Hill Stations have their own charm, which attracts people from the plains like me to visit them. The mighty mountains with their peaks spiking the sky, the green forests jotting over the valleys, the streams and the cool climate- fascinate us.
Recently I had been to Dharmshala and Manali in Himachal Pradesh with family. After spending about a week in both the places and travelling nearly 1000 km in the hilly roads, I realized an old maxim: the journey is more beautiful and exciting than the destination.
We flew to Dharmshala from Delhi. The small ATR aircraft was full. Most of the passengers were foreigners going to Mcleod Ganj, about 10 km from Dharamshala, which is also known as “Little Lhasa” or “Dhasa” because of its large population of Tibetans. The Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered in McLeod Ganj. Dalai Lama lives there and he happens to be the biggest draw.
We went there on a Sunday and it seemed half of Punjab was already there and the other half was arriving. It was crowded beyond my imagination. The parking place was overflowing with vehicles of all shapes and sizes. I could not comprehend by which magic; our driver negotiated the teeming thousands of pedestrians and vehicles. We went through bazars selling Tibetan knickknacks to have a darshan of a Devi and a water fall, where there were more human beings and hardly any flowing water. We went to the ‘Tibetan Temple’ (that is what the sign board written in Hindi proclaimed), which happened to be the head quarter of the Tibetan Government in exile. A bored looking police man went through the motion of frisking. We went in and found ourselves at a large hall with a large idol of Buddha and people merrily taking selfie with the idol.
Morning walk moments at Dharamsala
I always believe that if you want to know a place or want to soak in its flavor- walk. Walk on its roads and by lanes, explore its park and bus-stand, bazars and hanging out places.
So off we went on our morning walk on the roads of Kotwali Bazar of Dharmshala, which happened to be the main business hub. Snow-capped mountain peaks were visible from the market. The morning air has a nip of cold. The weather was fabulous for moving around if you were willing and capable of walking on the stiff inclined roads, which are narrow and has lots of vehicle plying.
I guess, some areas in Dharamsala and Mcdeolganj should be made ‘pedestrian only’ and some roads should have fenced and raised footpath only for pedestrians like they have done in Gangtok, Sikkim and in some parts of Manali.
Dharamshala is also known for its picture-postcard Cricket Stadium overlooking snow-capped mountains Dauladhar range. It is as picturesque as the Adelaide, Oval and Newlands. Located at an altitude of 1317 metres above sea level, it is one of the highest stadiums of the world. Another feature is its openness and small-sized stands, which allow for winds to sweep across, giving fast bowlers assistance in the air. The venue is the first in India to use winter rye grass scattered around the outfield, which prevents the grass from dying when temperatures fall below 10 degrees.
The stadium is well maintained and it charges Rs 20/- per visitor to visit the stands and have a look at the stadium.
However, I did not like the chairs and clumsy and cramped sitting arrangements.
Seen at the back of a bus in on our way to Manali:
Dhire chaloge to paribar milega,
tej chaloge to haridwar milega.
Mrinal Chatterjee, journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. He also writes fiction and columns in English and Odia.