We were traversing through curves, far and away from the hustle and bustle of Almora. As I looked back, I saw only buildings and concrete constructions in that place, we were going deeper into picture perfect greenery, a house here and there and away from all the noise.
Arjun and Deepta were telling me about the place. How with the change of governance in Uttarakhand, there were changes at grass roots level. How a certain group was recruiting youngsters and involving them in local governance and politics and paying them. It was a really smart strategy.
As Arjun said, enough of taking sides, I believe in giving my know how, my tech expertise to whoever wants it. Let them pay for it, for the ones that have money and can afford to. I believe in sustainability for all. It was true, totally true.
Deepta spoke about leopard sightings as in seeing one right in front one day as they were going back home. She said they were lucky they didn’t get attacked and it was told oh so casually 🙂
We reached Innisfree – the Homestay and as I got out, I saw a lovely lady coming forward and greeting me. This was Julia. The moment I saw her, I loved her. She was all sunshine, smiles and a calming energy rolled into one.
By that time fatigue had hit me but I didn’t want to crash to bed yet. I wanted to soak in everything. Deepta showed me my room and my god it was pure luxury! A double bed, plenty of room, all the amenities, a lovely bathroom and so cool and calm. I was wondering if I could get used to this luxury after my previous journeys.
Arjun, Deepta & Julia were hanging outside , in the backyard where all the action was. Big trees with seating spaces, a nice Jhula(Swing), an assortment of chairs to sit down, and a beautiful view of the landscape.
Lat, Julia’s husband joined us. A quiet soft spoken gentleman. Very soft and gentle. You could see the lineage he came from. Julia was his anchor, a solid one.
Julia was the heart and soul of Innisfree. Truly, she kept it going with all her heart and passion. Ditto with Lat. He belonged to one of the Royal Kumaoni families and opened this home stay for the love of it. It reminded me of my cafe and my partner.
As their staff got me hot Chai and I took in a smoke and more from Deepta & Arjun, I was at bliss just looking at it all. The landscape, the silence, the people and Julia’s laughter, it was just bliss am telling you. I felt at home.. Like truly at home and where I belong.
I saw several dogs Julia and Lat had adopted, they were rolling frolicking while Fuchka greeted me in his usual happy way and Cola running around with him. At that moment, I didn’t want anything else. It was so present.
Finally I realized I wanted to crash for a bit. Got a nice shower and crashed for god knows how long .. When I woke up it was almost 6 pm and I could hear Julia’s twinkling laughter and her voice out in the verandah with Deepta.
I remember waking up and actually feeling a little disoriented and wondering where was I? It felt like I was traveling for a really long time.
I came out and there it was fresh watermelon, biscuits and Julia made sure I had Chai. It was absolute bliss as we started talking, then looking at the sunset from the Verandah in that silence.
The fact is when I met Julia and Lat, it felt so comfortable, no awkwardness, no formal introductions. It was like I knew them from before. It goes to say how comfortable they made me feel. I would know their own story of starting this home stay later.
Deepta, Arjun and I had quite some catching up to do after they left the farm at Tumkur and moved to Bangalore. After that, when I was in Bangalore, they would be out of town so we were exchanging each other’s journey since then.
It was a wonder how they decided to move to Hawalbagh of all places. But knowing them, I wasn’t surprised at all.
This time when I looked at them, they were a lot more at peace now than then. They felt home was here, they belonged here and it showed. They couldn’t think of moving out of this place for a long time to come. In that process, they met Julia & Lat and they were literally family to each other now.
How wonderful friendships are that way.
That evening Julia & Lat were getting wood ready for a lovely bonfire! Yes! This was the one thing I was missing throughout my journey, especially during the trek and this was a blessing!
But before that, Deepta and Julia made sure I saw the Moon. Oh Yes the beautiful moon was almost, just almost a full moon and they told me we had to keep on watching it as it would suddenly creep up in seconds. I remember we all stood in silence, looking towards the mountains as we saw the rays creeping up.. Slowly but surely..
And there it was, the beautiful moon just came up and looked at us with all it’s magnificence.. It was a beautiful moment right there as we all gaped, in awe, like we have not seen this before. And we didn’t.. Each moment was new, that feeling is new too.
Sitting around the bonfire, I was feeling a little overwhelmed thinking how precious these moments are, how lucky I felt..
To be around people like the ones I am with right now, to be in this serenity, around the bonfire as we shared drinks, smokes and talking heart to heart, openly, where one doesn’t have to hold anything back. No complications, no analysis, just pure good fun.
We didn’t require any music because the noises out in the wild were enough, the breeze, the sounds from somewhere were enough.
Julia mentioned that one of their pups, a cute tiny one whom they named Gabbar got taken away just in front of them.
Yup, they were sitting around the bonfire and right at the edge, because the homestay was on a nice cliff of sorts, the pup was playing and running around and suddenly they heard a sound of ‘Swoosh’ just 200 meters away and she was gone.
So all their dogs were kept inside once the sun was set, they would let their dogs out for a run in the mornings under their watchful eye. I was like a Leopard right here? Yup they said. It was so common here.
Deepta and Arjun’s house which was a kilometre or two away was even more susceptible to Leopards. Arjun mentioned that they saw two dead goats kept on top of their house roof. The Leopard must have hidden it’s kill right there for safety! I was like Wow, so different from what our lives are right?
And believe me, all of them took it as a way of life. What can one do when one lives in such wilderness? You confront Nature and it’s many beings.
The most beautiful thing was that all of them respected it. I knew Deepta & Arjun always did but Julia & lat too.
They respected it, they respected the Kumaoni way of life, they adjusted themselves to this beautiful land, more for Julia since she was a Russian who fell in love and married an Indian and made her family & home here. I am telling you I have not seen anyone like her who made this place her home and believed in it more than us.
It was a perfect evening..