Article Published in THE TIMES OF INDIA

Where The Clouds End

Navtej Sarna

THE walk to Cloud End takes us miles out of the tourist’s Mussoorie. Left far behind is the inevitable Mall, the blaring film music the talk of picnic spots. That does seem very far behind as nature steps in, tangible in its coolness.

A few lazy turns of the track and we could be anywhere on the countless mountainsides of the lower Himalayas. Miles of deodar, patches of fir and, somewhere, the scantier but stately pine. The entire sight set off by a single burst of the deep-red rhododendron. Not the fierce, flaming touch of the gulmohar but a warmer, welcoming red. The fallen red flowers gently colour the moist ground. The miles scramble by unnoticed.

Walk Into past

Clouds End, when we reach it, could be any other house on the mountains-the sloping roof, the high verandah, the slightly unkempt look. We pass though the wooden gate, wondering at the mysterious name on the board. The owner is obviously glad to see company. Months of lonely living looking after endless acres of orchard make one look forward to occasional visitors. A black dog wakes up, looks up and falls back to sleep, not impressed by travellers in the timelessness of the surroundings.

Quaint Charm

Time does lose meaning when we learn that the house was built as far back as 1835 and housed five generation of an English family until a few years ago. Suddenly, the quaint charm of the past is all around. The chair is highly arched and comfortable, the table ornately carved. Inside, history hangs on the walls. Paintings a century old, depicting an English countryside, the paint cracking, the artist’s name fading.

The walk through the house evokes the silent reverence of a museum. Fireplaces, bookshelves, cupboards come alive at an imaginative glance. On a table lies an album almost waiting to be opened. A typical family album. Photo graphs of cane chairs and tea on the lawns, of huge dogs and horses. A window on the era that was the Raj. And then I’m holding a dusty copy of Unto This Last. The year on the flyleaf is 1906.

Out into the present and into the afternoon sun, we lie at the edge of the hill under a grove of deodars, the breeze from the endless valley below us come fast and fresh. Terraced fields, dots of villages, shimmering pools of water, a faraway bit of silver that is a river.

Space Divider

Parallel to out vision is the line of clouds dividing space into our world and the nothingness above. A thin, wispy, snowy line marks the end of the clouds.