After a certain age, one becomes quite impetuous while taking certain decisions. Basically, with the growing years you feel you have the maturity and knowhow of handling difficult situations. If children make similar choices, we are ready to pounce on them terming them irresponsible and wild.
Recently, we created such a situation for ourselves. We were to go for a wedding to Chandigarh. It was the peak of winter. On an impulse, we decided to drive to Naldehra in the hills—just a three hour drive from Chandigarh. We wanted to experience the real chilly weather of the hills and the snowfall if we were lucky enough. Everyone who heard us thought that we had lost it. Who in their right mind, at our age, would choose to go from Delhi’s cold weather to the freezing hills?
Though we have a little place in Mashobra, just a couple of kilometres from Naldhera, we opted to stay in a hotel. We did not want to get into the hassle of opening and running the house for just two or three days. According to the weather forecast, we would just about miss the snowfall as it was expected a day after our checkout from the hotel. We would have loved to have experienced the snowfall. I call myself a “weather good luck charm”, or WGLC for short. I told my husband not to worry, as with me around we’d surely see the snow during our stay!
We checked into the hotel, took a nice long walk in the evening going down-hill from the hotel which was perched up on a hill. We enjoyed a cosy dinner in the new hotel that had opened just a year back. The rooms were centrally heated, so we had a good rest at night.
The next day was a dream. It was nice and sunny with the right amount of chill expected on the hills. We were absolutely prepared for the weather, clothed in our thermals, woollen socks, trekking shoes, mufflers, gloves, scarves, caps and windcheaters. At our age, comfort precedes looking stylish—even for photographs. I say this, because we saw some young people in very inadequate clothing in the freezing weather, clicking pictures in their Sunday bests. Undoubtedly, they were shivering but their pictures were wow compared to ours, all bundled up in martial-type attire.
We went and played golf at the Naldehra golf course. It is a beautiful course with undulating terrain. It was, however, all brown as the grass burns in the winter. We still had a wonderful game. It was an exhilarating experience playing under the clear bright blue sky amidst the chilly winds. We then ate a hilly meal, consisting of chana madra, siddu, kaddu ka khatta and chha gosht.
We visited our house in Mashobra, met the staff there and kept a few things that we had brought along from Delhi which would be used in the summer, when we shift residence for a couple of months. So far, the trip was no less than a dream.
At night, we packed our bags all set to leave for Gurgaon in the morning. My husband was taking a dig at me, asking what had happened to my ‘WGLC magic.’ We were hoping for snow but where was it? I just said the night is still young, let’s see...
Clairvoyantly, it started to snow at around midnight. I was thrilled to bits when I said, “Didn’t I say?” with a gleam in my eye. The morning woke us with a lot of commotion outside. People were running in the corridors, and there was a lot of noise of children laughing and shouting. We looked out of the window and saw a glorious sight. The entire topography was covered with pristine white layers of snow. The trees, bushes, road, pavement, hills, garden and furniture were all covered with soft, white, cotton-like snow. It looked simply beautiful. We felt as if we were in the Swiss Alps. Everything looked clean and white, an image from a picture book.
It was still snowing when we emerged from our room and like all other tourists, took pictures and made soft flaky snowballs and threw them at each other. We had planned to stay a night halfway down our destination at Kandaghat, which was a couple of hours’ drive from Naldehra. Since my husband was the sole driver, we wanted to go at ease and break journey on our way back. We decided to enjoy the snowfall and leave in the afternoon.
Surprisingly, it was not very wet and the snow felt cold yet not slippery. We could walk around with our feet going in and out with ease. By now, the mountains nearby were also getting covered with a thin layer of snow. Everything looked brilliant and I thanked my good luck charm gift—becoming more and more convinced about my secret talent.
However, what proceeded next was quite unpredictable. The snow continued to fall. And it refused to stop. People started getting anxious, especially the ones like us who were to check out. News of people stranded on the highways started trickling in. It was the heaviest snowfall of the season.
We had a leisurely lunch, occupying a seat next to the window from where we could observe the falling snow. It looked lovely. We were enjoying watching the excitement of all the tourists, especially children who were throwing snowballs on each other and taking pictures in the most comical poses. Since we had a short journey, we didn’t pay much heed to the gossip around. We could leave at leisure.
