Getaway Nainital is still safe, despite the flood havoc in parts of Uttarakhand
The journey began on a residue of trepidation. In June this year there had been reports of widespread destruction in Uttarakhand. Thousands had died in the tragedy in and around Kedarnath. The Chief Minister himself had advised tourists to stay away from the State for a month. Nainital, cool and calm otherwise, too got tarred by the same brush. Many tourists cancelled their bookings out of panic. Others curtailed their visit and headed home. That was in mid-summer.
As a few weeks passed peacefully, I decided to go to Nainital, though admittedly there was that little apprehension at the back of my mind. But on a rational scale things appeared quite fine. It seemed perfectly safe — and it proved so. There had been no casualties, no loss of property either, during the tragedy that affected most other regions of the State. Or in the aftermath.
Located at a brisk two-hour drive from Rampur, my home town — and a little over six hours from Delhi — it seemed just the right place to hang out over the weekend. Of course, there was Shervani Hilltop resort which I had visited a few years back. The four-star resort has just added a few more rooms and some more recreational activities. The elements combined to make it a really memorably trip.
First things first: as I enter the hill station in an Indigo there is not the slightest sign of any destruction. Everything is as it usually is: busy Mall Road in front of the scenic lake, shopkeepers selling candles, a local speciality, old men wrapped in woollens hunched over a kerosene stove making tea by the roadside. And those ubiquitous SUVs! With tourists beginning to come back, the picture is getting completed. Ah! There are those good old fashioned photographers who follow you as you set out for boating at Mallitaal or Bhim Taal. “Sir, tees rupaiy mein ek photu,” they beseech you.
Then, post monsoon, it presents a beautiful sight. Mist has begun to give way to a clear view of the Himalayas, the mountains glisten and beckon. It is cool without being cold, the days still long enough to cover the place in some detail — go to Naukuchia Taal and Bhim Taal one afternoon; do Saat Taal or Mukteswar the next day. Or if you have kids with you, just hop across to the local cave garden and zoo. After taking in all these sights, there is time enough to have a leisurely lunch, enjoy a boat ride. Or even try a shikara at Naukuchia Taal. Then the evening beckons, cool, really cool. Under a star-spangled sky — a rare blessing for somebody hailing from a metropolis where skyscrapers have blocked all view — relish some mouth-watering seekh kababs to the accompaniment of Virendra Singh’s vocals at Shervani Hilltop. The resort has just added a new wing with fresh suites and rooms to take in tourists across all divides. Singh, as I discover, is a fine, fine singer, a young man who has travelled to Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow for performances and reminds me of Kishore Kumar when he does that imitation of the legend himself. He deserves a patient, appreciative audience.
Of course, Singh’s musical performance or for that matter a magic show by an Agra artist are not the only things to do indoors. While out of the resort, one can do all the lakes, visit Jim Corbett Park, go paragliding, play golf, or simply go on a nature walk, there are joys to be experienced inside too. With plenty of recreational facilities like pool and billiards, table tennis, play stations and swings, there are reasons to stay inside the property. Or simply, laze around the garden taking in the mild sun shining through age-old pine trees. At this time of the year, one can actually sit out in the open as the breeze only kisses your visage unlike high summer when it can lash you pretty hard.
After a couple of weekend days – costing Rs.11,000 for a suite – I head out towards Rampur and on to Delhi. Just at the checking out point, I am told by a local old hand, “Sir, this place is ranked among the top five destinations in India by Tripadvisor.” I needed no such recommendation. My experiences of the past brought me here. My experience of this time too, shall, hopefully, strengthen the bond.
ZIYA US SALAM