Thursday, 20 October 2011

The mithaas of Sona Pani and its owners. An after-taste that lasts....

I was searching for a home away from home where I could relocate for a few days to commence work on my next book – this time a fiction. I had set severe requirements for the place to qualify as my brief dwelling.  The criterion was almost idealistic foremost being it had to be serene, humble and offer privacy.  Anything imposing would be distractive, I had provided.  I ticked off Te Aroha - my own resort in the mountains as ineligible. My jealous passion for the resort would not have allowed me to get seduced by the other passion in the making - my book and its female protagonist.  I rejected a number of other places on the list.  Eventually I paused at this interesting name. Sona Pani. I had been there before once with family and friends and had fond memories of the place. Equally fonder were the recollection of the young couple who own the place.  Having considered it carefully I decided that Sona Pani it shall be.

I called up the owner, Ashish Arora who readily agreed to take me in. I packed my bag, mostly comprising of heavy books required for my research and set off for Sona Pani. It took me less than an hour from my hotel in Dhanachuli to reach the small hamlet with trees loaded with fruits and a fairly large clear ground serving as the car park.  From Delhi it would have taken me 7-8 hours to reach this spot.  This is from where one must walk the three kilometre track to Sona Pani.  A good sixty minute walk. Being half pahadi by now I knew it would take me less.  The walk itself is so interesting that it sets the right tone for Sona Pani. By the time I reached the western style ranch-door entrance I had passed many village houses, plucked a couple of apples and exhausted most of my camera battery.  And I was not tired.  Also because a mule sent from the resort by the resort carried my luggage. As the poor thing walked alongside the expression in its eyes mocked me. I interpreted them carefully. It seemed to be saying – I am made to carry the heavy load of your books and you won’t even consider mentioning this when you put down an elaborate list of acknowledgements for your book!  Chill mule! You will get your two lines when I write my blog, I said staring back at it!

Ashish, please read out my blog to your mule.

And then there it was. As I entered the complex, a century old village house stepped out to welcome me. This is where the owners and the staff live. The house has an interesting history which one can read on the hotel website.  The next building forms the centre of gravity of the resort.  Yes, the dining hall and its terrace are most certainly the rallying point in the resort. This is where everyone gathers for meals, the evening cuppa, playing games or chit-chatting with the owner couple, Ashish and his lovely wife, Deepa.  You can’t miss her with their three-year-approaching son hovering around demanding her attention as his beautiful eight-year old sister plays nearby.  Don’t judge her by age. She is a walking encyclopaedia on flora and fauna. She may as well be both the hotel concierge and the guide. This is also the place where you get to make many friends with other guests staying in the property. I tell you Sona Pani clearly acts as a booster to the friends list which swells up after a trip to Sona Pani.  My list moved too Sudarshan Da added soon after my return!

From here, spiral paths or steps have been carved out leading to a dozen or so cottages spread over the landscape surrounded by fruit trees and flowers.  The bricks used for building the cottages were baked on site many years ago when the owners moved to Sona Pani.  The spread-out cottages provide the precious privacy at least something which I came to the place for to Sona Pani.  

Mindful of my need, I was allotted a secluded cottage facing the oak forest. Next to the forest would be more apt a description as the dense forest had climbed right to the doorstep of my cottage.  In the morning I would be awed by the Himalayas and as the dawn set in the twinkling lights of Almora town mesmerised me. I spent a week in that simply furnished comfortable cottage pushing pencil and tapping keyboard doing precisely what I had come here for.

For meals I made it a point to go to the dining hall as it provided me the opportunity to chat with Deepa and Ashish. Tea and evening soup were served in my room if I did not wish to go out and interrupt the flow of my book. 

The story of Punjabi Ashish and Kumauni Deepa is compelling and moved me deeply. Both NSD pass outs, in love, took up jobs in financial sector in Delhi. Lovers of nature, sensitive and simple, the two found the city life too telling. One fine day they decided to quit their jobs and decided to live their dream. They moved to this non-descript village, leased land and using their little savings started the challenging task of turning their dream into a reality. Their daughter was admitted to the school in the village run by a well-known NGO.  Every day she would walk to and fro to attend her school with an attendant carrying her bag.  A humble start, a few years of hard work and their love and belief in their dream is what it took to create the remarkable story of Sona Pani. Truly inspiring!

Having made a satisfactory start to the book, it was time to get back to the other side of Sona Pani.  I was missing family and other things awaited my attention. I bade goodbye to Sona Pani and thanked Deepa. Ashish had left for Delhi previous day where he has opened a restaurant.

I started the long walk back to where my car was parked. The mule had been replaced by one of the resort boys. He smiled. I took one of the bags from him.  The car was standing where I had left it some days ago. I turned the key. The engine roared to life. I turned the steering to direct the car in the direction of daily life.

By the time I reached Dhanachuli I had already made up my mind to return to Sona Pani to write the last chapter of the book. Expect a call soon Deepa!

1 comment:

  1. Falling deeply into the world of feelings ..... Cannot stop reading ..... The flow of the written piece has taken me from busy to peaceful life then back to daily life ..... again .... Beautiful written words .... Nothing can express my feelings .....