We plan our activities in mountains depending upon if its day light or dark, simple. People are in rush to reach anywhere. We have this beautiful concept of "parson" (day after tomorrow), now this parson can be anywhere six months before or after the date. Simple isn't it?
The day starts early in the morning, everyone is up at 4.00 am. (They retire at 8 pm).Be it the priest at the temple or the tea shop owner, everyone has time to look into your eyes and smile. Everyone has lot of time to share a cup of tea and enjoy a chit chat.
You don't have to rush to some place at 11 o'clock there are no traffic jams.
It doesn't matter if it's a Monday or a Friday.
Our village, Gazar, at Mukteshwar has about 100 households and they are all scattered, no two houses share the wall. Farming and fruit orchards cultivation is the primary source of income for the simple villagers. I get to live under the shadow of snow-clad mighty Nanda Devi range. Infact you get to see the most panoramic view of Kumaon Himalayas from Mukteshwar.
The fresh air here has the scent of the Oak and Rhododendron forest, and after living in metros, when you reach here the difference will be apparent. The villagers make sure their life is in sync with nature, not built at the cost of it. You are going to be surrounded by forests, meadows, birds, mountains, flowing stream and a sky full of stars in the night. The sky on moonless nights looks surreal.
I have seen villagers celebrating Diwali or any other festival without spending unnecessary money and they are happy. We all know how festivals are show-offs in cities but here you get to see small girls getting up early in the morning and decorating their doorsteps for the local festival of "Phool dehi", with bright red Rhododendron flowers.
Ramleela and Shivratri is the biggest festival for everyone and villagers prepare days in advance for the mela.
I remember, taking eleven kids in my jeep to Nainital town for the Amir Khan starrer, Dangal, last year. The eldest girl was in 11th standard and I realized none of these 11 kids had ever been to Nainital and they had never seen a movie in cinema hall. Fortunately, our Mukteshwar Himalayas are still not "exposed" to the outside world.
Mukteshwar is known as the fruit basket of Uttarakhand and it's a rich and fertile area. Generally, farmers don't use chemical fertilizer as they can't even afford it. That's a blessing in disguise.
We get fruits like apples, peaches, apricots, pears and walnuts in abundance apart from all possible vegetables. I realised that fruits can be so tasty and I developed healthy food habits.
At Cottage Nirvana, we are blessed with natural springs in our land and we also have a beautiful waterfall,"BhaluGaad" in the vicinity.
Absolutely sparkling clear Himalayan Mineral water and you don't need any water purifier of any kinds.
During rains, we have this massive rivulet that swells with rushing water and offers a rejuvenating natural Jacuzzi.
I have grown up reading Jim Corbett and Ruskin Bond.
In fact, Jim Corbett shot one of the most infamous man eater tigress here at Mukteshwar and his father also used to be the post master of Mukteshwar post office. The old PWD bungalow in the IVRI controlled campus is where Corbett used to stay often during his hunting expeditions. Even today, when I sit and read any of his stories in the dense oak forest around Mukteshwar, he is able to transport me back to early British era and one can sense Jim's soul around keeping an eye on the forest.
It is the women of the house who tills the land, goes to forest for fire wood and takes care of the cattle. They can put any person to shame by the sheer energy and hard work they put. I get to see kids walking for kilometers to reach to schools and nearest market. The comfort of the city has made all of us couch potatoes and we have become incapable of any physical activities. But these women farmers here carry so much of loads on their head and cover impossible distances and heights.
Having said so, they are so full of life and ever smiling.
I am also part of a small trust called, OCS Foundation, and we work closely with many women farmers and self-help groups in the region. We have also started a small restaurant, Nirvana Organic Kitchen, here we procure fresh and chemical free vegetables, other ingredients and masalas from these local farmers and they also get a chance to sell their produce directly to tourists from cities by avoiding the middle men.
You may call it giving back, but I actually call it creating a healthy community living.
Finally, I felt like I was at home
This village at Mukteshwar has welcomed me with open heart and open arms.
In last six years I have made lot of new friends from various age groups and I am invited at all weddings and celebrations in their lives. I get to live so close to Mother Nature and where everyone knows everyone and they live peacefully.
Now my friends from Delhi call me eccentric but I get to learn new things with children and villagers here and I feel happy when all of us grow trees during rains every year. I truly got to live the Himalayan village life for which I'll be forever grateful.
I chose Mukteshwar as it is about 45 kms from touristy Nainital and nearest rail head is Kathgodam .You have daily Shatabdi connectivity (and two more trains) between Delhi and Kathgodam. From Kathgodam you can easily reach Mukteshwar in less than two hours, the distance is about 60 kms. The weather is amazing, even during peak summers our maximum temperature is 31-32 degrees. In terms of altitude, Mukteshwar is 2380 meters, even higher than Nainital.
Internet connectivity at Cottage Nirvana, where I stay is not so good, you are dependent on smart phones but then you are really connected well with nature.
I go to my restaurant at Sargakhet every day, it's about 4 kms, where we have a Wi-Fi connection. And magnificent view of Panchachuli peaks is an added advantage.
How else can you live in the village if you don't have a remote job?
Volunteer – There are several opportunities to volunteer in Mukteshwar with OCS Foundation .You won't get paid, but your accommodation and food will be taken care of. Work with women farmers, teach computer to our children, and work for our Organic store. Let me know if are a good Yoga teacher or if you are good with social media.
Besides providing a spectacular panoramic view of the splendid wilderness, Cottage Nirvana is also an ideal place where you wouldn't want to do anything but bask in the sunny afternoon and admire the magnificent natural splendor of this place read more