Fog Lake


Nani passed away when I was in UK. Geet and I were returning to Manchester from Halifax. I had gone there for a week-long training. I remember sitting in the train when dad called up and broke the news. I remember staring at the hills as they rushed past. I tried to remember the last time I had seen her. It was ten years ago in a cousin’s marriage.

A few days before her death, I told Geet that we will go to Dalhousie and meet Nani as soon as we go back to India. Nani had not attended our marriage that happened a year ago. She was too old to travel from Dalhousie to Delhi. Mom told us that she took out printouts of our marriage pictures and showed them to her when she went to Dalhousie. She kissed the pictures and blessed us.

She died three weeks before the end of my deputation in UK. 

I could never understand why mom and nani cried every time they met. My father and nana looked out of the window uncomfortably as the women went all teary eyed. Later I realised that it was the distance. We were not very rich to afford a yearly visit. 

Dalhousie was the only hill station I had seen while I grew up. For other people, it was Manali or Nainital or Shimla. For me, it was always Dalhousie. It was a home away from home. It meant looking at the lines on my nani’s face and listening to her stories. It meant that intoxicating aroma of pine and deodar trees. It meant the scents of the creaking wooden floor of her house. It meant the flavours of the apples that fell off that tree near the stone stairs of the first floor of her house. It meant the smells of her kitchen, smells of kasrod pickle in a clay jar.  

Dalhousie always brought peace to my mind. There was this deafening silence there that was hard to find in Delhi. You could hear the winds passing through the trees. You could smell the whiffs of earthly smells that came from the fog that rose from the belly of the valley every morning. I could see a few terrace farms below nani’s house. The farms ended abruptly over a cliff. The valley below was a reserve forest full of lush green trees. I could see hills beyond the forest and serpentine miniature roads with toy buses plying on them. The hills covered the whole landscape till the horizon. There were times when I would get up in the morning and sit alone in the balcony of the upper floor. The place smelled of nature. Then sometimes fog would rise from the lake in the forest below and engulf the whole valley. Sometimes there would be clouds and they would turn the whole sky to various shades of deep blue. It was surreal to take in the smells of Earth and trees. I remember feeling as if I had tasted heaven. I remember taking deep breaths and wondering if my parents could leave me to stay with nani forever. I remember thinking that I could die happily sitting forever in that balcony. That is all I wanted from life.

As time passed, life became more and more busy and years passed between my subsequent trips to Dalhousie. There was always some important exam or hostel life or job in another city. Before I realized, I had not visited Dalhousie for ten years. Never a day passed in those ten years when I had not yearned for those mountains, for that smell of pines, for touching that cloud once again that visited nani’s house once. I felt guilty and frustrated at times. I saw nani grow old in pictures. She told mom that she missed me every time mom visited her. The yearning to see her and the mountains was so strong that I promised myself every year to visit her as soon as possible. I knew she won’t live very long. She was bedridden now. Her back was bent. Her skin was peeling off. I knew I had to go and meet her.

And then UK happened. The promise was locked away. I prayed to God to keep her alive till my return. She passed away three weeks before I came back. 

I have visited numerous hill-stations in India. I have seen the highlands of Scotland. I have seen the Alps. And all of them remind me of my nani’s house. Whenever I am surrounded by mountains, I can just close my eyes, take a deep breath and transport myself back to Dalhousie. The smells of a creaking wooden floor of a house in the mountains brings a smile on my face. The smells of winds wafting through pines bring tears to my eyes. The sight of peaks leave an ache in my heart. Whenever a relative brings kasrod pickle from Dalhousie, I can smell my nani’s kitchen in it.

I haven’t been to Dalhousie after my nani’s death. I still have to summon enough courage to do that. I wish I had taken out time to meet her. I wish I had understood how ephemeral life is.

I wish I could go back and meet her once. And then sit on the balcony and smell the fog lifting from the lake. 

[image from here]

This post have been written for Ambipur contest on Indiblogger

47 comments on “Fog Lake

  1. The first thing that hit my eye as I switched on the net on my phone this morning was a new post notification at your blog. What with the promise of the romantic title, I jumped headlong into it. I don’t know what to say, Amit, except that I am leaving this corner with a bitter-sweet stab in my heart, with the invigorating freshness of your grandma’s place, and the repentance of missing that old link forever. Very beautifully written, as ever.

  2. I have now read a few posts meant for this contest even though I had resolved to not read any! I must say yours is the nicest one. Very mystical, very personal.
    It reminded me of your book in a nice way!

  3. As I was reading through the lines of this post, it reminded of the poem I was writing about my nani last night. I stayed with her till I came to the US. she passed away within 6 months after I came here and we couldn’t afford to go…and I have the guilt still though it had been 10 yrs now…a very touching heart felt post, Amit. Never expected this for the contest..

    • I had a friend who was in the US when her father passed away. Can you imagine the helplessness?
      We leave so much behind when we move out of our homes to find a better world.
      Thank you for liking the post Latha.

  4. This is beautiful !
    How a simple sight and smell can transport us back to time . And how an unrelated memory of others can remind us our own memories
    Remembered my nani !
    I was not in uk but left her to give an entrance exam in Bangalore and got the news of her death a week later . We left the tour abruptly and came back ! All the while I was thinking why she was requesting too many times to come back soon . The earnestness in her eyes was too much that time
    May be death informs a person before hand ! I felt like that

    • Thanks Afshan.
      Yes, it is amazing that how simple smells can move you back in time and how our memories are so similar at the basic level.
      I think a person sees many things before his/her death. There are many memories that come back.

