After a monumental day that began in Kasar Devi, with not-so-pleasant visits to Nainital & Haldwani that somehow ended in Bageshwar, things could only get better from here.
Life seemed much better next morning; the Delhi to Munsyari bus had been changed to Delhi – Thal and was supposed to leave from Bageshwar at 9 am. I had chai and parle g biscuits and sat in the bus. After hardly 30 minutes into the drive, I chatted up with my co-passanger. He was a local but was worked in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. We instantly struck a chord and discussed about the desert and how he had to spend almost 3 days just to reach home in Kumaon, Uttarakhand. He asked me my name and I was pleasantly surprised when he happened to know my family name due to the Rajasthani connection.
He was heading to attend a wedding in his family and asked me if I wanted to come and see a traditional Kumaoni wedding. A million questions went through my head when he said so. What if something wrong happened this time again? To know the back story of this, read my previous post Failures on the Road : Running in circles, in Kumaon.
Like always, I chose to let the good side win and said we can give it a try as the village was anyway on the way to Munsyari. The bus dropped us in Thal and since it was lunch-time, we headed to a dhaba and had food. I wasn’t sure if my stomach liked the food in Uttarakhand; it started grumbling again.
I quickly saw the ancient looking Shiva Temple close to the main road in Thal. Our destination was a village by the name of Nachni, which was only a 12 km distance away from Thal. We found a shared taxi headed that side and somehow made it with 10-12 other people already in the taxi. When we finally made it to the home where the wedding party had gathered, it was already 2:30 pm and a festive atmosphere prevailed in the air. It had been a cloudy day and that ensured a cool breeze blew near Nachni.
The family’s home was a short walk down the stairs from the main road. I could see the Ramganga river from the road itself. The waters were a pretty green and a small beach like space welcomed me when I walked to the banks of the river. It was a very pretty and charming setting. A younger member of the house was told to show me around while everyone else was meeting each other and exchanging pleasantries. It seemed like a poor family and I once again realised that the ‘poorest people have the biggest hearts.’
Also read : The Goodness of Strangers : Curfew in Kashmir
Manish’s mother showed me a space to keep my bags where they won’t be disturbed. My dslr camera was proving to be a huge hit and everyone from the kids to the oldies was posing. Everyone was a photographer that day. After an hour or two, we went walking to a nearby temple. One of the boys spoke about fresh ‘stuff’ to smoke from Munsyari and clandestinely went ahead near the beach. Two small kids also accompanied us and urged me to go ahead and have a bath in the river!
More relatives arrived through the day from far and sundry and I was introduced to one and all. A few had already started drinking as it neared evening. Kids were having a gala time with savouries being fried and food preparations in full swing. A DJ jeep had also come and they were fitting some electric wires with colourful cardboards like wooden boxes. The speakers were seriously huge and I wondered how far the noise would reverberate. My stomach troubles seemed to be at bay, largely because I had refrained from eating anything after lunch.
At times I felt awkward to seemingly barge in on a family wedding I had no idea about, and yet at other times it was all worthwhile when the family made me feel welcome. Once it was dark and the DJ floor was lit up, things started getting pretty crazy and interesting. Kids jumped and sang Kumaoni and Garhwali songs. The groom’s brother-in-law seemed like a docile and laid back person throughout the day but as soon as he was on the DJ dance floor he began to dance as if he was possessed. Needless to say, he put the floor on fire and brought life into the proceedings.
I danced when others around forced me to; and quietly slid away in a corner when I could. It was fun to observe things from afar, and also notice the preparations being made for the wedding rituals that was to be held in the night. Everyone from the village had joined in the celebrations and it was pretty special to hear the gurgling sound of the Ramganga river when the music stopped.
My stomach had started acting up again and I was now less certain if I really wanted to be a part of tomorrow’s ceremony too. Dinner had been laid out and I ate as less as I could, for fear of troubling these kind hearted people during the marriage ceremony! Although the dancing continued late into the night, I was really tired after two very contrasting days and opted to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, my stomach was in even more dire straits. The wedding ceremonies continued and the groom’s side was supposed to walk with the horses amid much fanfare to Didihat (the bride’s village). I asked the family to find me space in a shared sumo to Munsyari, to avoid unforeseen health troubles. They really wanted me to stay but understood my predicament and agreed. It was a lucky day as a shared sumo was departing from Thal and a seat was arranged for me.
Munsyari was said to be a 3 hour drive from Nachni, I bade the family goodbye and thanked them profusely for the experience. It was a lovely road trip and we stopped for breakfast at Tejam, where I had tea but it only made things worse. After another stop at Kwity where I chanced upon some fruits, we continued the journey past the gorgeous Birthi Waterfalls and paid our respects at Kalamuni Top Temple.
Munsyari would prove to be the start of an epic summer in Kumaon.
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