In May and June, the Northern plains in India burn under a relentless summer sun. Daytime temperatures go upto 45 degrees (Centigrade, which, for the benefit of my western world friends, equates to 113 degrees Fahrenheit) for a good part of two months. Live here during these two months and the craving for escaping to the sunny climes will be cured, forever, if you do live to tell the tale.
As this period coincides with the summer break in schools, this is the time when people make an effort to get away to cooler climes. Further the better, of course distance being directly proportional to the wallet-size. Usually.
We took a short holiday this summer. To a nearby (don’t jump to unrelated conclusions about my wallet-size!!) hill-town, about 300 km. from Delhi.
The idea of such a holiday, to me, has always been to, of course apart from the sheer fact of getting away from the daily humdrum for a short period, breathe in the salubrious mountain air and allow the body to feel the various muscle groups by walking up and down the hill slopes, that sedentary city lifestyles makes one forget even exist. Even though it is always only for a few days. And this is what I looked forward to on this occasion as well.
It is amazing what good weather can do.
There were people checking in and out of the hotel all the time. As soon as the check-in formalities were completed, the guests would energetically move to their room, and switch on the TV. To be seen only when their favourite programmes were over, or at breakfast-time in the morning. In a place where the climate was not so bracing, the same movement from the hotel front-office to the room and switching on the TV would take considerably longer.
When not watching TV, people were energetically moving around town. In and out of indoor gaming dens. The more gaming dens and pubs they went to, the more they gave themselves the opportunity to breathe in the salubrious mountain-air while they were enroute from one to another. Even playing video games inside closed rooms becomes a healthful activity at such a place. There is no way they would get this healthful exposure in the city in between dens.
We went on a walk / trek to the peak of the highest hill in town, which, I understand, in vertical height, is a modest 400 metres up from level at which most of the inhabited town exists. No Everest for the seasoned climber, but challenging enough for me.
As we made our way on foot to this peak, it was, again, a refreshing sight to see scores of people going up the hill and sweating. Their cars I mean. The cars made complaining sounds while battling against gravity on the narrow mountain roads. But the fearless drivers spared no exertion in shifting to the lowest gear and pushing their cars forward against the debilitating pull of gravity.
We were at the peak for over fifteen minutes. During this period, several groups of people came up, in cars and occasionally on motorbikes. They would, unfailingly, be awed by the mountain vistas visible, click pictures, picnic on bags of potato chips and soft-drinks, and start to go back, within about three minutes of arrival. I need to learn this sense of purpose.
Who knows, they may be in a hurry to drive back to their hotel and spend some quality time on the machines in the gym in order to stay fit. Unlike us who first wasted time and effort in walking up a motorable hill, and then loitered around for all of fifteen minutes.
Or they could be in a hurry to get back in time for their daily dose of various pills to contain and push back the advancement of diseases like blood-sugar, hypertension and heart-related ailments, caused by a sedentary lifestyle and inadequate physical exertion. If this is indeed the case, their discipline needs to be lauded.
We got an opportunity to commune with nature. And observe and mingle with different kinds of creatures inhabiting that world. From inside the comfort of our car. The outside world looks so pretty viewed from the insides of a temperature controlled car!
But before you again jump to conclusions (I use “again” as I assume you did (jump to conclusions) on the earlier occasion), I must clarify that, as always, we had stepped out of the hotel with the noble intention of a stroll around town. On foot. Yes you read right. We stepped out of the hotel with the noble intention of taking a stroll around town on foot. We even stepped out of the hotel premises on foot as the first step.
As happens on many occasions, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. As soon as we got out of the hotel and into a shaded path covered by trees, we were waylaid. By a bunch of monkeys. When I say waylaid I mean they were doing their usual stuff; swinging around from branch to branch, foraging for food, making noises, and all of that stuff, from at least fifty feet away. Now, for a city dweller, who has had as close an encounter with a monkey only from the other side of a cage wall, this was like being waylaid.
But the monkeys, I am sure, had not bargained for our sense of purpose and commitment. We hurried back inside the hotel and emerged, within a few minutes, inside our car. It was a really peaceful communion with nature. If nature was testing our mettle I am sure it had got its answer.
The locals will never understand this pleasure. We saw the locals walk past the monkeys as if they did not exist. They do not have a hope of experiencing nature from inside a car.
As city-dwellers, we don’t give up a good thing easily. We continued our stroll around town. Inside the comfort of our car. Try it, if you haven’t. It causes much lesser strain on the body.
They (the locals) also still need to walk across the street to cross it. They haven’t cottoned on to the idea of hopping into a car to cross the street. Or riding on a cycle-rickshaw manually pulled by a person twice their age.
They have a long way to go before they can catch-up with city folks in terms of development.