Today we went to a small river called Gomti river. Well, at least it was called a river. More like a small stream, it was very shallow and although the water was clean, there were many empty wrappers lying around. We sat on the rocks around and enjoyed the cool water running over our feet in the hot summer sun. It was quite a hot day even though we were in the mountains.
We met some poor kids near the river. Their hair was matted, flying in all directions, wearing mismatched clothes but they were so adorable! They were
standing awkwardly at the edge of the river and were looking fascinated by us. My mom went over to them and tried to strike a conversation. She asked them about the availability of fish in the river. They told us that there were quite some swimming around. To our surprise, they proceeded to catch one right in front of us, with bare hands. Mom asked them why they were not at school. They didn’t seem any serious about this “school” thing. Their parents had made them take a leave to attend a wedding. Mom advised them not to take any leaves for frivolous reasons. She explained to them the importance of going to school.
She even threatened them playfully that she would come back to check whether they were paying heed to her words. My mother being a professor of Literature, she takes education very seriously. The college is her temple; teaching for her is another way of worship.
We shared some of our candies with those little kids and gave them some money.
As we were on our way back to the car, I thought about them. I didn’t know if they would actually pay heed to my mother’s words. Do they love going to school? Are their schools nice and clean? The portrait of teachers that I have in mind is that of some loving souls caring deeply for us. Are the portraits of their teachers the same? Can it be that the children of their age wouldn’t be fond of their schools and teachers? Who knows, they may have refused to go to school that morning! Or they wanted to, but somehow their parents may have forced them to take a leave. Or maybe, going to a wedding and having fun felt more tempting. Would they actually follow my mother’s advice and not hunt for lame excuses to take a leave? We would never know!
Having followed without a question some non-negotiable rules laid down by my parents at home, the image of the children bunking school to loiter around wasn’t being kind to me. Even as we left them behind, the feeling of something not quite “appropriate” lingered on.
Not sure if I was over-reacting. But I have heard of many pockets in India where poverty is rampant and education is taken casually, as if it is an extra baggage. At every strike of fate, the first “luxury” that is chopped off from life is, sending the children to school. That’s why the sight felt so disturbing. In a land of beauty where nature bestows its best, how could some little children unknowingly embrace the same evils that their families are dealing with!
We left all these and more, and started for Kausani. Kasauni welcomed us to the lovely tea gardens.
Around this time of the year the tea had already been harvested. The view was breathtaking. There were tall mountains in front of us, standing in their majestic glory. We could see terrace farms and a few small towns on the mountains. Who knows, maybe Ranikhet too was one of the small towns among them, at which we were staring in awe. We spent our time collecting wild daisies and braiding them in our hair. On the way back, we met a lady collecting tea leaves and putting them in the long basket on her back. She smiled at us to greet and went back to her work.
We had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Himalayas. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. Rough winds had started blowing by then and the sky was rumbling with thunder, marking the arrival of a storm. I was very excited because I love the rains, as long as the water is not pouring on me.
We went to a museum dedicated to Sumitranandan Pant, a great poet from Hindi literature. By then it had started raining and there was no power supply; as so we saw everything with the light of our phones.
After taking the tour of the museum, we walked to a nearby library dedicated to Sumitranandan Pant. The books were kept in metal cabinets, many of which were broken. The library also contained a bookshelf which used to be owned by Sumitranandan Pant. Born in Bageshwar District of Kausani village, Sumitranandan Pant (May 20, 1900 – December 28, 1977) is celebrated as one of the most “progressive” left-wing poets of Hindi language. He is known for the romanticism in his poems inspired by nature, people and the inner beauty of being.
We had tea. My parents chatted with the guide, talking about the museum and the person it was dedicated to. The guide seemed to be quite a learned person in the way he was spouting verses from poems every now and then. Papa seemed to be very impressed with his extensive knowledge of literature. So he interviewed him on the spot, asked him many questions about the museum, his knowledge of literature and the library.
Turned out that the museum was actually the house of Sumitranandan Pant, which was turned into a heritage site after his death.
The guide even showed us the room where he was born. I was very much in awe that I was standing in the room where the birth of a legend had taken place. The guide also informed us that Sumitranandan Pant had been the one to name the legendary actor, Amitabh Bachchan.
The sky had cleared by the time we came out. We could see the snowcapped Himalayas from where we were standing. I couldn’t believe that I was seeing those majestic mountain ranges so clearly, even though they were so far away. We borrowed a pair of binoculars from another tourist and looked at the peaks through them. It almost felt as if I was standing right there on the steep slopes with my feet digging into the snow. The feeling of standing there and looking at those mountains is something I can never describe.
My uncle had left for a trekking trip to the Himalayas few days ago. I tried to imagine him climbing one of those mountains right now. Papa was clicking photographs from different angles. Being in the presence of natural wonders always brought out papa’s inner photographer. We clicked many pictures and went back to our hotel.
That night we slept with the lovely view of the snowcapped peaks still lingering in our minds.
Photo credit : Insha Faridoon