelled with the Bhattacharjee family often enough to know a good trip from the rest. But every time I have been en-route Shimla on the cute little toy train, I have been charmed. This time lived up to tradition. As I sat gazing outside, my wooden nose scraping the window, I saw the hills change colour. From dark brown to mustard yellow to a shade of green D calls jade. Notwithstanding the ruckus that a particularly overactive family in the coach created, my heart sprung with joy.
Talking about that overactive family, well, I have my own questions about their attachment with the washroom. Whether it was due to the gallons of soft drinks and juices they were consuming throughout their journey or whether they had diabetic strands – I will never know. But every now and then, the breeze brought stench to my nose – emanating from the washroom in whose vicinity, sadly, my seat was.
I met some of my seniors in Shimla. They were of a superior pedigree, to say little of training. If I am good with philosophy, they can smell a rat and a bent character with equal ease. The one I saw near Indian Coffee House, for instance. The epitome of serenity! As I walked past him, tucked in D’s bag, I reflected on how I have to work harder on my own personal habits. For starters, I need to learn to not make a face when bystanders comment on how my face is much bigger than the rest of my body.
The Bhattacharjees are early sleepers. They snuggled into bed despite my will to spend the night walking in the valleys. I longed to admire the million jewels that the skies adorned and tune in to the melodies of Shimla’s nightlife. The dogs there howl better than the ones in smoky Delhi, as do the crows caw. The guards huddle by the fire and cook themselves a meal of amazing chicken. I could smell the stuff from the window back in our hotel but had to be content with what was ordered in – milk and dog biscuits. Duh!
D told me Shimla rejuvenates her. The winds sing, the trees whisper and the birds delight with fresh tunes. The Bhattacharjees spent the weekend strolling on the Mall Road – reminiscent of old English lanes – shopping for gifts and memorabilia and talking their hearts out. I sat covered with quilts and a pretty white woollen-cap. Removed from the strain of daily work, which involves waking up to the mewing house-cats, I was quite at peace.
Back home, its summer already. Time for mangoes, afternoon naps and sitting by the air-conditioner. I will also need to return to mentoring D as she prepares to spend the summer here. She says she has got used to Pune, where the winds never disappoint. She tells me stories of green hills, animated by-lanes, bakeries and R – not in that order.
Oh well, Delhi has its own charms. Maybe I should just tell her to breathe and get me some hot chicken tikka.
*Written for P&P by D’s very own Timmy