So, our 3rd and last day in Dalhousie began with a little walk to the Tibetan Refugee Market right outside our hotel. The market or rather whatever was left of the market was a brief row of shops stacked and huddled in a small alley. Most of the Tibetian refugees have now shifted to Dharamshala, so there were a handful of shops selling dolls and trinkets from Nepal and two food joints selling Thukpa, Momos and a few more countable Tibetian dishes. After barely 20 minutes in the market, we decided to look beyond the exiled Tibetans and turned to "What else?" Dalhousie boasted of. Yet another snakey drive up the mountains enroute to Dainkund Peak, we stopped at Dalhousie's Open Air Defence Park within the Dalhousie Public School perimeter. Warships, submarines, battleships, tanks, surface to air missile, fighter planes and phew (pls go and see the rest when u r there) and many more Defence toys sat proudly gleaming in the Sun behind strong chained boundaries against a backdrop of the mighty cedar cloaked Himalayas. The Museum/Park with its prized warship has been named after Sardar Madan Singh who led the Royal Indian Naval mutiny in 1946. Flying high and strong in the air and boastfully looking down upon these war babies was our National Flag hoisted atop a tall pole - u do get an overwhelmingly proud feeling in this place. After one big salute to Bharat Mata and all our martyrs, we solemnly got into the car and drove down to the Chamera Dam. This is a massive Dam built on the Ravi and has a huge catchment area. The Chamera lake is quite popular for boating and water sports, but we just walked over the dam and looked down upon the gianormous catchment area as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawaans walked up to us and chatted with us. I was somehow unable to shake off that overwhelming patriotic feeling and jingoism from the Dalhousie Open Air Defence Museum, everything else seemed less interesting. It was our last day in Dalhousie- a trip which had started with parathedaar adventure, floaty dreamy excursions up and down the hills; was now getting over with a solemnly proud feeling looking at our country's Defence and martyrdom legacy. Before leaving the dam, we shook hands with the CISF jawaans and thanked them from the bottom of our hearts for whatever service they r doing to our country and us.
The return drive to the hotel was a quite one, and the remnants of the Day were spent sitting in the Hotel garden terrace staring at the Pir Panjal (trying to hungrily capture the image as strongly as possible to be able to store it for a lifetime). Right then, Dalhousie decided to sort of show me how nightmarish it can get in the mountains. The sky switched colour tones from grey to inky dark, clouds on the roads thickened and densed up enough to block visibility while the temperature dropped by 10 degrees with howling gusts of winds strong enuf to blow us off the hotel terrace garden. We somehow managed to get up and trudge up to the shops outside our hotel while getting slapped hard on our cheeks by stormy mountain winds, and buy some of Dalhousie's preserves n Achaar....
Himachal Pradesh known as the Fruit Basket of India had a lot to offer us, but we chose only a few coz of the airline luggage reatrictions... We picked up a GREEN APPLE PICKLE - it tasted hot n spicy n not sweet, GREEN CHILLIES CHUKH (a kind of traditional Himalayan chutney) - cud pass off as pickle, WILD EDIBLE FERN PICKLE - looked interesting, a tangy n unique tasting POMOGRANATE N MINT CHUTNEY and a BLACK GRAPE JAM- the grapes were still in shape n chewable.
The whole of our last night in Dalhousie, we kept awake listening to the howling wind n battering of rains lashing on our windows, punctuated with rythemic roars of thunder.. Last few days, we had been spending our nights star gazing from our glass window n recollecting all the Ruskin Bonds.. But tonight all we saw was the ghostly silhouets of the mountains n trees occassionally illuminated by lightening... Whole night we kept spooking each other by imaginary appiritions of Unworldly spirits and Ruskin Bond stories in the lightening n storm till it was time for us to leave...
We checked out of our Hotel n left Dalhousie in the dark of Pre-Dawn (an hour before sunrise) crouching beneath an umbrella hurrying down to our car in the raging storm... And then 6 hours flew by as we slid down the road with our sleepy heads lolling from one side to another.. We got a view of the first rays of Sun neatly slicing thru the grey clouded sky n pricking the forests n roads.... With a descent of every kilometer, we cud actually feel the temperatures gradually shooting from 12 degrees to 35 degrees. At 10 am, we stopped at the popular Haveli restaurant near Jalandhar... I played ard at the entrance with the artificial well n the statue of the Punjaban drawing water from it and then signalled one of the Lungi-Kurta-Waistcoat n Pagdi clad Punjabi looking Bong waiter to get me a Lassi... Less than a minute- and he served me Sweet thick n creamy lassi in a Mitti Ka Gilaas/Kulhad. The lassi had to be eaten with spoon..After filling ourselves with 2 such glasses of Lassi, we got back into the car n headed for Delhi.
Six hot, dry n dusty hours later (the car had AC but the Loo outside was too strong); as the rains from the hills stealthily crept up n burst upon the Highway (u know 'Kayapalat') the Driver screechfuly stopped at this Food Court just outside Delhi named Amrik Sukhdev. He was all praises for their Parathas n Makhan n Lassi (all made inhouse apparently). So we ordered two Tandoori Parathas; We were blown with the amount of Homemade Makhan they had given on the Parathas - Generous is too small a word.. I was and m still Tongue Tied... Remember the Desi Dildar Khaatirdaari of Punjabis I had mentioned abt ?
Yet again, we enjoyed this Makhan smattered Fat Fluffy Parathas watching Pre Monsoon storm n rains happily sweeping down the dry dusty roads performing a "Swachh Baharat Abhyaaan".