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Let’s start off with an excerpt from a chapter, The Eternal Mountains (Part 1 of Shadowroad Trilogy), and we will take it from there (based on your suggestions, of course..)
It was five-thirty in the morning when the train pulled into Qwahogg Junction. A misty little town nestled in the majestic mountains. What had once been an outpost of civil servicemen in the World War I era, had now emerged as a quaint little town and a transit point for travelers going further into the hillside-dwelling communities.
Mira pulled aside the thick drape to observe the new surroundings. The platform hardly existed. There were tourist buses lined across the street. There were porters, guides, and vendors busy with their daily chores. The sun was already quite bright. Apparently, the day began early here.
As she gathered her things and climbed down quickly, she saw that her fellow travelers had already been surrounded by a group of young local children who tried to sell them a motley assortment of
herbs, pine cones, and cinnamon.
Soon, Myra found herself sharing the same fate as well as they children drew around her.
There was nothing in the world that could distract her from the strange charm of those kids. The way they looked deep into her eyes while peddling dusty packets of tree bark was utterly disarming.
“Which is the way to Laban? Does anyone know?” asked Myra, as she handed over a currency note to one of the kids, who in turn bestowed her with an ancient packet of crumbling material that smelled odd. They shook their little heads and pointed toward an old man.
She walked over to the old man as he was handing out packets of what he called cinnamon to the children who, in turn, ran off to sell them.
Myra showed the old man a glossy picture on a pamphlet. “Which is the way to this place, sir? It’s called Laban.”
The old man was small and frail. His cheeks were sunken and he had child-like mischievous eyes, which twinkled. “There’s only one road, ma’am,” said he, “and just the two ways: that way goes up, higher into the hills,” he pointed to his left, “and the other way is downhill where your place is.”
Myra looked at him skeptically. The old man continued, “Look here, ma’am; carefully observe the trees in your picture, a few broadleaf? Look around. What do you see?”
Myra looked around. The trees around her were mostly pine.
“Your place is therefore down the hill, near the valley. It is half a day’s journey on foot. If you take the bus, you might reach there late in the morning.”
He had a few crooked staff resting near the railing.
“How much for one of those?” asked Maitrayee. The old man looked at her surprised as he fetched a staff for her. “Do you intend to walk?”
Myra said nothing and smiled, “How much for it?”
The old man gestured in a manner, which denoted it was free. They were soaked and wobbly firewood and he was trying to dispose them off.
“In that case, I’ll take some more cinnamon”, she said. “By the way, is it really cinnamon?”
“City people; always going on about something!” he grumbled, turning back to the children once again.
Myra boarded the bus as she had been directed. There were three seats on either side, most of which were occupied by people traveling overnight. Her companion was a very old woman traveling with her nurse. The bus slowly rolled down the hill and the old woman’s head lolled to aside and complacently rested on Myra’s shoulder. She looked up from her notebook and turned toward the nurse. The woman did not seem to notice anything as she furiously knitted a dreary looking sweater, peering through her reading glasses that rested halfway down the bridge of her nose. Mira smiled and sighed slightly.
Outside, the girl could see young tribal boys and girls pick up pinecones along the roadside. The road narrowed, twisted, and gnarled like the roots of an old tree. She saw a rosy-cheeked tribal child
with a sibling tied across her back, waiting to cross the road as the bus maneuvered slowly. The child waved at her as she took her picture.
Myra smiled unconsciously. A sense of adventure lingered in the air and the earthly fragrance was intoxicating. There was a feeling of belongingness that she had longed for and a romanticism that one would not desire to part with consciously.
The bus installed itself in front of a settlement. Myra climbed down after the others.
Most of them strolled around stretching their limbs or with their hands in their pockets shivering due to the sudden drop in temperature outside the vehicle.
There was a deep waterfall nearby. Myra drew her jacket as she walked over to the iron railing and leaned against it. The whiffs of coffee and food prepared with cinnamon entered her nostrils and filled her mind with acute exhilaration. Her stomach rumbled and she had never been more hungry. She turned around and studied the wooden shacks from which the aromas had originated. All her fellow travelers had
gathered near one of them, which was easily the largest, and the most welcoming one. The one near Myra wasn’t crowded. A young woman carried some firewood inside the shack while outside,
on the ledge, a young man was sitting with a child, presumably the couple’s, tied to his back with a cloth. She had never seen a man carry a child on his back in this manner before; then she realized that the tribal societies here were matrilineal. Women were traditionally the head of the family and they worked, and owned assets and inherited them while the men were not entitled to any land or property.
There were some children playing noisely with pine cones nearby,
and an old man watched them disapprovingly.
As she started to walk toward the eatery, she saw something that made her heart freeze. She could not move and stood affixed to the spot. Her eyes met a young man who was standing at a distance, leaning against a tin shed. He was well dressed and thick wavy hair framed his well-cut face. His fine features looked pale. His lips were grim and a furrow had developed between his thick eyebrows as he observed her intently.
Myra was acutely perplexed and affected by the stranger’s gaze. She quickly went through her mental album of acquaintances and realized that she did not know him, but strangely enough, the man seemed to know a lot about her. He was not a fellow passenger either. The man tilted his head to a side she could not help gazing at him over and over again.
Suddenly, she felt her mind going numb and her thoughts being lost. Her memories came back to her in strange flashes and the only thing that was clear to her mind was the deathly rush of the water near her. To her, the world and everything in it were suddenly dead, except the water, which threw itself into a shadowy depth.
The feeling passed off as quickly as it had come and without another glance at the man, she hastily made her way towards the little eatery.
……. to be continued……
The inspiration for the main story line of Shadow Road is derived from an ancient Himalayan kingdom nestled among towering old conifers; with its iconic towns rendering an exclusivity to it’s colorful culture and warm, breathtaking landscape.
A walk around the golf course on a mid-summer’s day fills you with warmth as your feet rub against a carpet of pine cones and you hear the needles rustling the foliage of the pine groves as they slip through great lengths and assemble underneath in all their glory. The chill in the cool, crisp air and the vapors rising from your mouth fill you with a sense of eternal well being.
After the World War I, some civil servicemen had a 9 hole golf course was constructed a small distance from the present Golf course.
In winters, there is an icy spell of wintry drizzle that creates one of the major challenges to the golfers apart from the fact that the landscape is hugely undulating with a thick carpet of strong native grass spread over it’s 6,100 yards. The sixth hole is 594 yards and is a very trying one. The ninth hole is a sharp angled dog leg of 372 yards, par four is another challenge.
The Golf Course provides a very picturesque view of the valley with it’s hardened mountain soil and colourful local settlements with their sloping roof tops dazzling in the sun and their narrow winding roads. After a long game of golf, the clubhouse perfects your experience as you sip a delicate brew of indigenous tea surrounded by conifer groves and rhododendron bushes feeling the calmness rushing through your veins, your worries slipping off your shoulders, the ethereal sense of being one with nature, harmoniously blended with it’s benign existence while watching perhaps another game in progress. It is truly a great way to enjoy your sport while being enveloped in nature’s beauty and abundance.
It is quite possible, P.G. Wodehouse might have loved to have Bertram Wooster and all the other eggs, beans, and crumpets play a game of golf at the club while there were some serious bets being laid in the backdrop.
A game of golf can be quite challenging as one has to negotiate a sudden spell of icy rain over an undulating and tough valley in one of the most scenic and beautiful golf courses a few miles from the shadow of the mountain, the Valley of Cherrapunji, arguably one of the wettest places on the planet.