I saw Mars last night. With the naked eye.
I saw a barber who works his craft with the pride of a painter or a classical singer. I saw old grandmothers laugh like schoolgirls with two plaits. I waved to the one-year-old child I meet every day on my evening walk and he got up promptly, waving his tiny hand and trying to walk towards me. I saw a rainbow far away over the hills. I saw glow worms. I heard rain.
I picked up my camera after many, many days.
I am soaking in all I can, living out all the tiny moments this small town is throwing at me, immersing myself in the cool breeze and the wayward mist that wraps me when I walk breathless up the hills. I am wading through its silences, sauntering through its British-era tranquility, a mesmerised visitor who refuses to go away.
Panting after a steep climb, sweating in the cold mountain air, my friend Rahul Pandita and I pop up again and again at the big shop next to the cantonment where the man I call "Mr. Maggi" sits emotionless, springing to life the moment we order noodles after a day of being locked up in two hotel rooms and trying to finish a long-unfinished book.
But there is something else unfinished -- take a deep breath as as you order that coffee from the machine and cringe at the cost of mineral water and sit gingerly on the dew-soaked chair in black metal. It is our own unfinished lives that we are bringing to Kasauli, pausing for a moment, taking in the pure, innocent mountain air, reflecting on our lives -- seeking answers.
Sometimes finding them. Sometimes realising there were better ways to seek them.
Life is beautifu. Why unnecessarily complicate it? The answers are right here, walking alongside the questions.
Opposite Mr. Maggi's, there is an unusual crowd today for an August weekday in Kasauli: all of six people, sitting around a metal table. An old Uncleji gets a phone call, its his daughter in some metropolis. She asks how he is. He tells her they are having a great time, met a friend and his wife, they are sitting at the same spot where their granddaughter had danced one day. She wants a phone number. Grandpa promises to SMS it to her.
I walked. Through the cobbled street along the small market. The barber clipped away in his shop with the old world charm, relentless and focussed. The halwai next door scooped out hot, steaming jalebis, thin and crisp and bursting with calories. Some distance away, a young man sat on the pavement, chiselling away a large piece of deadwood into a beautiful work of art by a nameless artist, that would soon find place in some glorious living room in some part of India.
And soon we stood in the open air expanse outside the dining hall at the Kasauli Club, I clicking away pictures of one poor tree (see main blog picture) and the pensive skies. Were they violet, or pink? Did I care?
Rahul's friend Rajesh Dogar, whose lovely hotel Kasauli Regency we are staying in, drove us there. His wife Preetie joined us. She is a geography teacher. She knows the planets.
"That's Mars!" she said.
And there it was. I was seeing a planet for the first time in the clear sky. See the picture above, its the bright spot high above the roof of the Kasauli Club and the lit-up hall of the nearby mansion.
Inside in one of the halls in the club with wood panels and stone walls, a bunch of grandmothers laughed at a girls' evening out. Some elderly gentlemen sat in a corner as well, their silence interrupted by occasional guffaws.
The waiter is called Ishwar. In June, when the club is crowded and teeming with the house owners who descend on their summer homes, some ingenious people shout: "Hey Ishwar! (O God!) Can we have our drink?"
I am not going to call out to Ishwar.
I have had my drink. I am headed back to the big city, high on life.
(Photo Credit: The rainbow picture is taken by Rahul Pandita. The rest are mine)