With the mercury constantly rising, the Fallaknumaa team decided to take a vacation in the hills. With the intense heat in Delhi, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. Our destination was not to be a fashionable tourist spot in particular. Our plan was to just drive around the hills, taking in the mystic beauty of it all, and draw inspiration from the abundant beauty that makes our country so great.
We drove through the little roads and hidden paths of the hills, traversing close to 1500 kms in less than a week. And what we brought back were the conversations with the locals, their experiences, the tastes of these areas, the sights, the smells, and of course a whole load of pictures. We just couldn’t get enough of the sights.
Every nook and cranny of the hills had a sight to offer and a beautiful story to go with it. But one such story really stood out for us.
We were in Mcleodganj Dharmshala, enjoying the Monasteries and the tibetan food, when we decided to drive down to a lesser know area known as Bir. The drive through Kangra and Palampur was intoxicating, with clouds and the mist playing with our fingertips, the cool breeze caressing our hair. Tea plantations on both sides of these quaint roads was nothing short of a mesmerising spectacle.
And we drove to the highest point of this unassuming mountain. This is called Bir Billing, the second highest point for paragliding in the world. The path was a little treacherous, but we drove on. Given the spectacular views, there was no turing back. Also the roads are unbelievably thin, so there is absolutely no way you can turn the car around! So we marched on!
Reaching the highest point was pure bliss, with nothing in plain sight, just clouds, a take-off area for the paragliders, and a small little tea stall. Just when we were taking in the mesmerising sights, it started to pour incessantly. Looking for cover, we all ran towards the tea stall.
The tea stall was a small little humble shack that served tea, maggie and omelettes. The place was run by a villager, probably 45 years of age. Though not very old, the man looked in his late fifties. The many years of basking in the mountain sun showed on his slightly wrinkled face. Life had clearly not been easy on him. The terrain was challenging, the weather almost always extreme, the modes of transport limited, the possibilities of life only but a few.
Sitting there I started watching the man closely. His hands moved in perfect tandem, each movement well calculated, almost like music, a well orchestrated symphony. I asked him his name, and he responded that everyone called him Baba around this place. So over the years that had become his identity.
Baba seemed very satisfied with his life and his limited belongings. He wore a slightly soiled kurta-pyjama, that had been white when it was bought, but had withered with time. He worked slowly and surely making tea on one gas stove and maggie on the other, with no rush or hurriedness of any kind. There was a constant smile on his face, that you cant fake. Neither can it be taught in the best air-hostess schools, nor can it be practiced for the best modelling picture. It was not really a smile, it was satisfaction, the feeling of being fully content with the hand life played for you.
We all started chatting away about the usual this and that. There were about 20 other people who were huddled with us in the small little stall, sipping tea. Soon the conversations moved to paragliding and the other countries offering the same adventures. We started guessing how high this spot was, how old, which was the 1st highest paragliding point etc. Each of us took out our smart phones to look for answers, but of course there was absolutely no signal.
In a few minutes, Baba came to us with yet another tray full of steaming cups of tea. Serving us with his back a little bent, but a voice full of pride, he explained that Bir is the 2nd highest paragliding point in the world. This spot is 8500 feet above sea level, and one of nature’s wonders. Its a perfect launch pad and has won Bir a spot in the international paragliding circuits.
We asked him which was the best or the highest spot in the world. He exclaimed, some say its New Zealand, some say its Switzerland. I don’t know which one it is. I am here in Bir, and its fabulous. I think this is the best in the world. Its really like no other.
And in the moment we saw the pride he felt for his land. Most of us feel a sense of accomplishment when we see the Statue of Liberty in the US, the Buckingham Palace in England, or the Penguin Parade in Australia. I know I did. But this humble man who called himself Baba had a sense of greater accomplishment by living in the moment and feeling a part of his land.
Life was made simple in that one conversation with Baba.
Stay tuned for more.
Aroti Akash Tugnait
Founder at Fallaknumaa: https://www.fallaknumaa.com