Ages ago , in the time of the puranas , the goddess Sati was grilled alive and made into casserole by the cooks at the yagna held at the abode of Daksha , her father , when she decided to attend the ritual uninvited.

Her husband , the great hermit Shiva , the world renouncing form of God, though enraged, but bound by the shackles of law (for it was wrong on her part to go uninvited) , carried her away on his shoulders . While he carried the burnt corpse , Vishnu , the world renouncing form of God who most of the time reclines on a bed of serpent coils and under the parasol of the thousand-hooded serpent Adi-anant-shesha , in an ocean of milk (out of the laudably simple fear of bedbugs, not a joke, but a myth , if at all it makes a difference) , hurled his discus ‘sudarshan’ and hacked the corpse into fifty-two pieces all of which , by a serendipitous turn of events, fell on the lands of the modern day India.

The spots upon which they landed , came to be revered as ‘shakti-peeth’s .

If this fiction is to be believed , then at the place where her eyes fell , an eye shaped lake took form. It was at this lake , Nainital, on a hill , also known ubiquitously as Nainital , that we were headed to.

” वो ज़ालिम मेरी हर ख्वाहिश ये कह कर टाल जाता है ,
दिसंबर जनवरी में कोई नैनीताल जाता है ? ”
Munawwar Rana

I had the company of Boabdil the moor , Solomon Castile and Hieun Tsang ,which any homo sapien in his good sense would know not to be true names.

As per my calculations, the fare had to be Rs 37.85 ,which wasn’t the case , so we hired a car instead , a Mercedes ( which any homo sapien in his good sense would know not to be the true name) and set off for an hour long journey to the blissful eye shaped lake in the wintry months of December.

Except a single stop in between to view the far flung hillside beneath our feet , we stayed put , someone trying hard not to puke , someone smoking and the someone wincing at the choice of someone’s music.

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Round and round we went along the road which curled around the hill like a coiled serpent. The temperature kept going down and the sight of other hills and forests kept vanishing from before our eyes until there was just a turquoise sky to gaze at.

Inns and closely packed double storeyed houses came up on both sides of the road and we knew we were in Nainital. We left the car and took to wandering on the mall road.

The lake in winters surges up while in summers it ebbs down ( on account of some evaporation I presume). The water was a dark green when the sun shone over it and the color of lapis lazuli when clouds took over the sun. O quaint little Nainital, the city of lakes, my hometown, how lovely.

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We spent some time at the lakeside platform where fishes were thronged , felt the breeze pass between our arms , and then took to wandering on the road where taxis and cycle rickshaws were passing.

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The road looked alright but it took us awfully long to reach the other side of the lake. Once there, we decided to go boating. An upturned boat was lying above the sidestepping and looked like a corpse of a boat which died on being taken out of water, like fishes do.

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The boatman made us sit at proper seats positioned such as the centre of gravity remains at the centre of the boat. He rowed the oar and I took my life jacket off , for it felt like a mess.

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The water was chilling and we used it to cool our coke-in-a-bottle ,for we knew a thing or two about Newton’s law of cooling. Amid the talks, the boat often came to the point when the boatman feared it would capsize, and he gave us tips on ‘how to not swing your arms too much’ and ‘how to maintain equilibrium of weight’ but it felt amazing when the boat flailed. It took a U-turn and began it’s journey back and finally stopped at a wooden planked platform on the side of the lake.

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We got out and went through a canopied narrow place called ‘Tibetan bazaar’ .It was full with Chinese food and winter clothing and all things from Tibet and Nepal.

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There are stalls of all kinds around the lake , from food to clothing to decor to games. We tried our hands at shooting , and I perfectly slaughtered the tiny little nut (as in nut and bolt) hanging from a string. It was a perfect shot and the vendor acclaimed – “bhaiya ka aim perfect hai” .

Then we proceeded to ‘Himalaya point’ from where you could get a view of the Himalayas. We had to book a cabled trolley to reach there which took us around five minutes to scale the distance. After straying around a while, we went where everyone was and tried our hands at shooting again without bothering much the Himalayas. Again I proved a dead shot. Around the Himalaya point there are many kinds of rides for children including a horse ride.

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The trolley took us back down to the station . Around the station there are nice eateries and many games to play including darts, skating and bowling.

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Stopping for a while we ate a little food we’d brought along at a park. Finally we took a road to the mosque which sits behind facing the lake. There’s a suicide point around one kilometre away from there. Nevertheless, we we walked again through the Tibetan bazaar and walked along the calm and forlorn road on the other side of the periphery of the lake. This road is less frequented and nestles it’s left arm with the lake while caresses the hill with the other.

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In the end we walked back along Mall road and started our journey back. The Moor became nauseous and puked all the way down the hill at all bends.

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We bid each other goodbye at the end and I remembered this verse by Amir Khusrow

Jab yaar dekha nain bhar , man ki gayi chinta utar
Aisa nahi koi ajab , raakhey usey samjhaye kar.

*the title is inspired by Ruskin Bond’s first book ‘The Room on the Roof‘.

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