I woke up quite late, around the time when breakfast was about to be served. I washed my face on the roof where a tap was fixed on the wall. It was a very pleasant feeling, washing my face with the cool tap water in the soft morning sunlight. I went down and found my great aunt preparing sweet parathas. When breakfast was served, everyone loved the parathas. They were hot favourite delicacies turning the morning much better than greeting with a mundane “good morning”!
After breakfast was over, my great uncle went to feed the fishes in the Naini Lake, taking us along with him. Grand aunt tossed the old roti’s and pieces of bread into a plastic bag, and grand uncle took it along with him for his morning walk. We arrived at a place on the bank of the lake where the fish resided in large schools. Grand uncle told us that this species of fish was called carp. We fed them pieces of dried bread and biscuits. It was much fun to watch all the fish fighting over each little piece of dried bread. The most interesting part was that the fish did not care about the size of the food items given to them. Somehow they could gobble up full pieces of dried bread in just one go. My mother noticed that these fish were very fat. They looked as if they might burst any moment. We were informed that fishing was not allowed in the lake but regardless of this fact, people illegally smuggle the fish and sell them.
Finally we had to leave, as we didn’t have any more bread left to feed the fish. On the way back my mother saw a flower that intrigued her. She recognized it as a magnolia flower and remembered how she wanted to have one of those ever since her English teacher in school had described them. We thought we would not be able to put our hands on it as the tree was quite tall. We were about to leave when Sadaf Aapi by a sheer stroke of genius, took off her shawl and threw it over the branch where the flower was growing. She pulled it down so that we could get hold of the flower. Mother was obviously very happy. She gushed over a poem which describes the beauty and fragrance of the Magnolia flower.
We planned to go to Naukuchia Tal in the afternoon. So, the morning was quite free for us. We were in the mood to laze around.
Suddenly I felt a gush of cold wind blowing through the window. I went forward to close the window and felt droplets of water on my face. That’s when I realized that it was raining. It was not just raining, but it was raining quite hard. Who would think of closing the window at such a moment? I wrapped the woolens closer to my skin and stood there watching. It was so pleasant to have water spraying on my face every now and then. I heard my mother exclaim that it was a hailstorm. True that. Little pellets of hail banged against the roof, making such a din that we could hardly hear ourselves speak. The roads were covered with water; the hailstones melted and mixed with the water. A faint rainbow appeared in the sky. Even the water on the ground glistened with colours of the rainbow. The rains made the weather colder than it had been before.
In the afternoon after the hailstorm was over, we went to Naukuchia Tal. It was quite close to Nainital. We reached there in almost no time. The place was situated in the middle of nowhere. There were many trees surrounding the water; their lovely juniper green colour reflected on the lake. We jumped into a narrow boat which closely resembled a kayak. The water was cool and clear. The feeling of just sitting there in the boat and running your hands through the cool water, while a soft breeze blows on your face as you take in the scenic beauty surrounding you, is something ethereal.
In the evening we went to Bhutia market. Many Tibetans were selling things from their native place. The products sold in the market were not exactly what one might call traditional Tibetan products. The clothes sold there could be bought in any city-mall. They were very fashionable though. I wanted to take as many as I could fit in my hands, but sadly one can’t always have what they want. I bought a stick of chewing-gum. When I bit into it, it felt as if I was biting a stick of rubber. The cold weather had made even the chewing-gum hard and thick.
The market-place was very crowded, making it difficult to move around. This was one of the many things that I noticed about Nainital. It was much more populated than Ranikhet. At Ranikhet you would never see a soul after seven in the evening. At Nainital, the whole market-place was filled with people till late at night. Even though Ranikhet was a beautiful experience, it was too quiet for a city girl like me. We shopped for a few things and went to the Mall Road where we feasted over some ‘aaloo chat’. They were delicious.
Photo Credit : Insha Faridoon