HOMESTAY AT DHARAMKOT
Our first day after we arrived at Dharamkot was spent exploring our surroundings. Of course, the first thing we did was take a walk around the village to acquaint ourselves. The cold air and high altitude made it a little difficult for Dev to breathe, considering he still had a bit of a cold, so I didn’t force him to walk if he wasn’t up for it. While he did walk short distances, for our longer trips to the museum, the Himalayan Yoga Institute or even when it came to paying respect to the Dalai Lama at the Kala Chakra Temple, we used local transportation to get around. Dev had never been as excited to try new things. He loved interacting with the village kids, and they even played games. He fit right in! After our visit, we indulged in the local cuisine and Dev enjoyed a hearty vegetable soup and the chow mein.
The next day, the weather had other plans for us. It was pouring and the winds were blowing with a certain vengeance. It looked to us like we would have to remain indoors. Honestly though, that wasn’t such a bad thing because this meant we had a chance to get better acquainted with our host family, Dev could rest and get completely alright, and we could learn so much about the culture and history from them. Dev and the boys became instant friends and were off playing their own games and just being kids. When it finally stopped raining, the boys ventured out in the back yard of the house to climb trees and race each other. My friends chose to go on a short hike but I stayed put and had some much-needed ‘me time’. I really couldn’t ask for more.
ONWARD TO RAKKAR
With all the love, warmth and amazing hospitality the host family showed us, we were a little reluctant to leave for the last leg of our journey. Dev was having such a good time and he didn’t want to leave his new-found friends. But, we did have an itinerary, and a lot left to do. So, we bid farewell to our hosts and set off for Rakkar. And just like in Dharamkot, we were being hosted by a local family for the one night that we were there.
When we finally made it, we were beside ourselves that we chose to be here for just one night. This humble village seemed like it had leapt right out of The Hobbit. It was almost like we had arrived at The Shire. Humble cottages scattered about a stream, and each home had their own cattle and livestock. It was a mesmerising sight, one that will remain with me for a long time. I really did regret not staying here longer. Just watching Dev interact and be his friendly self, made me want to extend our stay. Dev was completely taken by the village and went off to explore. I was a little nervous when he approached one of the locals working in his farm. But when I saw that Dev had offered to help him, and was eager to learn, I only kept encouraging him. He fed the goats, helped pick up dried leaves, picked up sticks on his head, helped some women wash clothes in the stream, visited the cowsheds and a whole lot more. He felt like a winner and seemed like he completely belonged there. The locals were instantly taken by him and were only too glad to have him tag along.
The rest of our day went by all too fast. From our rustic lunch to candle-lit dinner of simple fare like rice, dal, roti and sabzi was delicious, to later huddling around the fi re to stay warm, everything was a dream. It’s too bad that we were woken up from it when it was time for us to leave this beautiful place.
HOME SWEET HOME
After a rather buttersweet farewell, we made our way to Pathankot station. Since it was quite a distance away, we did take one last chance to savour the flavours of Himachal Pradesh, and sampled some of the famous momos at a local eatery. With our bellies full, and huge smiles on our faces, we set off again and soon we boarded our train back to Mumbai, the villages and people left behind. We only had our wonderful memories to comfort us on our way back home.
If there’s one thing I learnt on this journey, it’s that I was never going to underestimate Dev. Yes, I would always be protective, but I would never hinder his curious spirit. What I’ve taken away from this trip is that I will definitely keep travelling with my son. But more than that, I’ve learnt to become a more open and receptive mum, and listen to my son. ■
THE TRAVEL PLAN
DAY 1- Depart for Amritsar via the Golden Temple Express
DAY3- Reach Amritsar in the morning. Visit the Golden Temple. Enjoy the langar and depart for Dharamshala(Dharamkot).
DAY 4 & 5- Exlplore Dharamshala
DAY 6- Go to Rakkar(village) in the morning with an overnight stay
DAY 7- Depart to the Pathankot station and take the Swaraj Express back to Mumbai
DAY 8- Reach Mumbai
*The Homestay options, transport etc. was decided based on our connections with the locals like taking help from friends who have already travelled there. A friend had already visited Dharamshala a few months back and was practically like our local guide.
ESSENTIALS TO PACK WHEN TRAVELLING WITH A TODDLER
FOOD: When travelling to a new place, you might not know whether your child might take to the cuisine easily, especially if he is a fussy eater. To be safe, pack some of his favourites and familiar foods. Energy bars and healthy snacks can also help.
FIRST AID KIT: Thermometer, tablets for a cold, cough, upset tummy, allergies, band aid, cotton and ear buds, antiseptic cream, etc.
ENTERTAINMENT: Crayons, colouring book, puzzles, story books and a favourite toy.