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Snowalicious Mountains

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Imagine a number of huge ice cream cones filled with large scoops of vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate chips with a slight drizzle of chocolate sauce. Now, magnify that vision a hundred times. That’s the first view that hits you once you reach Manali, a hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India. All you get to see are acres and acres of luscious mountains with freshly fallen snow surrounded by a gazillion sparkling, tall pine and fir trees and a clear blue sky with an occasional smattering of white fluffy clouds.

Once your eyes set their sight on them and your lungs breathe in all that fresh morning misty air, everything else gets driven away from your mind. There’s no stress, no worries, no confounding thoughts, absolutely nothing. All that is there inside you is a beautiful calming silence that captures your mind and body and sets them free.

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My friends and I couldn’t wait to explore this beautiful little town. As we headed off to the local market we couldn’t help but stop every 30 seconds ‘ooh-ing and aah-ing’ at everything we saw which resulted in a long but invigorating walk. At the market, it was a totally different sight to behold. Yes, we were still surrounded by those snow cones and trees but in the midst of it was a bustling bazaar. What strikes you most is the stark difference between a mega city like Mumbai and a hill station like Manali. Cities like Mumbai have been seeing the growth of malls for quite a while now, almost to the extent where someday small shops may cease to exist. But in Manali, you got to see not one mall. The tallest building was three or four floors and even those buildings were hotels and resorts!

Majority of the shops sold winter clothes or stuff for trekkers. At some places there would be the one odd underground shopping centre or an Adidas or a Marks and Spencer tucked neatly in between. As tourists passed by, people from those shops ran to you, saying, ‘Madam, dehkiye. Shawls, sweaters, sab saste mein hain.’ (Madam, take a look. Shawls and sweaters at a reasonable price.) If you’re an Indian, they asked you in Hindi. For foreigners, it was, ‘Madam, come look. Sweaters, shawls, saris, all one to one good and with discount.’ You couldn’t help but smile at that.

The unique items that caught our eyes were the colourful, long socks with pretty embroidered designs and the famous cap of the town known as the ‘kullu’ cap. It’s a brightly coloured, cute round cap that covers the top of your head very nicely and is worn by men as well as women. By evening the only bit of difference in the breath-taking view was that a hazy, almost lazy mist floated over the town as if cocooning it into its arms and beckoning you to get ready for a nice deep peaceful slumber.


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Nirmal Jayaraj

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