Monday, 11 April 2016

Writer's Retreat at Birdsong Cottage


They emerged from the folds and fissures, shy at first but soon  frisky, happy to have been nudged out of oblivion. Out in the open, the specks stretched in the sunshine basking in cogitation; developing into seeds for germination, pushing out the plumule to the limitless firmament; unfurling tenderly, growing extensions confidently, exploring myriad trails, filling up gaps with details, infusing life into the last tip. They clasped hands with the gossamer of bird songs and whispers of the silver oaks rife in the air. The stories soared to live lives  of  their own.

We stopped by the ledge on the narrow trail leading up the hillside, waiting for the six stories to emerge from the tapping fingers and pens. A rising melody of hope and innocence from the terraced fields below, the faraway sounds of life in a hamlet, the tweets and warbles of winged denizens, rustle of the leaves and snow peaks in the horizon played out their part in a world that was so disparate from the worlds we came from. The six of us. With tales waiting to emerge from umbra of urban life that we were gradually divesting ourselves of. While I seemed to struggle with every exercise, that pushed and pulled at every filament in the cranium, from the rest of the group tales seemed to spill and ready  like the locals who stopped and twinkled  into our cameras, challenging with their winsome smiles to capture the stories etched on their faces.

A morning session at the rhododendron forest by the hillside, bursts of scarlet on a verdant canopy, light dabbled with the contours leaving a dappled forest floor, carpeted with spent leaves, tiny elements of moss  wadding and climbing up the trunks. A breeze announced its arrival long before it caressed us and ruffled up the leaves. Stories tumbled out from behind the dark branches and took their place in the spotlight clearing,  preening, pirouetting and teasing. Its strange how tales trooped out and took form in the semi darkness of the lounge. Faint memory of conversations, an idea hanging in the morning air swooped down and wove into  narratives, criss crossing six lanes. Children in white and blue, trooped down to the nearby Anganwadi, giggling and spinning their own yarns, sweeping and cleaning before the teacher arrived, waiting for a new letter to open up their world.

  Lounging outside the Birdsong Cottage, letting our thoughts swirl around  the swallow's path, our gaze remained fixed on the serrated horizon. Bulbous shades of gray clouded over the snowy peaks of Nandadevi, Badrinath and Kedarnath. White streaks lighted up  the prologue to a spectacle, as true hosts itching to show the delightful nuances of this world to visiting seekers. Drums rolled in the ashen fluffs merging tumultuously to darken in patches. Sheets of rain tumbled down veiling the ambers, russets, the olives and the verdure in  sheer mist, thickening at times and diaphanous at others. Hail plummeted the roof and the earth, rendering all living sounds redundant. It compelled to be heard and all other words turned meaningless. We stood there watching the divine spectacle unfold in all its glory, childish joys silenced into awe. The crescendo rose with thundering claps when light fell on a patch of rooftops pushing its way through the rain, moving to a hillside making visible pearls of raindrops against the gray sky. As if on queue, the show stopper emerged and stretched across the sky in all its splendour. Each band distinct and clear and yet merged seamlessly to paint the sky with shades born of light  split through the tiny drops. Urban landscapes had only offered a part of the Whole. And here we stood gaping at the beauty of the Entire. Before our eyes the second one emerged from the corners and all that was heard were  gasps of the seekers, awestruck into wonderment.

An afternoon was spent rambling around the Guniyalakhal village, eyes feasting on the pretty slated homes cradled on the hillside, surrounded by emerald terraces and forests. Amused eyes peered out and followed the bunch of city dwellers, ever ready to soak in the sights and sounds. A few shy smiles and soon stories were swapped. They bore the common thread of yearning - for a world of aspiration reaching out from the coppiced hills and for a world lost under the herculean concrete jungle. Each side envying the goodness of the others world, brushing aside the deprivations.

Before we realized, our time was up. Three days of unbridled  exploration, teasing prompts to trickle out creativity and melting into the surroundings. We followed the river back the way we came, through its three confluences, the pristine white beaches tugging at us to stop, just one last time before the mundane swallowed us up. It cascaded and gurgled, then it changed its demeanor and saw us off at Haridwar like a composed guardian sending off her ward.

Some memories of the trip:

Verditer Flycatcher

Birdsong Cottage

Traditional  Home


Warm People

Bend On The Hillside

Snowy Peaks Enroute


Wild Daisies

Rhododendron Forest