Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Morning Walk In Parthal

    I found the New Year cloaking the adjoining Trikuta Hills and the distant Pirpanjal ranges in heavy layers of dark clouds. Gray veil of low clouds streamed in and out through the few buildings here at the foothills. Once during the day, they lifted and parted to reveal the glimmering snow peaked Pirpanjal in all it's sunshine glory. What a way to begin the  New Year (do excuse my melodrama)  - of discoveries at every turn and twist, of fresh perspectives to the everyday rut,  of finding the moments to sit down and enjoy a view that pops up suddenly.


      On the first day of my second trip to Katra , sitting on the lawns of this lovely property, I've a pleasing view of the Trikuta hills gently sloping down with the many lines meandering around it taking the pilgrims to the shrine.  And a view of the Reasi-Katra road that stretches into Reasi, the district headquarters.
          The morning walks have been a pleasant discovery of the pebbled alleys of the nearby village Parthal which is probably like any other Indian village around a tourist place. Concrete homes sleepily rousing from a warm night in the quilts, languorously stretching as the early morning cool sun rays slide through the shut windows. A whiff of wood fire smoke catches me now and then interrupted with olfactory indication of bovine presence. Fire wood and twigs stocked and left drying on the roof. A few early risers fetching water from the hand pump in plastic cans. What bliss, taking in the sights, sounds and smells! We first went down a lane that took us along the patched up main road that brings in pilgrims to Katra. We passed some cozy homes with kinnow laden trees and terraced fields interspersed with orchards.



   Twisting and turning the lane brought us to a field outlined with trees and beyond that, the land sloped down into a thick canopy. We retraced our steps and took a mud track  flanked by linear patches of tender green fields. Craning my neck above the crudely protected boundary with bundled up twigs, I felt myself echoing Robert Frost
       "Whose woods are these I wonder..."
Only here, I was speculating about the fields and orchards. How did their life go by? What dreams did they weave? What desires rushed through them? Did the women worry about food and what to cook? Did they hum while working in the cold preparing to warm up the hearths? Well, it is common knowledge that most economic activities in and around Katra are sustained by people's faith in Mata Vaishno Devi. Hotels and dharamshalas of all shapes, sizes and prices; the boys, men and women employed here with the many restaurants, dhabas, kiosks with Kashmiri handicrafts; the porters who carry people and load, the ponies and their minders, cab and bus services that ferry people. It is these people who walk out of the many villages like Parthal early in the morning around Katra. But life is beyond this everyday grind. It is a criss-cross of aspirations and myriad other needs.
     The lane led through another part of the village, one that had a neatly squared fence with a sturdy, youthful peepul tree in the middle, before it slipped to the right going around one side of the hill with a wonderful view of the valley below.  How many wishes wound around that young peepul tree with the white threads hugging the girth like a child holding her mother hoping for a toy! This incarnation of kalpavriksh stands, blissfully unaware of  the weight of people's desires bearing down on it.

     There, I was casting  my imagination and ramblings on this being oblivious to parasitic human faculty! So many wishes have flown from so many human minds for babies, sons, grooms, brides, jobs, cures, desires, promotions, success, a never ending list, latched onto that young tree hoping to feed from it's presumed powers. But I digress. Blame it on the crisp morning air, the looming Pirpanjal peaks rising from the lofty horizon or the view of the Trikuta hills from the village. Or the stretch of blue mist flowers behind someone's house.

    Back on the road, we took up the trail beside the peepul tree and continued keeping the slope on one side. The lane took us around the hill and stopped right in front of a house that had a towering pine tree at its gate. Below us spread a canopy of various trees as well as a couple of cactus that had grown into tree like stature. Bamboo groves aligned with the berry  mingled with a few coniferous.

     It was time to turn back for the day. A grocery shop with some vegetables, packets of biscuits, wafers, stringed sachets of shampoo was opening for business. The lady who was sweeping it's front greeted us with a sunny smile.
   "Why don't you stop a while and have a cup of tea?"
Warm invitation for complete strangers.
    "Wish we could do that. We really have to go..."
     "Just a cup of hot tea. Sit for a while!"

Maybe she wanted company. Maybe she wanted a change. How I wished I could sit and chat with her. Talk  about this and that, share our worries as sometimes we do only with strangers. But I couldn't. Just as Frost couldn't take the plunge into the woods "lovely, dark and deep..."
So I took a picture of hers and she exclaimed, "Oh! I would have prettied myself up!"
"But you are pretty as you are..."
Capturing her in my mobile, I hurriedly walked backwards and yet reluctant to let this moment pass by.



  1. very rigorously and beautifully described. loved reading it Mikiba

  2. Thanks for taking me along in this walk.

  3. loved taking the walk with you!

  4. That is a wonderful walk I had with you!

  5. Pahari Thank you. am glad you liked it!

  6. Indrani Thank you! Sharing the experience was a pleasure.

  7. Such a beautiful place to take a walk.

  8. Mridula, Yes it was very rejuvenating!

  9. Such pleasant writing; so enjoyed reading this piece. :)

  10. Thank you Deepa. That walk was refreshing!


Your words keep me going :)