I sit today in this hot weather reminiscing the days of yonder. The cool crisp breeze that whisks nose, cheek and hands.There was freshness and a sense to liveliness in it, which is unfathomable.
This is the place where I spent a major part of my life. The hills form a valley within it nestled a cashew nut shaped lake formed by a glacier all around this is small hill resort called Nainital. The hills are dotted with trees slant roofed houses with varied colors. This adds to the beauty of the town. Mesmerized is me when I see the reflection of the town in the tranquil lake. I remember walking rather running up to school as we inevitability got engrossed in the activities that used to take place in the “flats” a large level ground at one end of the town . All major sporting and cultural activities took place here. This was also the meeting place for everyone. Since there was a temple of Naina Devi from where the name comes from Nainital the latter half of the word means lake. This area is also known as the Lake District.
I fondly remember the ambling on the Mall road which almost all hill resorts in India have with my peers every evening after school. This used to be a regular affair which was adhered to each and every day come rain snow or sunshine. At one end of the Mall road was rickshaw stand and small eateries which was the place to meet up with endless rounds of chai ,gossip,and of course the plan for the next day. One the Mall road there was a bookseller and Newspaper vendor which was frequented by almost every one in town almost every day . Adjacent to it was public Billiards saloon another one of the regular places to go with hours spent at the table and watched carefully by the owner who were 3 brothers. All three of them had participated in national championships in ’70.They were really good with the game. Two of them lost to vices and the third died due to age.
When we walked on the Mall road we would run into most we knew in town. If we had put our heads and thoughts together we would end up knowing each and every one in the town. The population was meager in comparison of today. In fact everyone knew everybody. There was no prank, mischief, adventure, fight that would not be known to the other members of the family by the end of the day. One had to think twice before doing any antics . Inevitably if something of that kind did happen then one of us always did the watchman’s job. The walks at times turned into hikes and we used to go the highest point in the town Naina peak as it is called from here you would get a bird’s eye view of the town on clear day and it was breath taking. You could see the whole town in vivid colors there were brick roads , pathways that led to houses on the hills and the Mall road buses looked like ants and cars like small insects moving.
In the cold winter months the trees looked bare but all paths were covered by golden autumn leaves creating the cackling sound the moment you step on them the silence was shattered. The cold icy winter breeze bit your cheeks, nose at times it seems you had lost your nose as it became numb. Taking a bath was ordeal. I had mustered up enough courage for this 10 minute task without which you were not allowed to step out of the house.
The town has been a place for some well recognized schools in the country. The alumni’s of theses institution have been some of the very well known personalities of the country.
This laid back happy go lucky town was discovered by an Englishman Charles Barron more than 150 years back. As time went by this small town evolved into a busy city, come to think of it I am saddened by this but the wheels of development cannot be stopped they are ever moving ahead. The house were one of the foremost hunters of man eater leopards and Tiger’s Jim Corbett after whom the first Tiger reserve wildlife sanctuary has been set up lies in a depleted condition.
The town is filled with hotels, restaurants and shops everywhere giving it a more commercial look. than that of a hill resort which is quiet, serene, the pace of life is reduced to half. The freshness in the air seems adulterated today. The town is not the one that I lived in I feel alienated when I walk on the Mall road. The shopkeepers are not like they were, nor are the shops, the boatman’s perception has changed. I feel lost and sad to see what has come about.
Yet with all this I still love the town where I grew up. Those were and are the most wonderful years of my life till date. One song that always comes to mind “ Country Road take me home “ by John Denver.
As they say life moves on so have I moved to another city a real contrast to where I grew up. This is my home today missing the bygone days.
– By Paresh Chanchani