From the roof I watched the sparkling green water of the Himalayan lake of Nainital in India. The next sight where I settled my eyes on was the exquisite minarets of the Jama Masjid. It is impossible not to praise the beauty of this mosque. The hotel I stayed in was perched atop a steep incline emerging out of an alley near the Nainital Stadium. Due to the steepness of the hotel’s location, watching the town from its roof was like observing from a watchtower.
The Sun was shining bright when I climbed down the steep alley to mingle with the town’s happy crowd. The lakeside road is called the Mall Road. The restaurants, hotels, fancy shops selling souvenirs all are found on one side of the street whilst the lake is on the other. The road is a two way lane and entry of heavy traffic is not allowed. As I stopped by the lake on the pavement to watch the colourful yachts, something caught my eye: A floating maple leaf. I looked above to check out the leaves of the carefully planted trees in the middle of the two lanes. Winter had arrived and the branches were mostly bare. I strained my eyes to notice the shape of the few which were rustling in the breeze. Yes. It was maple indeed. ‘A little figment of Canada in India’, I thought to myself. The park benches beneath the maple trees were occupied mostly by honeymooning couples. I bought myself a generous amount of cotton candy and visited the Methodist Church, the oldest one in India, before heading back to the Nainital Stadium.
The Nainital stadium is a huge field adjacent to one end of the Nainital lake. The pavement between the playground and the lake overflowed with tourists, locals, businessmen, shoppers, shops and pilgrims. This time I took on the role of a pilgrim. A secular pilgrim. I could not help admiring the surrealism created by the presence of the mosque, whose minarets’ had already spellbound me once. The white marvel present in the Himalayan lake town just beyond the playground generated a middle-eastern charm.
I covered my head with a shawl before entering the Gurudwara Shri Guru Singh Sabha, a gurudwara located adjacent to the playground end of the Nainital Lake; just beside the pavement which overflows with tourists, locals, businessmen, shoppers, shop and pilgrims – the pavement through which I had walked watching the white mosque and admiring its architecture.
Inside the gurudwara I was overwhelmed with a feeling of peace. I crossed the hall to reach the room inside, I noticed the glass windows over which white curtains were pulled. The bright sunlight penetrating through the white curtains gave the room a gleeful hue and warmth. The peaceful ambiance, the cleanliness, the quietness of the gurudwara touched my soul.
My next stop was the extremely popular Naina Devi Temple, a temple dedicated to the Goddess after whom the town and the lake had been named. The temple, one of the important sites of Hinduism is situated just by the side of the Sikh shrine, the gurudwara. Once inside the temple compound I found a breathtaking 180 degree unobstructed view of the lake and the mall road. The reflection of the greenery of the forested hills gave Nainital, the lake, its green tinge. After seeing the deity, and offering prayers I left the temple.
Bewitched by the Jama Masjid I sat on the shores of the lake by the playground facing the mosque to appreciate what I had been observing the entire day. To take pride in the social fabric of my country which allows diverse people to co-exist: the temple and gurudwara to my left, the church to my right and the mosque in front. I wondered how many places can boast such an excellent friendship. When the world is getting fragmented, Nainital can preach a subtle piece of philosophy to those creators and believers of division. Mutual respect, trust and a rational mindset is all that is needed to maintain harmony and friendship.
In the evening after sunset I started the survey of Nainital’s markets from the Bhotia market or the Tibetan market located around the Naina Devi Temple. Woollen garments, jackets, shawl, woollen caps, socks were abundantly available. The shopkeepers were friendly people who happily showed us their collection. Food stalls selling Momos were all over in this market, closely followed by noodles. Haggling does not help much but still I managed to buy a brand new full sleeve jacket for INR 600!
I reached the main market area of Nainital-the famous, huge and lively ‘Bada Bazar’. The Bada Bazar is a maze of lanes with shops selling everything imaginable. Woollens and candles were the ruling products. Wooden articles of excellent quality are another speciality of the region. Bargaining is not a norm but one does not need it either as there is something for everyone, from decorative candles for INR 10 to wood crafted key chains for INR 20, brass candle stands for INR 20, stoles for INR 100.
I stepped in one such random shop which was selling shawls. Impressed with its collection I bought quite a few to bring home as presents to my near and dear ones. The seller was a nice lad who gave me his name and asked me to visit his other shop in Lake Mall Road. He wore a broad smile all the time and even attempted speaking my language!
Next day as I was walking about in the Mall Road trying to find a good spot to photograph the yachts a cheerful voice greeted me, “Good morning Hi!”. It was Firoz, the shopkeeper of the shawl shop in Bada Bazar, now sitting in his other outlet in the Lake Mall Road. We exchanged courteous greetings before cracking a light joke on my shopping habit and his nameless shop in the Mall Road. And once again I thought to myself “Mutual respect, trust and a rational mindset is all that is needed to maintain harmony and friendship”. People of Nainital irrespective of caste, creed, religion and race realize this, making my visit special.
Trip Taken On- November 2015
Travel Agent Hired- Debi Tours And Travels (Biswanath Ghatak- 9051806469).
Hotel Booked-Hotel Siddharth (9999710392).
Yacht Hiring Price- INR 500 for two people.
Row Boats-INR 250 for four tourists and an oarsman (half an hour).
This is neither an advertisement nor a recommendation. I paid for my own trip.
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