Apples of Himachal! What if we get to stay in an Apple orchard near Shimla in Himachal!!
During our June 2012 sojourn in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, apple trees were flowering almost everywhere. Younger kid, who was only four then, wondered “All these flowers will become apples! How tasty the tree will be?”
“I will eat all the apples – gap-gapa-gap-gap” gestured he, with his small hands.
There and then, the seed was planted for “Apple Plucking trip” to Himachal Pradesh. Finding a place to stay in an Apple orchard was easy since Himachal Pradesh has a good number of home-stays. Our place of choice was in Matiana, a small village forty-three km away from Shimla.
Apple! The name conjures up many stories. As per Christian belief, it was Apple – the forbidden fruit, in the Garden of Eden, that tempted Adam and Eve to commit the first sin. I am thankful to them for the sin, else you and I would not be here.
It continued its temptress tag to Greeks as well. Beautiful Atlanta was tempted with ‘three golden apples’, thrown by cunning Hippomenes to defeat her in the race. Thus he fulfilled her condition of marriage and married her. And think who gave him those apples? Aphrodite, the Goddess of love.
Even our generation has its own tale to tell. Now, who does not get enamoured by Apple Notebook, iPhone, iPad. So Apple still continues its temptress tag.
Despite all of its despised tags – temptation, fall of man, sin, I was least bothered to my encounter with this low hanging, abundant fruit on trees. My younger one couldn’t even spell temptation and elder was not yet in queue to adulthood, forget about the chance of sin. As for us, we are legally and socially approved Sinners. So the matter ended there.
The train journey from Delhi to Kalka was as usual; greenery, villages, ponds and rivers and green farms. At Kalka station, kids ran to take a peek into the Kalka-Shimla toy train. Our taxi driver, Mr Mohan, was amused. He waited patiently till they had their inspection of toy train carried out.
Once in taxi, we climbed up the mountains and zipped past Solan and Shimla.
The valleys were misty and the mountains green. Further up, there were clouds pushed off their laps by the misty valleys as these clouds were grown enough. The clouds rose and sat here and there on the mountains. Some could never keep still and floated aimlessly, till they grew up chubby enough and finally sat. Valleys were fertile and kept creating more and more clouds. Soon all the clouds occupied all the possible spaces on mountains and rest stood still above the valleys. We could see neither the valley nor the mountains. Wind whipped the lazy bums and out they ran, up, up, and up. They scattered, lost their chubbiness and surrounded us. Now we could not see the valley, the mountain and not even the clouds. They rolled over on the car and entered inside. We came out and felt them.
My elder kid said to the younger one – “You can fill a box with these misty clouds, take it to the school and set them free in the class. All the kids will then hide in these clouds and teacher will not be able to see you. You can do all that you want, then.”
Younger one’s eyes twinkled, “Mamma, Do you have a box? A big box.”
Mr Mohan laughed and laughed, while I explained to my son the science and my elder one tempted him with more of such bright ideas. Elder one won and I lost. In the meantime, a ray of sun sneaked through the mist and scampered the clouds away. Valleys looked bright in the golden green, and soon sent more clouds up to tie the sun in a chubby cloudy blanket.
We drove up and up, and sun, clouds and valley played peek-a-boo all along. Valleys now looked covered up even when mist rolled away; apple trees were blanketed in soft nets to save the fruits from vagaries of weather.
We reached Matiana just before sun set and were welcomed with fresh juice of apples by our host. We were in their balcony, looking at the apples in the orchard. Clouds by now were having their last play with sun. The play peaked into a celebration of colors. Red, orange, yellow, purple and pink; out came all and were splattered randomly in the sky.
It rained the whole night. Kids dreamt of apples and apples. It continued to rain intermittently till late morning. Kids were becoming impatient. They wanted to go apple-plucking. By noon, rain stopped and out we went for plucking.
A bang-bang-bang resonated in the orchard. Our host replied, “They are banging the tin-box to thwart the birds and the monkeys from feasting on the apples.”
“The red apples are of two varieties – the Red and the Royal. The green apples are called the Golden. Plucking will start in next week. Till then, we have to support the branches with sticks and ropes.”
He showed kids how to pluck. Kids plucked the Red ones and we took a bite. Some juice trickled down to my elbow while the sweetness filled the mouth. I licked my hand, all the way down to elbow.
“A Golden variety is planted for every six-seven red variety, because it attracts more bees and thus accelerates pollination in the red one also.”
I wondered. This temptress, who originated ‘sin’ in the world, itself needs an aphrodisiac to ‘sin’ properly!
Having plucked and relished apples, we decided to walk. Clouds hang on every peak and were multiplying rapidly. We took two big, black umbrellas and went out for a walk on a link road connecting Matiana to Thiyog. As all roads in hills, this too was winding along valleys, in the shelter of mountains. A few houses here and there, and the terrace upon terrace of apple orchards. Mist rolled upon valleys, covering one house, then another and another. Kids laughed and laughed, ran here and there and placed bets when mist will roll upon this or that house. It ascended and ascended and finally reached till the road. We could see nothing, not even the road. It lingered there and then gradually blew away, revealing the houses and the apple-filled valleys.
When it started to rain, kids went back to the homestay, but we continued. Holding hands, we walked on that empty road, amidst the mist and clouds, under one umbrella.
Wind stirred the leaves to whisper and rain dropped upon them with a drip-drip-drip. Leaves bent down and softly pushed the drops down silently. Many drops did not want to lose their shape so quickly and hanged on the leaves and flowers. The fallen rain drops huddled together and became streams. They flowed down the mountains, onto road, drowned our feet, and rushed down to valleys.
The dark clouds groaned and moaned upon their loss. Sun, hidden behind them, assured that he will bring their treasure back from the valleys. Wind rustled through the mountains onto valleys, to tell them of Sun’s promise. Valleys smiled that they will again be golden green.
I knit my fingers tightly around my husband’s fingers. “Meghdootam” echoed in my mind, where Kalidasa describes the pain of the Nayak exiled by Kuber, who asks clouds to become messenger to take message of his love to his lover, Nayika.
If Book of Genesis was written in Himachal, rain would be held responsible to cause the man to ‘sin’, not the apples.