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Secret Rendezvous in the Hills

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

Destiny has its own importance. I am a firm believer in destiny.

In every marriage, a honeymoon is your opportunity to relax alone together. Having some personal time away from your busy schedule and daily life interruptions always enables you to connect with your partner and enjoy each other's presence.

I and my wife Uma got married on 9 May 1971 but never had a chance to go to our honeymoon. As they say, man proposes, and God disposes. Sounds strange but true. Family compulsions, last minute hitches and reasons beyond my control forced me to cancel our honeymoon trip time and again.

When every attempt to go to our honeymoon failed, I surrendered to God saying, as you will, so it shall be. My wife Uma was a big support. She never complained. Whenever I had to cancel the trip, she smiled and said, do not worry, something good will come out of it. Uma always said, whatever will be, tomorrow is not for us to see.

Ommar Khayyam Cautions You:

The Moving Finger writes, and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

My wife was right. One day, it all fell into place like the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle that fall into place and the puzzle is solved. It happened smoothly and without any efforts.

I still remember, it was month of September 1973; two years into our marriage. There was a marriage in the family at Ambala where the younger sister of my mother lived. My mother, Mati, made plans to attend the wedding. A few days before leaving for Ambala, she came to me and said Harish, I am taking Shafina with me to Ambala.

But Mati, how will you handle her alone. She is just one year old, I protested. Nothing doing, I have made up my mind, said Mati. I bowed my head and said as you wish mother.

Shafu, my elder daughter and first born was a very beautiful child. She had big eyes and smile that could melt the toughest of hearts. My Mati wanted to show her off amongst her relatives. She happily went with my mother for a week to Ambala.

Once they left, my young mind started running in all directions. Uma and I had a full week at our disposal. I decided to plan our long-pending honeymoon trip at this time. I went to my office the next day and applied for a week's leave, then purchased two tickets for night deluxe bus for the same day.

I went home in the evening and asked Uma to pack luggage; we were going to Nainital. We boarded the night deluxe bus and were in Nainital the next morning. Naini lake and lush green mountains around it mesmerize you. We took a room in hotel Alka on the Mall road, overlooking Naini lake. It was off season and the room rent of a deluxe room was just 40 rupees per month with 50 percent discount.

It was a big room with sunlight coming in through glass paneled windows. I had been to hills several times, but it was the first visit of my wife. I was feeling a little guilty coming to Nainital without telling anyone. But as they say, everything is fair in love and war. I was happy that I could finally bring Uma on our honeymoon trip. Better late than never.

My wife, on the other hand, had never complained about missing the honeymoon trip. She was always happy with me. As they say, true love stands by each other's side on good days and stands closer on bad days. It has been 50 golden years of togetherness now.

First thing we did was to go around Naini lake, savouring its grandeur. We visited Naina Devi temple to pay our respects. Boating in the lake, with ducks floating by our side was a pleasure. On one side of lake is Malli Tal, and on the other Talli Tal. In 1973, there used to be a floating restaurant in the lake operated by Alka hotel.

One morning, I and my wife were standing outside the hotel admiring beauty of the lake. Since our hotel was right on the mall road, lot of people, young and old were crossing us. Then we saw a newly married sardar couple coming towards us. Just by instinct, we smiled at each other, said hello and shook hands. They were Jaspal and Jassi, from Delhi, and were on their honeymoon trip to Naini Tal.

Just for courtesy sake, I asked Jaspal to come in the evening and have a cup of tea with us. In the evening, both Jaspal and Jassi were at our hotel. We had a long and cheerful gup-shup session and found lot of similarities between me and Jaspal. Both of us were from Delhi, studied in the same school, and both of us were Virgos. Jaspal was a graduate from Indian Institute of Technology. He was serving with Indian Oil. We struck instant rapport. After the tea session, we got up to say goodbye but all of a sudden, unexpectedly, Jaspal startled me with his proposal.

He wanted us to shift to the Indian Oil guest house where Jaspal and Jassi were staying. He said it was independent accommodation with two fully furnished rooms, drawing room, and kitchen with a cook. His suggestion was that we should stay together, eat together and explore Nainital and surroundings together. It would be fun.

Thanks for the offer, was my reply. But do not you think you should spend all your time with Jassi alone. After all, that was what honeymoon meant. Even Jassi supported her husband and pleaded that we should stay with them. Well, long and short of story is that we shifted to Indian Oil Guest House the same evening.

The whole episode looks strange but is true. We met in the morning and by evening, we were not only friends but had also shared accommodation and food. What would you call it? Destiny or co-incidence?

We had a gala time together exploring Nainital and its surrounding areas. Then we planned a two-day trip to Kausani, Ranikhet and Baidyanath. We had the night's halt at Kausani, from where you get clear view of snow clapped Himalayan peaks. Mahatma Gandhi had also set up an ashram in Kausani. He called Kausani the Switzerland of India.

Tents were set up by organisers for night's halt at Kausani. A bonfire was arranged in the evening. We sat around it singing songs and cracking jokes. Lovely view of Himalayas made it all the more enjoyable. Kausani is also known for tea plantations set up by Britishers. There is also a woolen shawl factory here.

Our next halt was Baijnath temple. Archeological Survey of India recognizes it as monument of national importance. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva as Lord of Physicians, Baidyanath.

After visiting several small sites, we reached Rani Khet, an old British cantonment. It is known for its lush green golf courses. This place is famous for Jhula Devi temple, dedicated to goddess Durga. Hundreds of bells adorn the temple. Mahatma Gandhi stayed in a hut called Gandhi Kuti in a nearby village, Tarikhet during freedom struggle.

We came back to Nainital, said goodbye to Jaspal and Jassi, with a promise to meet in Delhi. We were back home, a day before our mother returned from Ambala along with Shafu. Our delayed honeymoon trip remained a secret with us for a long. time. We revealed it to our relatives and friends only after the passing away of my Mati.

We met Jaspal and Jassi again next year. This time in Shimla, again by coincidence. We were strolling on mall road of Shimla when someone came from behind and clasped us saying, pakkad liya, meaning caught you. We turned around startled and saw Jaspal and Jassi laughing. Jaspal informed me that they had exhausted all their money and were going back to Delhi by the evening bus.

Nothing doing, I said. Be our guests for a week. We have accommodation in MLA hostel, a two bedroom fully furnished set. God had provided us a chance to repay the hospitality of Jaspal and Jassi. We had a gala time together exploring Shimla, its heritage walks, and places like Vice Regal lodge and Botanical gardens, the ridge area, upper and lower mall. We also visited Kufri, a renowned winter skiing resort. We also, visited Fagu, where it is foggy for most part of the year.

We met yet again after about a year, this time in the Ambala cantonment at the bus stand. We were looking for a bus for Nangal and they were going to Hanuman Garh. Once again, a proposal came from Jaspal. Let us spend a night together at Hanuman Garh, Jassi's parents house. Again we agreed. It was a huge farmhouse with tube well. We spent a very pleasant evening there and enjoyed hospitality of Jassi's parents.

Now, can you give this pattern a name? Was it coincidence or destiny? I cannot say. This friendship lasted for about four years. We kept on meeting in Delhi also. Then it ended as we all got busy with our lives.

You make friends at different stages of life. Some live their lives in a short period while some last a lifetime. In which category we should place this friendship, it is difficult to say.

One of the most common reasons great friendships don't last is because our lives are constantly changing..... Friendships might be temporary at times, but each friend you meet can add a lasting lesson to your life. Enjoy your friendships for what they are and for however long they remain in your life.

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