Sunday, 23 September 2012

Time spent at' Hiiumaa' and 'Saaremaa'

Saaremaa in the Himalayas

Time spent at Saaremaa and Hiiumaa

A lot of our time is spent in just sitting in the various verandahs and terraces and taking in the gorgeous and breathtaking  view. Along with the much written and legendary Haunted House ensconced on the top of the mountain right in front of ours, we could also clearly see ‘Kaplani’ village, ‘Jabarkhet  temple’ and the famous ‘Sarkhanda Devi’ temple to the East. Of course, the TV tower, Oakville and Hanifl Centre are also clearly visible in the North. Also, now with electricity reaching most of the remote villages, when we sit out during the late evenings on our terrace verandah (both at Saaremaa and Hiiumaa), we see more and more sprinkling of lights every year along the mountain ranges close by, as compared to the three or four meagre, although heart warming lights we saw for several years at a stretch. There are chairs, ‘mudas’ (wicker stools) and tables everywhere so  we just make ourselves comfortable anywhere it suits us.

'Saaremaa' - back verandah

Every winter, it snows three or four times at Saaremaa but one New Year while we were there, it snowed!  Although the snow around Saaremaa melted very fast, it was definitely visible. The mountains in front were covered with snow and already cars were on their way to Dhanaulti to see the snow. The news flies fast and by breakfast time we could see a serpentine queue of cars all going to get a glimpse and feel of the first snow of the year in that area! We, on the other hand, drove in the other direction, up to Sister’s bazaar, about 800 feet higher than Saaremaa and Hiiumaa in altitude, and saw plenty of snow there. We did our usual walk around Language school, Lal  Tibba, the cemetery and Char Dukan and there was a bitter cold wind blowing. All these parts had significant amounts of snow, much to our delight.

Sketching and painting is another favourite past time. Since our family is full of artists, all the pictures that are hung up on the walls of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa are done by members of the family and each one tells its own tale of the mountains and different parts of the Himalayas. This way we can still remember  the old, raw beauty and splendour of the Himalayas of yester years. We make sure there are plenty of crayons, oil pastels,  paints and colour pencils for anyone to draw the scenery and everchanging views. Just before ‘Holi’ a few years ago, I painted some ‘rangoli’ on the inner verandah of Saaremaa, and surprisingly, it still looks as good as new.

Reading still remains a hot favourite and we have made sure all our book shelves are full of old (but gold!) National Geographics, Readers Digests and novels for all ages and temperaments. There is a collection of children’s books too, for all sizes, and of course books about birds and animals of the Himalayas and the Jim Corbett series. The only rule with family and guests is that they have to read the books while they are at Saaremaa and Hiiumaa...and not allowed to carry any away, however tempting it may be.. even if they are in the middle of a book. Unless of course, they exchange the book taken with any they have brought with them. This rule has been prompted by the heavy loads and cartons lugged by us all the way from Delhi in the way of books, especially along the short cut to the house when no 4 wheel drive was available. It was an unwritten deal that every trip we would carry at least ten books with us but it sure took a toll on our backs!

The much sought after past time - sitting around the fire place! Although there is a small TV, it is only used for watching the news at times.

Bird watching just happens willy nilly, while we sit around...delightful Himalayan birds of all sizes perch in the Oak trees or simply come to peck at the crumbs we leave around outside the verandahs in order to catch glimpses of the birds. We always keep our binoculars and bird book -“Birds of Northern India” handy, so as to identify the bird immediately! We plan to put up some proper bird feeders all over so that we can feast our eyes on the variety of birds in that region.

Gardening and planting is fun and we have spent many a day with our ‘chowkidar’ doing that. From fruit trees to ‘deodar’ trees, from tomatoes and strawberries to mint and cucumber, from exotic creepers to ornamental flowers,  we have done it all. Unfortunately, the wild hare, wild boar and other little animals make short work of some of our painstaking planting, but it doesn’t deter us... every time we come, there is always something of our previous visit’s toil to enjoy and marvel at. There are plant nurseries close by where we often get cuttings from and eagerly plant them.

The old, green wooden cupboard in the drawing room of Saaremaa which is painted with flowers is a treasure trove of games for all ages. From the usual  Monopoly, Scrabble, Pictionary, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, to a variety of other games, they are all there. There is also a skipping rope, two pairs of binoculars and 4 badminton rackets tucked in the cupboard for good measure. The children and adults alike put up the badminton net and major tournaments are played in the patch of land just in front of Saaremaa’s verandah! Air rifle shooting is a hot favourite too and many hours have been spent shooting at a carefully made target (usually an upturned plastic bottle) 20 – 25 metres away. The best game played with a little bonfire set up in our outdoor fire place (‘angeethi’) is Dumb Charades. This is an all time hot favourite.  Of course, when the weather gets too cold, we simply light the fire indoors and move in. That's when it's time for the guitar playing and singing to start! We have a book with guitar chords for songs from the '70's and '80's and sing to our heart's content while someone or the other plays the guitar.

The green cupboard with all the games and music beside it

There are so many beautiful and mysterious trails all over our land and of course out of it too when one leaves the gate - both to the Chamasari village and to Dhobi ghaat side. On our land, some trails lead to one or the other of the benches made by the chowkidar, helped by me and the children. Each of the four  benches  is at a strategic location and commands a beautiful view. These benches have been tiled with left over tiles of all colours, shapes and sizes ( broken and whole) from our house and each tells a story. The very first bench we built was made by the chowkidar (helped by me) in memory of my grandparents and has huge loving arms on either side. It is hidden away as one turns the corner from our garden patch cum badminton court, just away from Saaremaa and is the ideal place to recline on and read a book or simply dose off. The second one we built (by the chowkidar, helped by kids) is just near the back verandah and we sit on it and admire the view while having our meals. The third one is in the shade of a large Pine tree on the upper level of land and a perfect  picnic spot , especially when we want the kids (our own and their cousins) to be less noisy and away from us! The fourth and last bench built by the kids and their cousins, is far up, right next to the upper most boundary of our land and lies beside three walnut trees which actually yield walnuts. The view from each of these benches is simply amazing. One of the  paths leads to our organic waste collection which is used over time for enriching the soil. We are always careful to separate our organic and inorganic kitchen waste and make the most use of our organic one for all our plants as the land is not very fertile and quite rocky in parts.

The trail to our place

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