There's of course no way of escaping the jostling crowds at New Delhi's T3 terminal, except via the jostling crowds at New Delhi Railway station. However, everyone else is also in a good mood, since they are escaping to the hills, too. In fact, everyone is in such a good mood that Air India staff escapes being slaughtered, even after announcing that the flight to Kullu is cancelled, and there is no other flight till the next day. (Passengers look murderous, Jet Airways staff looks smug, but there is no riot). On to Chandigarh, (no, no cancellation), and out into the heat of the afternoon, a reminder that we are still in the plains.
An early start to Chail, up the hill road, in a rickety bus. The perfectly good two lane road of ten years ago, is in the process of being expanded into a four lane highway, and is currently a nightmare, with bulldozers, excavated hill sides, and invitations to land slides. The valiant bus crawls its way clinging precariously to the side of the road. The driver is brilliant. Various faces turn green and water bottles are passed around to quieten queasy stomachs. One tea stop and sundry jacaranda trees later, the rain starts. Various cheerful stories also start, e.g. of people who left for Shimla, sixty kilometres away, on a day like this, and were rescued by helicopter fourteen days later. The bus slows to a crawl, but we end up safely at Chail's palace hotel, merely a little damp due to the rain inside and outside the bus. Chail was the summer capital of the Maharaja of Patiala, who was kicked out of Shimla by the Viceroy for his hell raising antics, and built Chail Palace in a huff.
Chail palace is charming, with huge rooms, antique furniture, log huts and an annexe and a pine forest all around. It's unlikely that the pictures are the Maharaja's pictures. (The death of Socrates?)
They also throw in a few monkeys.
The lights of Shimla can be seen across the hill.
There's a pretty little garden. The village is a one road village, but there is a stadium, a military school, and a Kali Mandir with a spectacular sunset, an unexpected view of the snowline, and, guess what, solar panels. A few days here, is a few days out of time, out of the hassles of day to day existence, until it is time to go back.
This blog post is by Neelima Gupte and Sumathi Rao.
Tailpiece: Day to day hassles? What do you mean day to day hassles? See below.
Self: How can you lose my bag on a Chandigarh Delhi flight?
JA: Not to worry, we already sent it to Chennai.
Self: But I'm here in Delhi.
JA: Not to worry, we will get it back.
Not to worry, they did. Took time, though!