Lansdowne is a small military cantonment, tucked in the hills of Uttarakhand, India.
I often find myself reminiscing of it, ‘a land frozen in time’. It was the last place I visited before the COVID pandemic hit us all.
Lansdowne is not flashy. You would recognize it as a small hamlet from a Ruskin Bond story or Malgudi Days.
It boasts of a tiny market square with a handful of shops circling it. A bakery, a restaurant that in the evening is a movie theater, daily needs shops and so on. Cobbled- tiled lanes, trail off in different directions like the rays of the sun.
I stayed in a 112 year old haunted bungalow or so the plaque over its fireplace said. My room was on the top and the window looked out into a forest of pine trees. By the time it was dark, I had begun to feel like a heroine in a gothic novel.
I slept listening to the wind whistle and the house creak and settle for the night.
Woke up next morning to a loud din. Grey mist shrouded the pines spookily and the raindrops clattered on the tin roof. The winds howled and the rain lashed.
Hot puris and kettles of steaming tea were nourishment for the body and soul.
Energized, we checked off Lansdowne’s attractions- a man made lake surrounded by pinecone festooned trees, padlocked churches by the roadside, claustrophobic narrow shops selling handcrafted leather bags and a Sunset Point.
By afternoon, the weather let up.
Armed with umbrellas, we walked down winding roads without worrying about lumbering vehicle sneaking up. Gnarly, moss covered dark trees with splashes of scarlet rhododendron flowers flanked the side of the road that lead to quiet bazaars and lonely temples.
A few locals squatted outside empty shops. They lit small bonfires warming their palms. Not far away, tough mountain dogs with shaggy coats huddled against each other for warmth.
The tinkling of distant bells, the constant sighing of the wind and a wispy fog that rolled in promptly at dusk added to the atmosphere. This was a trip where we traded stories of ghosts and legends. Perhaps we were inspired.
No spectres turned up but the biting cold air seeping into our bones was real. Yet we basked in the warmth of our tales, of our dreams and promises shared. We forged connections and bonded anew.
No wonder, my heart still lingers in Lansdowne.
Lens-Artists Challenge: What a treat!