Sneha and her father went into the dining hall first. It was adjacent to the double storied hut they were staying in.
No one actually dares to make a venture to the hills during this season, end of December as it was.
But Sneha's father would always think that the beauty of the hills could only be understood in its roughness.
It's solemnity, according to Partho, Sneha's dad, comes out best in winter.
"In summer hills become maidens...they dress themselves up, quite contrary to the plains..."
Partho would say.
Sneha would try to make out her father's words. Not that she realised everything but then she got mom to explain things to her.
Her mom, Kaushani.
Kaushani would just tell her stories from folklore.
Recently Kaushani bought her a book for children by Sudha Murthy.
It had stories which enthralled her.
'In our times, we had those granny's tales...we used to call them Thakurma's Jhuli...'
Kaushani would tell Sneha.
This morning, the weather being full of mist, fog and dew, they had decided to laze.
Breakfast would be served soon at the hall.
Barring them only one family had tucked themselves into that fairly decent double storied hut.
The caretaker, Ajay, would wake early in the morning and then he would bathe and dress up in leather jacket and jeans.
He would always appear as someone who was going to do some party.
Neat, well dressed, perfume coming out of his body.
Sneha would ask her mom,'These people always seem to be smiling...what could be the reason?'
Kaushani would say,'ask your father, he would explain things to you better...'
Now that they were sitting at the table, she and her dad, Sneha thought it would be great if she would make that query.
After all her father had spent his life in hills at one point.
'Dad, why I find these people always smiling? '
She asked her father.
Partho was then trying to read something pinned on the softboard at the dining hall...some of those who had come earlier to this place had left their handwritten notes about the place, its surroundings, the hospitality of the people attached to the lodge.
'Due to the location...'
'Yes... These people are constantly fighting for their survival...they don't even know when an avalanche would come down upon them...besides the population being sparse and the level of pollution being to the minimum, the exhaustion and stress factors are minimal...add to that the silence and the awesome natural bounty here, not tarnished...it is like living in a heaven almost...free from din and bustle, needless hurries...'
Partho kept on explaining.
Sneha tried to grasp what her dad was saying.
Just then Kaushani came.
Sneha could see she had with her brought a boy.
A few years older than Sneha.
Partho smiled seeing the boy.
Sneha was not sure what she could do.
But seeing her father smiling, she smiled too.
'Partho, have you got something to record voice or song?'
'Of course...dad's phone!'
'Bring it out nah...'
Partho brought his cell and gave it to Kaushani.
'Thokmay, play it once for us, please, will you?'
Kaushani asked the boy.
A typical boy from the hills.
Not very well dressed.
In fact a rustic smell was emanating from him.
But, he brought out from his back pocket of ragged jeans, a flute and started playing it.
The mist, the fog, the chill, the silence of the morn, the coldness of the place and that tune of the flute, all got mixed up.
Sneha was looking at the boy.
He was playing the flute keeping his eyes closed, only his fingers were running to and fro on those holes of the wooden pipe.
But the tune was so marvellous that even after the boy stopped playing it, Kaushani forgot to press the off button on the phone which recorded the tune.
Partho, took the phone in his hand and stopped the record tab.
An unhindered sense of satiety filled the hall.
Kaushani asked the care taker to add one plate extra to the order of breakfast they had placed.
Ajay, the caretaker said, 'There are several of them here, madam...'
'That I know...'
Partho and Sneha by that time had started talking with the boy.
'Come you boy, the unhindered!'
Partho patted the boy's shoulders,
'Which football team do you support?'
'ISL or National league?'
The boy asked back.
The breakfast arrived just then.
'Why football dad? Don't they play other games?'
'We love to play football because that's easy for us to play...we need only a ball...when we do not get a ball, we play with smaller rubber balls...nowadays we are also playing cricket and hockey...but those games are what you call... expensive...'
'I would try to give you money, you can buy a cricket bat, or a hockey stick or any sports good you want to buy...'
He was giggling.
'Now play on kid...let's have an encore...'
And the flute blew sweetness to the cold air.
Kaushani told her daughter.
'I will...but first let me play a different tune for you...it is a Tibetan song...'
Thokmay said as he wiped his mouth by the back of his palm, getting ready for a tune to be created out of that wooden pipe.
(*Thokmay- a typical name of a boy with Tibetan origin, meaning unobstructed or unhindered)