Sunday, 12 April 2009

Morni Musings

-brian mendonca

दस कुओ के बराबर एक बावडी
दस बावडी के बराबर एक तालाब
दस तालाब के बराबर एक पुत्र
तथा दस पुत्र के बराबर एक वृक्ष हे।
-वन मंडल मोरनी पिंजौर *

Easter Sunday and I am in Chandigarh, Panjab University campus - internet cafe Mondeu -to be precise. I do feel like a new man, since I spent last night under the stars. Well almost. I was getting high on the great outdoors - while others were getting high on other things like booze - in this tucked away lakeside place called Tikkar-Tal (tal - meaning lake) in Morni village in Haryana.

Buoyed by the prospect of a home away from home at Mountain Quail Resort, Morni, managed by Haryana Tourism, I looked for it when I was deposited in the village at 4 pm. It had taken 2 hours uphill by bus to behold the gorgeous, if brooding, Shivalik range which, to my mind, was only rivalled by the Pir Panjal in Kashmir.

My adventure had begun at 2.10 p.m. at the Panchkula bus depot when I hopped on a Haryana Roadways Bus to Morni. I had read about Morni on the net actually and wanted to see whether what they waxed eloquent about was really true. It was.

Though it is 9.09 km to Tikkar tal from Morni, the place is in the lap of the Gods. Ringed by the crests of hills, you wonder if you have stepped into Valhalla, the dwelling of the Norse Gods. But no, here you can, like in Naukychiya tal in Nainital, take a boat ride (Rs 100 for 30 mins). No matter if our rower in the rowboat (you can also choose paddle boat), said grimly that every year the lake takes its bali (sacrifice) and some stare at death by water. The lake is smaller than the one at Bhopal, but arguably, more Romantic. Nearby is an adventure park with its distinctly Dali-esque structure of an oval hollow with two feminine hands emerging from it - on the right hand of which is perched an eagle (Sunday closed).

It was just as well I went for the boatride, for the next morning (today) I had an early start trekking uphill back to Morni for 2 hours starting at 7.30 a.m. I had opted last night for a bunk in the dom (Rs 200) since I was alone. The rooms are Rs 1400. This facility is also run by Haryana Tourism. One can also stay at Mountain Quail at Morni where a spotless double room taking in the Shivaliks will take you back by Rs 900 (inclusive of taxes). The veg cutlets here at Quail are to die for - with a hint of ginger, and Diwan Singh the affable bearer will fill you in on the lore of the hills. He will even show you the river Ghaggar flowing below the resort - even if in April it is only a spittle.

A stone's throw away from Quail is the old fort or quila. Its antecedents are shrouded in mystery but the structure looks so very Aztec from the inside - as the step-wise terraced farming across the face of the hills takes you back to the Inca empire and Neruda's ode to Macchu Pichu.

'Peace comes dropping slow, dropping like the veils of morning,' was what I wrote in the Guest Book at Tikkar tal. Yeats would have approved. The silence and the birds would have had him. Considering I hadn't slept after the Good Friday service in Delhi, in case I missed my Unchahar Express leaving at 0430 a.m. from Old Delhi station, the Morni trip was a salve to a mind deadened by urban chaos. From the time it reached Chandigarh at 10.10 a.m. yesterday this has been one hell of a ride!

I am booked tomorrow by the 2006 Kalka Shatabdi which leaves Chandigarh at 06.53 and gets me in to New Delhi station at 10.15 - hopefully with a few more travel poems.

-brian mendonça

From the Sahyadris to the Shivaliks
I’ve seen them all
The twitter of the birds know no locus.
Sweet-scented trees, the pine, the amaltas,
cling to the hill trail amid cool water lakes.
In the immense silence a twig snaps!
A baby monkey, foraging for berries
eyes me with a mix of fear and curiosity.
I am at home here in the song of the hills
in the stepped fields where the paddy grows
In Rumi’s night my life is in surrender
in the way of life of the villagers
and the trundle of the city bus.

(Morni hills -Tikkar Tal
11-12 April 2009)
*Equal to ten wells is one spring
Equal to ten springs is one lake
Equal to ten lakes is one son
So therefore, equal to ten sons is one tree.
Forest action group, Morni-Pinjore
( Signboard on a trail in the hills)

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