The experience of spending a few days at my in-laws’ hill house in Mashobra was filled with sights, sounds and smells that begged to be recorded. I’ve already written about the smells, and about the monkeys, so this post will focus on other sights and sounds. I jotted things in my pad wherever we went, but many of my most enduring observations were made while I sat on the balcony of the house.
Ersatz Fireflies and Moth-like Butterflies
In the evening, across the valley, cottage lights are strings of giant fireflies, blinking along the ridgelines of the lower mountains. A storm is coming and the wind is blowing unseen branches back and forth in front of the lit windows. Blink. Blink. In the morning after the rain, small white moth-like butterflies flutter through the still-wet trees and past the balcony, like little leaves drifting around and down on wind currents.
Not A Phool, Fool
One moth swings by as though checking me out as a possible landing site. I don’t know why. I’m wearing the black garments from my morning exercise and haven’t even bathed yet. Surely I can’t have been mistaken for a flower. If the insect was looking for a phool (Hindi for flower), he showed himself a fool! His friends are flapping their wings so hard in mockery that they’re turning cartwheels of laughter.
Hara Hara—The World Becomes Green.
As the sun comes up and evaporates the droplets still left from the storm, the distant mountains change color, from deep gray to soft blue-gray to pale celadon green. Soon, the nearest ridges become bright green, mottled with the two-tone triangles of pine trees. The downhill sides are bright green; the uphill ones are deep forest green. Eventually, only the trunks remain dark, where they are visible at all. I find myself softly singing some mash-up tune: “Green, green, my world is green,” then chanting the color in Hindi: “Hara, Hara.”
One area nearby is becoming sun-washed mustard. I wonder if later in the day it, too, will turn green. As the sun hits the mountains in the distance, I realize that what I thought had been clouds on the horizon are actually the most distant peaks. They reveal themselves to be not just snow-capped, but completely snow-covered, even though it’s June and Delhi is in a heat wave far below.
Turning my attention closer to home, I notice that the wash on our house’s concrete is the same celadon as the far away hills were at first light. Likewise for many other houses nearby. I see round metal disks on most balconies and rooftops—telltale signs there is satellite TV and Wi-Fi. At least the dishes are small. And uniform. Thank you, Tata Communications (part of the enormous industrial conglomerate).
Geese or Betas?
Unusual noises are emerging from the farm area below us. At first, I think it’s a flock of geese, still hoarse in the morning air. Then it sounds like regimented groups of children—betas—at the school nearby, exercising the naughtiness demons out of their little bodies. A rooster crows. Now young voices rise in laughter. It may not have been geese; perhaps it was children after all. No matter. After yesterday’s rain, I’m enjoying everything the breeze is bringing my way this fine morning.
Watch How/Where You’re Walking
I can tell it’s going to be a great day for trekking. I’m learning to pay attention to certain walk-about cautions. At this higher altitude, the air is thinner so a gentle walking pace is prudent. Not my crosstown Manhattan commuter's trot. This is also sensible because the footing can be precarious on the uneven pavement and rocky paths. It’s important to pay attention to where you’re walking, even around the neighborhood. Did I mention the monkey scat and bullock plops? (Akin to Manhattan after all.)
On the brighter side, an attentive eye will discover wild berries along the path through the woods. My sister-in-law, Pinki, being younger and more stable on her feet, is our hunter-gatherer. My task is to rinse the harvest with bottled water. We share the joy of eating them on the spot.
Mashobra provided such memorable experiences. So many sights and sounds to be stored, along with the wonderful smells, the exotic botanicals and the charming monkeys, in the mental file of my visit to Himachal Pradesh. And so my blog posts from this trip to India come to a close. Next week, expect to see my usual style of social satire once again. Namaste, my friends.
Credit to sources from whom I purloined the photos, whoever you are.