Baazigar – Week 3 : Mcleodganj

(It is Friday and it is time to hear from Kunj on his unique journeys! All of you who wish to know the background to this ‘Baazigar’ column on please read here)

For earlier posts on Kashmir and Amritsar, click here : Baazigar Series

Day 1 at Mcleodganj – You reach 3 hours late because the goddamn buses are slow and rickety and the driver puts the whole bus on hold for a hearty lunch and a relieving piss. You are underwhelmed by the journey because after Kashmir, the ride from Pathankot to Mcleodganj is insipid. It’s a sorry anti-climax. You carry your luggage through 2 kms of steep slope to reach your guesthouse, unsure of whether you should be staying this far from the main square. You were bored on your last day at Amritsar and the current day hasn’t been much of an improvement.

And then you walk into Illiterati – the only cafe near your guesthouse. Heck, the only building near your guesthouse! You enter and you feel as if you have been transported to another world. There is Spanish music playing – you cant tell the language but you can tell the beat – its Salsa. Pretty Tibetans, handsome Germans, stoned Israelis, benevolent Belgians are all there – lounging, smoking, eating, dancing, grooving, reading, browsing, etc. You can feel the vibe of the music and urge your friend to join you in taking the dance floor. After being offered 3 times, you finally cover the refusal-hesitance-acceptance curve and are on the dance floor, trying to show that you know some moves. Then you go back to talk to your friends when a Tibetan girl walks up to to you asks you to dance with her. Your jaw falls off because such things never happen to you and might never happen again either. She is not exactly ravishing but she is smiling and flush with all the dancing and that makes her radiant to look at. Once the dancing is done, you go back to your table and a massive Belgian waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce is waiting for you, while the Tibetan girls decide to try a little shimmy on Dhak Dhak Karne Laga. The day ends with the Belgian owner narrating his love story through wisps of smoke and some soulful piano.

Belgian Waffles at Illiterati


The Illiterati view


My rendezvous with Mcleodganj had only just begun!

2 days later, my friends decided they wanted to undertake the trek to Triund which is a 9km long uphill trek through some very rocky terrain. Now given that my experience of serious trekking is, well, nil, I wasn’t sure I would even be able to make it. But I did. And in pretty good time too. I managed to keep up with a friend who runs marathons quite regularly. Well, just about! I have never been much of a sportsman and I have never stretched my body to its limits too often, but this trek took everything out of me and I was happy that I returned with some gas still in the tank. The joy of exhausting yourself physically, reaching the top of a mountain and then looking down to see where you came from is one of those most unadulterated, pure joys of life.

What I found fascinating was how harmoniously the Indians, Tibetans and foreigners live here. The foreigners come from all over the world over here to introspect, reinvigorate and find peace, and by the time I was here for 5 days, I started getting it. The Dalai Lama and his brand of Buddhism’s stamp is so strongly evident on this place, that everything is so spiritual – right from the act of greeting someone on the road, to serving food in the restaurants. I found myself losing patience for talk about worldly things like technology companies and political scandals and career planning. In fact, I feel I am also losing patience for any conversation without depth and gravitas. While in Bombay all my effort is to come down to match the character of the place, here the effort is to rise up to match it.

There are so many foreigners who have moved to this place from their respective countries. And sometimes I can see myself settling here. I could run a little café with loads and loads of books and music and films to choose from. I could write during the day and smoke cigars and have single malt during the nights; maybe even marry the next girl who asks me for a dance! I could never get tired of looking at the snow-capped Dhauladhars from the balcony of my café. I could take up hobbies on a whim and really pursue them – like learn to play the piano one day and learn some Urdu the other day. But my reason to be in Bombay was also travelling with me. It was a joy to have shared these experiences with close friends and also having had some of them only thanks to them. Mcleodganj would have been beautiful alone, but with friends it was epic! What’s a beautiful place worth if I can’t see my happiness for it reflected in the eyes of people I love?


There are many things that can spark an idea for a story. It could be a word, a picture, a film. In my case here, it was a piece of piano music. When you are sitting alone at sunset in a café overlooking the Himalayas and the owner of your café decides to play this haunting tune on his piano, it would take a real hard-ass to not be influenced. The composition is called Gnosienne 3 by a French composer called Erik Satie (please check below). All my intentions of writing a sunny, happy story went out of the window. I still hear the piano playing in my ears, being egged on by the subdued stream and the nocturnal insects to rip through all these layers of security, confidence and trust that we kid ourselves and our dear ones with. I ended up making a story to suit the background score, rather than the other way round.

Next stop – Mussoorie. Well, as of now. Might just decide to head off to Rishikesh instead.

What a life!


(Kunj Sanghvi will be writing about his experiences in each new city every week on At various junctures on this trip, he’ll be found working over cups of coffee in coffee shops across the country. He’d love to meet, talk, discuss with anyone who’d care to meet him; just to know the city and its people better. Follow him on twitter here – @kunjsanghvi. He blogs here.

About Kunj – Kunj Sanghvi is a B.Com graduate from Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics and MBA from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad(MICA). Prior to plunging into this adventure he was a Senior Manager at Hindustan Times. He has also worked with in the past. )


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What a life. I'm jealous…

Totally agree with the joy felt after physically exhausting oneself. Though it works only if you're inspired to do it. For example, doesn't work in the gym.

Loved the coming down vs. rising up bit.

Fühl Dich umarmt (no points for guessing which language this is)