This is how my friend described Mussoorie, a hill town in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the state of Uttarakhand: “It’s as though someone has been up all night, scrubbing the sky!” Normally, that is what’s to be expected. Radiant blue skies of autumn. But the monsoon came early, and with a vengeance, causing flooding that wiped out villages in July. And it’s staying late. The scrubbers still scrubbing, nothing to see from down here on the ground but mist and clouds. Normal, these days, is no longer normal.
But the air is magnificent, and I’m high from the oxygen as much as the altitude (2000+ meters).
USIEF has provided us with a list of Fulbright-Nehru fellows and we connect like sparks across India. As I passed through Dehradun on my way from Delhi, I met with Valerie Banschbach, to learn more about her work with using ants as bio-indicators, comparing their populations on farms using organic practices versus those using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The lowdown: nearly 700 species of ants in India, a vast diversity, doing best on lands not saturated with chemicals. I look forward to seeing her work when published.
Then the drive up up up UP into the clouds to the soundtrack of Adele (driver’s choice). Hair-pin curves so hairpinny that they sometimes demanded a k-turn. Honking our way through the invisible, doused in clouds. It’s so magical, though I can’t see a thing beyond the sheer cliffs that drop off into nothing, houses planted impossibly into the rock and air. Only the occasional glimpse of a ridge line, a row of building, a swath of evergreen trees in silhouette. I don’t think I have ever been in such steep terrain. I write from the ground floor of a guest house in Landour (two kilometers from Mussoorie), where the language school that I have to come study at is located, and am looking out at treetops, feeling as though in flight.