  5. This reminded me of my own village, the mountains, the food, the achaars, the balcony where even I wanted to spend the rest of my life, and the smell of rain drenched mud mixed with that of burning wood… Ah I miss that.. 😦
    We left our hometown in 2005 and my mom looked at my nani, like that was the last time she’s seeing her alive. 4 years later, my dad got transferred back and my mom reached our place the day nani expired. she really couldn’t see her alive. I was never told of her death. I somehow figured it out myself. I miss her. This post brought back memories.

    • I am so sorry to hear about your nani. It is strange how we have so similar stories.
      I wish I had not delayed my visit thinking that I had all the time in the world. There are some things we can never change.

  6. Wow nice Amit, it reminded me of my childhood in my maternal grandparents house. I was a city child all along and so in Bangalore during 80s it was very calm and quite city. Our grandparent’s house had a mango tree we were chasing big ants and getting bitten by some. We were climbing the tree and reaching the balcony like monkeys.
    Me and my cousin sister going all alone to prove we are independent enough to buy milk from booth. Learning to ride cycles in a huge ground in front of our grandparents house and many more. I too remember my grandmother dying and she was close to me as well.
    Nani is maternal grand mother?
    Anyway best wishes for the contest 😀

    • Thanks Bhavana. I too have countless fond memories of Dalhousie. It seems like another life. I wish to go back there one day.
      Yes Nani is maternal grandmother.
      Thank you for your wishes. 🙂

  7. Heartfelt post. I can really feel the magical place of Dalhousie through this post, can relate to the tears which were shed when your mother & nani met, can understand the sense of loss & regret of not visiting her often. If only… I make it a point to call my grand parents every week but sometimes I do falter & that makes me regret to no end.

  8. This was a heart warming post. I loved the way you said that despite having seen the Alps and the mountains of Scotland, you still loved Dalhousie. Noone writes like that ..atleast I havent seen people publicly embracing their roots. Nice read… I am glad I read this today,

  9. The fondest memories of my childhood come from Nani’s house as well. The food, the stories, the rawness of 80’s and 90’s… beautiful memories.
    I didn’t realise the post was a part of the contest until I read a comment. Good Luck!

  10. I lost my grandfather last year. He always asked us to visit him when we used to talk on phone. The last time I met him he was very weak and he ate dinner from my hands. He had tears in his eyes. This was more than two years ago. I miss him and I will never forgive myself for not being with him.
    The pain of losing grandparents is often in the form of late realization or guilt of not being there. I know they cannot come back, but this surely helps us in acknowledging the presence of people around us and value them. I am sorry for your loss.
    And yes this was a beautiful and heartfelt post as always 🙂

    • Thanks Dauntlessdaisy, 🙂
      I am sorry to hear about your grandfather. Yes, the incident definitely made me value people around me. I have learnt never to delay important things in life. Who knows what will happen tomorrow.

  11. You know even I have not visited my nanihal since my nana passed away way back in the 90s. We could not go for his funeral either. And since then, I just have no wish to go. I want to keep my childhood memories alive as they are. A touching post!

    • Yes, I understand that. I realize that even if I go back, things will never be the same. It will be more painful if nothing else.
      Thanks for reading Rachna.

  12. This was so beautifully written. I felt your memories of your nani and your longing for that last meeting.. and also that unmistakable feeling of being in the mountains. Beautifully written. I have been pushing back seeing my nana for years too. I’ll go this year. 🙂

  13. I lost my grandmother in front of my eyes.. It was very surprising.. it was the first death I’d witnessed.. that day I truly realized how fragile human life is.. I sometimes wish I wasn’t there to see it, but now I wonder if I would’ve felt worse if I wasn’t there..
    Anyway.. nice post.. feel better 🙂

    • Both my paternal grandparents died in front of my eyes. If your family members do not die in front of your eyes, at least you remember them the way you saw them the last time.
      We all end up the same way, don’t we? 🙂

  14. hi Amit, after reading this post the first thing i did was call up my Naani. She is too old, and as mom says, may be even counting her last days…I belong to hills and have spent all my summer holidays during childhood at my naani’s place…..Actually, that part of my life can be considered BEST!!…and i guess a part of my character today owes it to those mountains!!….
    completely related to your post…

    • That was such a nice gesture D. I am extremely happy that my post had that effect. 🙂
      //a part of my character today owes it to those mountains
      I too can say that with complete confidence. The more you are close to nature, the more you understand life.

  15. I am really sorry Amit….. I live in this kind of fear everyday too. Some choices are so hard to make. You want to stay with family, but do well career/education wise and get some good exposure and the choices are so hard because you don’t want to make a choice unhappily and then blame someone else for it. But then family is so precious….. to weigh it against other dreams seems so hard…. I hear you. I am sorry. Atleast you have fond memories. can’t think of anything else to say…..

    • Kismi,
      It was more about me ignoring my family. I always kept pushing the date as if she was going to live forever. It is a lesson to me.
      Thank you for your really nice comment.

  16. I was saying that I liked that the words connected to ur heart and didnt feel like the contest had forced the words out. Naturally,easy yet intense. Dalhousie is on my wish list to travel and your description has pushed it to the top.

    • Thank you Sini.
      I usually do not take part in contests unless there is a topic worth sharing. 🙂
      I don’t know how Dalhousie has turned up. My cousins tell me that it is commercialized now. But you must visit the place. There will always be some pockets of peace in such places.

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