Passing by dark and empty streets, hallways or corridors, most of us tend to get reminded of some scary ghost encounter from the last horror movie we watched or the last paranormal-themed novel we read. Agreed, this happens more often than not, but real life is very different from reel life or the pages of a Doranna Durgin story as I found out during my weekend trip to Lansdowne, a popular hill station in Uttarakhand.
I’d been planning a trip to the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the insomniac urban life, for a while. I wanted to visit a place where people go back to their cosy homes as soon as darkness creeps in, and nightlife is something that only nocturnal animals experience.
Hitting the highway and breezing through the 200-kilometer route like a free bird, I managed to pull over at a resort in six hours sharp; stopping only twice on the way for lunch, tea and some chips. Once at peace after a two-hour rest, I went out for an evening stroll along the rough road that outlined the dense woods.
As I was walking back to the resort, alongside the swamps, I got a feeling that I was being watched by someone close by; an eerie silence echoed in my ears as I tried to keep in pace with the deepening twilight in an attempt to avoid the jaunt from becoming a nightmare.
There was something peculiar about everything around me as I was crossing the hedge around the swamps. I was breathing heavily; which I could justify to myself was due to the fact that I had been walking briskly. However, as I went along what looked like an age old shrine I felt a cold chill pass by me, and it was nothing like anything I’d have felt even on the coldest winter night. I couldn’t notice anything, nor did I hear anything, but I felt as if I was walking into some kind of strange vacuum, as I could feel that chill pass through every single vein in my body. I suddenly experienced an overwhelming feeling ofmy senses being taken over by another force, which amazed and scared me at the same time.
In an attempt to break free from the invisible grapple, I tried my best to think of something that would divert my mind. But all in vain! There seemed to be something around that ancient shrine that was pulling me towards it and the closer I went, the more I felt possessed by the unknown force.
Staggering and struggling through the woods, I somehow managed to make it to the resort. I was dead tired and needed some rest, so I fell asleep as soon as I lay myself down on the bed. Deep in my sleep, I went in to a state of trance and saw the same broken shrine again, and this time I went near it to end my curiosity about that strange encounter. As I looked upon it, I realized that the shrine was home to a wandering soul, which, as I suppose, was not very keen on allowing human beings to trespass its guarded territory.
I gave a fresh new start to the next day by paying a short visit to the renowned St. Mary’s Church in search of some inner peace after the disquiet night, followed by a walk through Lover’s Lane (where I felt a little out-of-place being alone!) and an exciting trek to Tip-in-Top, which is a major tourist hotspot in Lansdowne. The day ended with a bonfire and sumptuous dinner at the resort, and I went to bed on a nostalgic note as I had to drive back to Delhi the next day and get into the usual urban lifestyle, as the hectic schedules and the rat-race of the metropolitan beckoned me.
I had checked in at Lansdowne like a lone traveller with nothing more than a backpack on me, but I checked out with a whole lot of memories which will last for a lifetime.