“Every journey we undertake reinstates some thing in us that we had perhaps lost”
It wasn’t my first time in the mountains of Kumaon valley in Uttarakhand. After the train journey to Kathgodam and an upward drive to Nathuakhan, I was welcomed in a cosy homestay nestled in a farm surrounded with dark clouds. I slept for the night in my cozy room watching raindrops slide on the window glass and diffused spots of light visible outside. A new morning began; and instead of a bright sunshine, the rains had became severe. Even though it was quiet, I never felt secluded for I was surrounded by happy people and already feeling the kindness of Kumaon.
Once the rains demoted itself to a drizzle, I put on my rain jacket, fastened my shoes and set out on foot. The walk was through a paved pathway, flaunted by pear tress. Walking barely a few kilometres away from my homestay, I met Dewan Singh Bisht. He lives in a 100-year old Kumaoni house. Traditionally, these houses were made of mud, supported by wood and adorned by wooden window panes. The panes had motifs of flower or religious figures on them called Likhai craft.
Admiring the beauty of the house, I sat and chatted with him for some time. We spoke about his roots, family and the architecture of the house. He patiently answered all my curious questions. Amidst all of this, I understood how scattered my conversation was. While I tried to pay undivided attention to him, my mind kept wavering off into tangential directions. One of the things I wondered was how rare was it to find a moment like this—when a stranger welcomes you home and shares glimpses into his life. It made me realise how mechanical our lives had become. In the cities, we seldom have time for those we love, let alone strangers.
Carrying his warm tones in my heart and random musings on my mind, I returned to my homestay. There I met Kaushalya, who helps with the chores in the homestay. This evening had she stayed back a little longer to help with our dinner preparations. Visibly shy, she spoke with a strong Kumaoni accent. I asked her about her jewellery and soon understood that she was consumed by kitchen duties to attend to my queries at that point. However, she did politely acknowledge my questions.
The next morning, we met again. She began by apologising for not replying well the previous evening. And then told me about the traditional jewellery of the land, her typical day and other curious things. As I admired the jewellery she adorned so well, she insisted that I visit her jeweler with her, later in the day. Though it was a very enticing proposition, I told her that I hardly had time. Going out of her way, she gave me directions to reach the shop, in a neighbourhood village, ‘just in case I found the time’. As she said this, we both smiled at each other, acknowledging the underlying connotation.
As our conversation continues, I learnt that Kaushalya is the chef at the junior girls’ school in Nathuakhan and plays many roles in a day. She also learnt knitting in the homestay I stayed in and sells them for some extra income. She said that even in winters, when there is nothing to do, she devices ways to keep busy and stay useful.
Even though I met a few others in my short stay in Nathuakhan. I allowed Kaushalya and Dewan Singh Bisht’s story to inspire me. These ordinary people do nothing extraordinary to actually stand out and leave their traces in our hearts. They are regular locals, who live simple life, smile at strangers, give us their undivided attention and time, share their stories with us and listen to us, without judging us. They welcome us home and give us directions to places we may never access—allowing hope to bond us better.
And isn’t that what we all seek in life—being with someone who gives us their time while being that person who understands how important that time is? These people made me wonder why we need to do something exceptional in every day life while simplicity and kindness remain underrated?
Featured Image – Image credits: Gaurav Bhatnagar
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About the author:
Amrita Das is a freelance travel writer and a full-time travel blogger at Travelling Ides of March. She quit her corporate job to become a traveller. She contributes to top publications in India and internationally on solo female travel, and off-beat, cultural and adventure travel