Aalia, the resort along the holy waters of the Ganga in Haridwar, is spread out on a large piece of green patch near a tiny village that barely makes its presence felt. There are cottages big enough for a large family; each cottage can be further split
into individual rooms for guests. Each room has a view to the large expanse outside – a view of the Ganga and the Nature surrounding it. The beauty of the resort lies in its location ; it is not stuck in the crowds of the town, but is a splinter away into the green belt.
Blurred by a thin veil of a wintry morning fog, a row of hillocks stood silently guarding the thin stream of the Ganga that had shrunk its wide silvery span baring stones of different shades and sizes that the waters had rolled downstream from the mighty Himalayas. It was yet another morning for the birds that flew across to the forest in search of food, but for me, it was heavenly. The flowing waters of the holy river sang their song remaining inaudible to me as I peeped out of the window of my villa reminding me of the very dear number …….morning has broken, like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird ………thank you Cat Stevens.
The green grass that spread out to the pebbled river bank was covered with drops of dew from the heavens. A tiny wagtail showed itself up expressing its joy of life , tweeting like none other can, song of joy, of life beyond worries, bereft of the fear of losing anything dear. I have always wished a morning like this. The condensed moisture on the glass pane as I stuck close to it signaled of the cold breeze outside. A lazy dog like me preferred to enjoy Nature at its best from behind the glass window of my balcony.
I jumped back into the cosy bed from where I could still enjoy the weather outside. My large room offered me equally large windows to see the clouds float by. Though there was the wide-screened television in front of the bed, I refused to switch it on; the real life outside appeared more interesting.
How I wished that someone would offer me a cup of nice Darjeeling tea without me getting out of the bed, but all wishes cannot come true. I forced myself to the tea maker in the room to help myself. Next half hour I spent admiring the game of hide and seek being played by the sun and the clouds outside as I sipped my morning tea.
“This is a vacation,” I murmured to myself. As I switched the radio clock on the bedside, I noticed that it was time to go for breakfast in the restaurant; the thought of having it in the room alone was not a bright idea. I jerked myself out of the snug bed towards the bath. Passing through the dressing area, I felt warmth of the room slowly giving way to cold, and indeed the spacious bathroom was cold, though less than what it must have been outside.
A quick, warm shower refreshed my senses. I slid out of the room, in full gear to face any cold breeze outside as my heart still sang ….morning has broken.
The restaurant was perched on the first floor of a separate block which also housed the reception on the ground. An inviting buffet spread made me feel hungry like a greedy crow. Sausages, cheese and a fluffy mushroom omelette along with my usual cup of Darjeeling; there was more like the south Indian ‘vadas’ and the north Indian stuffed ‘parantha.’
As I enjoyed my breakfast peering out of the glass panel towards the Ganga at a distance, I overheard a group of overseas tourists talking about their visit to the Rajaji elephant sanctuary a day earlier. The place was not far and they had seen tuskers escorting their families in the forest.
Out there in the open, I could see the sun had finally scored over the clouds who had disappeared after losing the game. The sun was getting brighter and warmer as the ball rolled up higher in the sky. All I wanted to do during the day was to lie down near the pool and let the sun warm up my body and soul. There was no one to disturb me as a couple of tiny tailor birds sang a symphony.
Winters are ideal for a place like Aalia, a time when you can enjoy the sun in the lawn, away from the jarring noises of the city. A brisk walk along the bank of the river refreshes the senses.
I spent half the day out under the clear sky. While a couple sipped beer near the swimming pool, a group of youngsters were heard planning to hire the all-terrain mobike. I had noticed the mobike parked outside for adventure lovers, however, I had refrained from taking a ride as I thought it will shatter the calm along the river bank.
At times, it appears, the sun rolls across the sky faster than other days; this was one of those days. Back in the restaurant for lunch, I was pleasantly surprised to find ‘lal maas’, a spicy mutton preparation in the buffet. Fresh baked ‘tandoori rotis’ as accompaniment; also mushrooms and boneless chicken were the attractions of the day.
I found the food at Aalia well up to my expectations, a good mix of continental and Indian preparations. The Chef who readied the buffet had been in the trade for the past over 15 years and knew the tastes of different dishes.
Eating a heavy lunch makes one drowsy. Time for a nap, back in my room. A siesta is always invigorating, more so when you have no one to push you around for work.
The evening was spent around a bon fire which lit up the faces of the guests as they sat around chatting and drinking in a temperature sliding down bringing the people closer to the fire as it crackled merrily. I decided to satisfy myself with a soup, but the buffet made me hungry once more.
The first day of my vacation at Aalia soothed my nerves and made me feel out of this world. Darkness had descended on the green lawns and the river shown like a silver line in the moonlight. The world had gone to sleep as I slipped into my bed with the rippling sound of the river still echoing in my ears.