Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Nainital: A Mountain Wedding Affair

When we travel, it is never just about the places we visit, it is also about the people we meet on the way and how they influence our journey.

With our bags packed with the warmest of clothes for the alleged near-zero temperature, we were headed up the Kumaon to Nainital, to attend a wedding that had kept us excited for a few weeks now.

"Where is the lake? I can't see the lake!" I shouted as the bus conductor waved at us to get down saying we had reached our destination. The bus journey hadn’t been anything short of bad and I wasn’t prepared to delay getting my sights on the star of the place I had previously only heard of, seen pictures of online and read a personal account of visit more than 3 years ago.

Imagine waking up each morning to a view like this with a cup of hot tea (or Bournvita) in hand and
the morning sun rays falling all around. What more can you ask for? (Naini Lake, Nainital)
We got down and were headed down a street. A few steps and there it was- the huge Naini lake. Finally!

It was the early morning hours and the sun wasn't very high in the sky and we our host family rushed up a hill into our abode for the next few days.


"Where is the house?" I asked everyone, looking around, as we got down from the taxi. All I could see were a set of tin sheets on the side of the road facing the lake and a car standing on it. A set of stairs downhill took us to the warmest welcome into the house by a known face, that of our hostess. A round of introductions followed; remembering names with the corresponding faces isn't one of my strongest aspects and this was a shaadi wala ghar, there were going to be a lot more rounds of introductions in the coming hours.

As we headed to the balcony to soak some early morning sun, we were greeted by a view never expected. What a scene it was! Imagine waking up each morning to a view like this with a cup of hot tea (or Bournvita) in hand and the morning sun rays falling all around. What more can you ask for? We just smiled as our hostess went on to show us the locations of the various tourist spots around the Naini lake, the Mallital and the Tallital, her school, the wedding venue, the peaks and the trek points.

In a wedding home in India there are a lot of people at any given time- family, relatives and friends. As a guest, you rarely know most of the people around. You don't usually expect to get much attention from your hosts at such a time with so many people to look after and so many rituals and ceremonies to attend to. You are just one more guest for the wedding. That wasn't going to be the case with us.

I knew just one person here very well, our hostess, on whose invitation I was there at the first place and whose sister was the subject of the wedding. I had met her better half a couple of times, the meetings never going beyond ‘hellos’ and ‘take cares’, and had heard quite a few things about the other members of the family over the many years during talk sessions with our hostess at college. That was it. I stayed there for six whole days, and not even for one moment did I feel that I was with people who didn't know me. None of us was 'just another guest' and probably, that made all the difference.

Up in the mountains, 2000 meters above sea level, during a visit in the winters you expect the weather to be chilly. You realise it soon enough, as soon as the sun goes down. The feeling that you are in the mountains strikes you when your fingers go so numb that you are not even able to operate your touch screen phone nor does the device recognise your touch. The room heaters get switched on with full wattage and it is time to get inside the blankets for a good night’s sleep only to be woken up the next morning as early as 8 AM to the knocking on the door by a senior member of the host family with glasses of hot tea in hand.

Members of the extended family asking us our plans for the day and making suggestions for sightseeing around the city while making sure we face no problem during our stay; standing in the balcony and they talking to us regarding the place, narrating tales from the childhood days of our hostess, the beauty of the place when it is snow clad, and being asked again and again if we had food, if we liked it or not, if our stomach was full and if we would like to have something else. We could never have asked for a warmer reception.

Weddings and wedding rituals at different parts of the country have always amazed me. Having my roots in the East, North Indian weddings with the ‘saat phere’ seem a ‘seen-on-tv-witnessing-live’ thing. And so, I make sure I stay awake all night to catch the little ceremonies taking place and try getting involved as much as I can.

On the wedding day as we got dressed and headed upstairs to take a look at the ongoing ceremony, our hostesses’ mater pushed us near the bride asking us to be an active part of the ceremony and not remain mere spectators 'so you get your pictures clicked and we can always remember that you were with us at this happy time'.

With such amazing treatment being meted out, you feel a sense of responsibility towards your hosts; the least you can do is take part in the pre-wedding ceremonies along with the many members of the extended family.

After 6 days of receiving astounding hospitality from the members of your host family, 6 days seem like a lot of time spent together. You do not want to leave these amazing people and head back to the arduous and routine life of the City. It doesn't take long to get used to their pahadi way of life and you get fond of them so much that you want the same back in the City as well.

While we bid goodbye, I wanted to say something to our hosts, I wanted to thank each one of them for their generosity, for all the kindness, for their hospitality. But my throat seemed choked and no words came out of my mouth as they blessed me. After 6 sunny days, windy evenings and starry nights spent with the most amazing hosts, even a huge amount of photographic memories feel insufficient to describe the richness, the warmth and the philia of this mountain wedding affair.

3 comments :

  1. When you get good treatment never forget to extend the same to others. Evidently you enjoyed the trip more because of the hospitality you received than the beauty of the hills. Visiting places become memorable because of the people you meet there to share your feelings with. A nice entry.

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  2. Mountain wedding ceremony!! Wow, that’s amazing. I just love adventurous things and mountain weddings are quite unique. I think booking a Mountain weddings venue can be a great decision if you want to have a unique but really enjoyable wedding. Isn’t it true friends?

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