Sunday, March 3, 2013


I have never lived so close to- almost at the edge of- elements. 

My mother's house is built on a cliff overlooking a khadd or a ravine, which is a noisy little mountain rivulet all year round, noisiest during the monsoons. Right now, it is so noisy that if you stand at the veranda, you can't hear the home phone or bell ring. After a while, you get so used to the sound of the flowing water that it feels eerily quiet on the other side of the house. 

On the north east of the house are the towering snow-covered Dhauladhar Mountains. They appear so close that Aloka and I often fantasize about walking across and reaching the snow in a few hours. Of course, that's just fantasy- the mountains may be quite close as the crow flies, but to get to the nearest snow plateau, one needs to trek 10 km from Mcleodganj, which is another 15 km by road from where we are. The closeness to the mountains means that when it snows up there, the clouds invariably come down to the valley along with their damp coldness, which makes the temperature dip in record time. 

It rains frequently and heavily here. Unlike Singapore where it also rains frequently and heavily, there is a certain rawness to the rain, partly because there are no covered places or shelters. I am told that it rains non-stop for weeks in the rainy season, causing the roads, patched up hurriedly and poorly the previous year, break up all over again. In this continuous battle between the (corruption-ridden) efforts of man and nature, nature wins hands-down! 

Wind here picks up in no time and becomes a rolling storm that shatters open windows and bangs open doors. Last week, a howling night time storm blew away a big bag of Anakin's dog food. OK, the bag wasn't full, but it wasn't empty either. It also blew away a plastic bucket and mop a few nights later, much to my mom's chagrin.

On clear winter days, the sun is king. I chase it all day, moving my chair or rug every hour to get a glimpse of it as it makes its royal way through the skies. By now, I can tell time by just seeing which part of the backyard or the garden is receiving sunlight. I keep an eye on the bits and pieces of clouds that appear out of nowhere, silently urging them not to get too close to the sun.

Night falls suddenly. On clear nights, the moon looks bigger and closer, and the stars twinkle away to glory, literally. Starry nights are breath-taking, with strange patterns and details of constellations that are lost in city lights elsewhere. One bitterly cold and moonless night, mom took me outside to show me what looked like solar flares in the middle of the sky, golden and crackling, reminiscent of some science fiction movie. It was so surreal that my heart skipped a beat. It took us both a few minutes to realize that it was a forest fire on one of the towering mountain peak that was totally invisible in the darkness. 

After living in a city that has survived and flourished by conquering nature- reclaiming land, artificially cooling living spaces, keeping out rain, and taming forests- it is at once scary and exhilarating to live so close to the elements, exposed to them and almost totally in their control.

I feel vulnerable. I feel alive.


  1. it still there Puja ?

    Wld love to experience the forest fire in the pitch of the night....

    1. Wind chime has been put inside. I must put it out! Yes, the forest fire was just amazing. Scary as you can imagine.

  2. Wind blows so wild that wind chime goes crazy. One of my neighbours was scared of the noise because it was no longer chime. So I had to put it inside. Can sleep now . Every night brings its own scenic beauty. come and see and hear the brook singing