Written by Nandini Sethi
Well-slept and rested for the first time in weeks, I was ready to begin the next chapter of my adventure: the quaint town of Dharamkot.
Through winding streets and steep paths, I panted my way to my shared room, somewhere in the maze of a hostel complex.
It was a sight to see: a tiny little cafe that doubled up as a check-in counter and also a co-working space for everyone who was bored of working from home. The sight was particularly peculiar, because here I was, in one of the most breathtaking towns, somewhere in a cafe with a distinct scent of coffee blended with cheap cologne, that overlooked mountains and hillside houses, but everyone’s attention was focused on their screens.
Maybe I was the weird one.
Very soon, however, I realized why the aroma of cheap cologne was exactly what was needed to traverse the town of Dharamkot.
Setting off on my journey, I decided to ditch the car on the narrow roads and take a walk, to find the perfect spot to sip on hot chocolate and slurp on Maggi and live my ultimate ‘mountain life’ fantasy.
The thing with chillier areas is your clothes feel too cold on your skin, and pretty soon your soft and supple skin is a mess of dry, flaky surface. Lathering on some lotion, I went along my destined path.
What I found was something I won’t ever forget: lanes peppered with rustic shops, vintage home-turned eateries, and people that proudly embodied the culture of a town never in the spotlight. It was truly inspired and inspiring at the same time.
As I sat ordering a milkshake at the Moonlight Cafe in Dharamkot, by the hills, the raw beauty of nature seemed more appealing than ever. Mystical, enchanting, striking… until bees. A swarm of bees slowly trickled into the open cafe and buzzed around foolishly.
For a minute, I ignored it. Then the swarm only grew larger in number. From one table to another, I kept running and they kept chasing.
At the far end of the cafe lay a closed space, an enclosed area that no one chose to occupy for the lack of a view. I made myself comfortable in the very spot. Until they followed me where it was impossible to enter.
Paranoid and a tad bit annoyed, I slurped down my milk and made my way out of the cafe.
Next door, was a similar one. Feet perched, the second milkshake ordered, and humming along to the soft song playing on the speakers, I was beginning to get over the trauma and enjoy the view when another swarm of bees came buzzing around my table.
The story only repeated itself here and in the next spot.
Now almost fuming in frustration, I angrily walked up the slope, rubbing balm on my cracked lips and lotion on my dry arms.
I stopped at a little shop, some trinkets catching my attention, only to look up and find something even more mesmerizing: a pair of electric blue eyes hooded with long lashes and tan-skin, a handsome young man serving as the cashier.
I smiled at him and asked the price for a random pair of earrings, too distracted by the newest view I had come to discover. He laughed, what I hoped wasn’t disinterestedly, and showed me a wider selection. Despite knowing I wasn’t going to purchase any of these items, I went along, to hear his voice and get sneaky glances into his captivating eyes.
But the moment of mystique and adventure was ruined by an individual bee in my line of sight making me squint and throw my hands around. In my stupor, I knocked over some expensive-looking trinkets, my bottle of lotion and lip balm, and along with it, my dignity.
“Hey”, the dreamy man screamed and shook my shoulders to snap me out of it and bring my attention back to the real world, where I had ruined his store like a crazy person.
“Oh my god,” I shouted, “I didn’t mean to, I am so sorry!” I hoped he wasn’t too annoyed, but as he collected the antique jewellery off the floor and handed me back my bottle of lotion, he only seemed to get more aggravated.
“What’s this?” He asked, pointing at the lotion.
“Well, it’s a bottle I purchased from the local shop the other day, it’s made of pure honey and jasmine,” I said nervously, scared he was going to throw me out of his shop.
“Madam,” he said dully, as my heart broke a little at the prospect of getting madam-zone, “if you are wearing honey on your skin, do you expect bees not to follow you?”
I cursed under my breath.
All it took was one layer of creamy goodness to ruin my day, have the neighbouring shopkeepers hiding their condescending smiles, and send my dreams of having a romantic love story flying out the window.
Pro-tip for those coming from big cities: don’t wear organic products in Dharamkot! Or any other place that thrives in real nature and not fake house plants!
It definitely was a long day, but hey, it made for a good story.