Mrs. Sharma’s spiel was no less charming for being practiced. Anyone who can maintain a garden like her and gets paranthas made the way she does can practice as many spiels as they want on me J. Mystic is a tiny place perched on a ledge overlooking the road up to Mukteswar. Behind it was what used to be orchard but is soon going to be ‘orchard with cottage’. There are six rooms all laid out in a row, each with its own tiny porch and everywhere you turn there are plants.Roses in all colors – and these are the real kind, with a scent and overblown, chewed on petals – fuschias, honeysuckle, apple, plum, strawberry and several plants whose name we will need to learn only on our next visit up there. Mrs. S guided us past this profusion of flora, chattering all the while, directing us to eat the strawberries when we wanted to and saying ,‘So tired you must be. Suresh will just bring you paranthas, beta’.
We had the last of the six rooms. The chestnut tree across the road obscured our view of the mountains but it had much compensation to offer for this loss. The tree was in bloom and played host to several birds. They also came by to get their share of the easy pickings of grain in the bird houses Mrs S had around the place. R ‘s Salim Ali book was put to good use and I finally got to fulfil my ambition of putting a name to it as against saying bright blue bird with long tail. Here’s the list of what we saw
1. Spotted Dove
2. Black Drongo
3. Yellow Billed Blue Magpie
4. White Eared Bulbul
5. Quaker Tit Babbler
6. White Rumped Shama
7. Verditer Flycatcher
9. Jungle Crows
I’m getting ahead of myself a bit though – Back to telling this story chronologically. R and I looked admiringly at the chestnut, wondered if these were the type whose chestnuts could be ‘roasted’ and settled down to tuck into the paranthas.
Tummy all filled, we set off to see the PWD guest house (claim to fame: used to be Jim Corbett’s base when he was disposing off the Maneaters of Kumaon) which was a 4 or 5 km walk along the road. Every so often we stopped to take photographs and sometimes just to take a deep breath of the fresh mountain air – and those deep breaths were required because said breath was taken away so often by the view!
After a leisurely walk – interrupted by a chai session made longer by the rain, we reached the pretty little town of Mukteswar.