It was the exceptionally bright stars. That, and the fact that we all saw shooting stars for the first time in our lives, that will keep us connected to Kasol and the Pravati valley for the rest of our lives. Even though not all could make out the various constellations scattered across the night sky of Kasol, we spent hours together just gazing up at the sky and talking. The Parvati river gushing nearby, making loud gurgling noises would have been privy to a lot of nonsensical chatter about life, aliens and ghosts had it been a few decibels quieter and not trying to drown our voices. The chill that crept into our bones sitting on that cold sub zero terrace only made us all come closer and share the warmth in our tales and experiences. The slightest hint of anything more than human would creep the daylights out of some while give a rhapsodic high to others.
And then there were the moments of silence. Not awkward silence, but the silence wherein everyone was comfortable with their own thoughts, the light music and the mesmerizing view of the stars against the backdrop of white mountains illuminated by the moon taking them to a place in their mind where one could dream forever of things and events that burst in our minds like soft sweet liquid filled candies and fill us with intense happiness.
Kasol is infamous because of its position in the international cannabis trade. a major growth centre for all things cannabis, this one square kilometer town has a sizeable Israeli population and thrives on the tourism it generates from people who come to “score” and get “smoked up”. The less known and more praise worthy is the food you get there. Chiefly Israeli cuisine, it escapes me how these people manage to make the most delicious pasta and pancakes apart from the Israeli “shaksuka” in such a remote location where it’s difficult to get the basic supplies and ingredients of cooking. The average food there is more heavenly than the best meals you can have in a place like Chandigarh.
The tiresome journey of the previous day was all forgotten after a few hours of sleep when we woke up to find a thin layer of ice covering our car. It was time for the onward journey to Manikaran and Tosh. A famous pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Sikhs, Manikaran is also famous for its hot water springs believed to have therapeutic properties. It was marvelous to see boiling hot water spewing out of rocks surrounded by snow all over. The water, too hot to touch at its source, was redirected to place where it lost some of its heat and we could dip ourselves in it and wait for the miracles to happen. The hot water flowing within the walls and floor of the caves through which the Gurudwara site has been created, keeps the whole area so warm that you begin to sweat standing bare feet within those walls whereas its freezing cold outside. Maybe that’s what the miracle is all about and nothing more. It definitely must have been a miracle in the days when air conditioners were never thought of.
The trek to Tosh was as invigorating as it was draining. Slippery road with at least a foot of ice on either sides made for an interesting combo where one had to maintain his grip on the path as well as save himself from the snowballs being hurled at him. The entry to the small nondescript village was through a very narrow and low bridge where a slight slip of the foot would have meant the last few seconds of your life in the Parvati river. But once in, the whole village was covered in white. It was as if suddenly we had entered into a different world altogether. The paths all covered with snow made walking quite a task and dragging our feet, foot by foot through the slippery snow and avoiding all falls we reached a café where we could have humble tea and maggi with omelet. And even though it was nothing compared to the feast we had in Kasol, the beautiful view made up for everything. The pair of white eagles flying through the sky hunting for their prey looked resplendent when the sun shone on their white undersides and illuminated their beautiful form.
Sitting there, in that café overlooking the Parvati valley in the foothills of the Himalaya covered in white and watching the river come down from the snow melting high up in the passes, the mind was at peace and the heart content for what else can one hope to achieve and build in this universe when there is so much of this beauty created and nurtured by nature to perfection.