Just when we were about to leave the restaurant to proceed for checkout, someone announced that the roads had all been blocked with snow and nobody could leave that day. On further enquiry, we realised that it was true and many people who were already on their way up or down were stranded on the highway. My good luck charm had overworked!
I recalled another time when we were at Barcelona some summers ago with a group of friends. Rain was a possibility but I had told a couple of them not to worry as they were with me—the ultimate weather good luck charm. Sure enough, it turned out to be a wonderful bright day the next morning. But slowly the morning sun had started to warm up and soon became almost brutal. It was a very hot day. Later, we learnt that it was one of the hottest days in Barcelona. I realised that my charm works but then it overworks, and I can’t do much about it. Nevertheless, the next day it rained in Barcelona when we were taking a flight out. The rain could not weigh down our day but the sun was a bit of a deterrent. I consoled myself with the thought that one can’t have one’s cake and eat it too.
Now that the roads were closed, we were in a fix. Nature is beautiful but can sometimes be unreasonable. We can plan as much as we want to, but are helpless before nature’s eccentricities. The next day was my daughter’s birthday and we had decided to be back for it. It seemed a remote possibility now, as the drive would be longer and more tedious the next day—if at all—as we would have to combat bad weather and snow along with a long distance.
The hotel was very comfortable but my worry now was that what if the electric supply gets affected? What will become of all of us? The hotel reassured us that they had enough backup generators, food supply, water and other amenities to last for a week. Once we were reassured, we were all set to enjoy the extra day that we would be spending snowbound.
The children kept calling us to find out if we were safe, warm and comfortable. They told us that we were most irresponsible, and at our age rational people visit seaside places like Goa to chill out in the winter instead of going to the hills to literally chill.
In reality, we were quite comfortable and were actually enjoying the wonderful weather. Yes, there was a bit of a concern about our homeward journey but in our midlife, we take things in our stride and deal with situations when we actually encounter them.
The day went off well. In the evening, the snow stopped falling. The roads started to get cleared by whatever means the state had. We were told that by morning the highway would be drivable, barring a few areas.
However, the next morning we were dismayed to hear that we could not get to the main road from the hotel as they had no means to clear the snow from their driveway, which was a steep 400 yards. This was ridiculous. Since it was the hotel’s first year, they had not experienced snow before and were incapable of clearing this unexpected heavy snowfall. My husband took the reins in his hand. Being a hotelier himself, his word carried weight. He asked the general manager to depute 7–8 well-built guys from the staff to shovel the snow manually and make way for the cars to leave the hotel. All of us could not be marooned in the hotel just for 400 yards of snow!
Lo and behold, by 11.30 am the snow had been shovelled making enough passage for cars to leave one by one. In the meantime, my husband had chalked out an alternative route from the travel desk, to reach our destination. A lot of people decided to follow us. For long journeys, we normally like to leave early in the morning to reach our destination at a decent hour. Starting at 11.30 am for a 10-hour long journey seemed a bit silly but we had little choice.
Unlike the regular highway, the new route was not only longer and unfamiliar but also single-laned and very meandering. Every time there was a vehicle coming from the opposite direction, we had to stop or reverse to let it pass. It was taking us much longer than usual.
The children were constantly on the phone, wanting to know how we were progressing. My daughter insisted that we spend the night on the way somewhere, and not try to be gallant by reaching her just because of her birthday. We also felt that we should stop somewhere and avoid driving at night. However, when we were half way down and hit the familiar route—on an impulse, we decided to carry on and surprise our daughter.
Soon, it was dark and my husband was quite exhausted by then. But now, we were just a couple of hours away from our destination. So we carried on.
Finally at around 10.30 at night after a gruelling 11 hour drive, we reached my daughter’s house and rang the doorbell. The gleeful look on her face obliterated all our discomfort and anxiety of the day. It was a priceless moment. She was thrilled but was showing her anger by telling us that we should behave our age, be more responsible and not try to be superhuman. We tried to look guilty and remorseful but felt happy deep down to have done what we did.
The concern of the kids shows that they care, which is a great feeling. When we advise or scold them, we want them to realise that it’s not because we are controlling or archaic but because we care and love them. They also lack the wisdom of years. I firmly believe that every year adds common sense and capability to deal with challenging circumstances. In this area, we are definitely ahead of them.
We have no regrets but a couple of happy pictures captured on our camera remind us of our great adventure. Given a chance, we may like to do something thrill-seeking another time.