This one was an anniversary dedication to Maa Pa...
Published: 31st May, 2008 - Horizon, The Assam Tribune

To make their 29th Anniversary a tad more special than the ones before, I finally convinced Ma Pa about a trip to Nainital – just Maa and Pa, without the usual 5”4’ kabab-meh-haddi (yours truly). Their being with me in Delhi for a short vacation and a long debate as to ‘why not’, however, were the main reasons that made it a success! Besides, Nainital, for reasons I can barely translate into logic, feels like one of those places on earth (I’ve not had the luck to trot the globe much yet, though) which is best walked hand-in-hand with one’s beloved. And I so wanted Ma Pa to feel youthful and romantic again! Only a night’s journey away from Delhi, Nainital (Naini=eye, tal=lake, supposedly referring to Parvati’s eye) is a lake scooped out of a lush valley surrounded by the Kumaoni mountains in the North Indian state of Uttaranchal. It is roosted at an elevation of 6,350 ft. (1938 m) and the hour-long approach road from Kathgodam railway station to the main spot is so winding and sans any stoppages, that even with two Avomins, Maa ended up with intermittent ‘volcanic upsurges’.

You’ll know you’ve reached Nainital when the roadside begins to frill naturally with multi-coloured blooms and quaint wooded buildings with sloping roofs. The little-more-than-tiring journey ends at Tallital (the other end of the lake) and the moment you alight from the bus you are mobbed by hotel agents and cab drivers. Try not to get carried away by their promises of “Lakeview rooms” and even if you do and later find out that their Shangri-la is some 5-10 km uphill, I suggest you drop it immediately. They’ll try sell it still with how their “pick and drop” facility will be always at your service. Not that they are entirely hoaxing it, just that there might be times when the cabs not available and you’re left with no option walk all the way up to your hotel. So, like what Maa Pa did, just take a rickshaw and ride along the Mall Road towards Mallital and en route you can just walk into any of the hotels by the lake. A little homework always helps (Google’ing for tourist reviews or reading my columns religiously...Ahem ahem!) before visiting a new place though.
Must See & Do
A stroll by the lake:
Walking down the Mall Road, all flaked with crimson chinar leaves (remember Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein?), nibbling on sweet corns or lapping ice-creams is a must-do!
Boating: Mallital has boats (paddled ones or with a boatman each) for hire at some Rs. 100 for a trip from one end of the lake to the other (Tallital) and back. Besides the almost ‘Edenic’ experience of floating amidst sparkling waters laced by a valley hued in just every shade of green, the ride is the vantage point for capturing Nainital on film.
Gondola (Cable Car) Ride: This 10-min ride from Mallital to the Snow Point and back, promises ecstatic eagle-eye views of the lake-town – tiny ant-like boats crawling on the Naini-lake peppered with gold-dust, for example!
Snow Point: It is an entertainment joint with myriad options like bungee jumping, paragliding, video-games, telescopes for a closer-view of the Himalayas, shooting and so on. Do not miss dropping by for a photo shoot with rented local Kumaoni attires on.
Jeep tour: Board an SUV from Mallital for some Rs. 300 and you’re in for a tour that encompasses almost all of the tourist attractions in Nainital uphill – Lover’s Point, pony-ride to Land’s End and back, Eco Caves and a trip to the snowing zone (if you made it in winters).
Cheena peak: At 8566 ft. (2611m), Nainital's highest peak (named so for it was so high that they thought they could see China from there) is for the trekking enthusiasts and though Pa was one, Maa wasn't and so they never got there.
Shopping: The Tibetan shopping arcade, Maa opined, was reminiscent of Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi. The variously shaped candles, indigenous artefacts (mostly made of dried vegetation), woolens and designer imported lingerie are must-buy. Just make sure you exercise all your bargaining skills or your wallet will be left a lot thinner than expected.
Getaways: Two days at Nainital and Pa planned a side-trip to Corbett National Park (closed from mid-June to mid-November), some 63 km away. Ramgarh (26 km), Almora (62 km) and Ranikhet (60 km) are some laidback hill-stations in the neighbourhood – the kind writers would want to retire for penning books.
Travel Tips: Travel light and if required, bag woolens from the Tibetan Market and live closer to the main tourist spot (Mallital).
Highs: Staying there can be totally inexpensive (you get decent rooms even at Rs.350 per night) and you can walk hand-in-hand just about everywhere without curious eyes stalking you!
Lows: You’re constantly bugged by somebody or the other trying to sell something or take you somewhere, low-budget hotels come without room heaters (confirm before booking) and the cold there is unbearable.
Getting there
Getting there and coming back can be nightmares for those not used to travelling on winding roads. Assuming that you are travelling from Delhi, you have an overnight journey (8-9 hours) to Nainital with options like a hired SUV, buses or Volvo coaches (from Anand Vihar Bus Terminal to Nainital) or the train (the Ranikhet Express to Kathgodam).

I went to receive Maa Pa at the station and felt elated to see their faces so impeccably happy! Nainital sure did set some old flame burning!


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