Yes, “Been there, Doon that!”
Doon here reads as Dehradoon, the quaint, little city nestled in Uttarakhand’s, Himalayan Doon valley, about 30 kms away from the popular hill station, Moussourie.
Recently I was at Dehradoon for the Valley of Words 2017, an international literature and arts festival that was held in partnership with IndiBlogger. Indiblogger is a proactive blogging community that abides by the philosophy Blog Now, Live Forever #BNLF. Those three days at Dehradoon, attending some thought provoking sessions by authors and spokespersons like Nadan Neelkantan, Namita Ghokale, Jairam Ramesh, Bharat Joshi, Kanchana Banerjee, Ravi Nawal etc.; were an eye opener, and of immense learning value. Though I wish I had an extra window of time to attend more panel discussions and go sight-seeing with my blogger buddies. I was unable to do the latter, due to the time constraint and my keenness to attend the author line ups. And since I flew back home on Sunday morning, I was not able to attend many other sessions. But then there are lots of good news here too.
I did take back with me arm-loads of precious memories, of the wonderful time I had. I met friends from the blogosphere who I had been interacting for a year. It was absolutely amazing to connect one-on-one. Not for once did we feel we were meeting for the first time. We owe it to Indiblogger for bringing us together on this amazing platform and being our social glue. Indiblogger ensured we were well taken care of, indulged us in various useful and stimulating discussions on blogging, till to the wee hours of the morning; when all we wanted to do was curl into our warm beds and cosy quilts and drop off to sleep. But sleep was meant to be put on the back burner these two nights, as we sat huddled in the conference room. But since I’m an “early to bed person” the last night I had to cut short my stay, and return to my room. I for sure missed out on some good fun, after all it was the night of the grand finale.
Indiblogger also arranged a Ruskin Bond walk for us, on Saturday morning, which we all thoroughly enjoyed and cherished. Though Mr. Bond himself was MIA (missing in action). Yes, we all imagined he would be part of the walk. Little did we realise that the poor, old man, guards his privacy fiercely and is not up to trudging 3-4 kms.
The walk is conducted by a bunch of enthusiastic people who have taken upon them to preserve the heritage of this little township. The group is called, Been There, Doon That. The walk traced Ruskin Bond’s earlier days in Doon, as it took us through Ashley Hall, which housed his little pad away from home, when he ran away from his own. A school he attended just for a day, White House hotel where he went to unwind and write. And little snippets from his friendship with Ashley, of the Ashley hall fame were narrated to us with much ardor. We also heard tales about the famous Pahadi Wilson, Ashley’s grandfather and a mafia of sorts in those days. His story would put many a Bollywood blockbusters to shame. You can read a bit of his masala story at BackPackNomads Blog.
Well, the post walk breakfast was a treat of sorts, wherein we ordered an assortment of food items, washing it down with coffee and even sweet, kesar lassi. I know crazy combo, but who cares when you are ravenous as a wolf. Our group of bloggers ate, engaged in some nitter-natter and then converged together for the Indiblogger photo shoot. Hail! Bikanerwala it was.
We returned to our rooms satiated in stomach and soul. We put our feet up to grab 42 winks, before heading out for the author line ups.
The evenings had soul-stirring musical performances in store for us. On the first night we had the amazing, Bobby Cash (no, not Johnny Cash’s brother, but as good, I must say) crooning Summer Wine, Something Stupid, Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love; to name just a few. The next evening there was a fusion band jamming with multiple instruments- ukulele, sitar, tambourine, guitar and drums; belting out a medley of awe-inspiring music. There was a Tibetian dance too; though nothing home to write about.
In all this busyness and awesomeness, I also went for another Heritage walk with the Been There, Doon That people, to the Saint Francis Church, The Forest Research Institute, the Clock Tower and some more.
And surprises of surprises, I met my college mate, Nidhi after 27 long years!!! She was one of the organisers. Though we managed to grab a quick picture, we hardly had time to catch up as she was busy managing the VOW festival. Sometimes life comes your way, full circle with these beautiful surprises.
Before I left Doon, I made sure I picked the famous Kwality, Stick Jaw candies, a hot favourite with my in-laws. I also made sure I gathered all these wonderful memories and carried them back with me, storing them for yonder. I will keep looking back and reminisce all these treasured moments spent with a bunch of talented blogger and the warm-hearted, Indiblogger team. Thanks Renie, Anoop and rest of the gang who toiled so hard behind the scenes, to make our trip one that we will continue to remember for a very long time to come.
Linking up with the amazing lady, Corinne Rodrigues
Linking up with the lovely Mom, Mackenzie