Memories of another day, or you would be closer to the truth if you’d call it another lifetime. The calendar had shed many months. A hush descended in the school the corridors. In mid-October, almost by magic on the right hand top corner of our blackboard were scrawled the alphabets: DLTGH. To those outside boarding school, they meant little or at best, nothing. But to those tucked away for nine months within the confines of a gated community, it meant only one thing – the scent of freedom! Home!

The ‘days left to go home’ routine would bring a lump in your throat like a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It would sneak up on us without a word spoken. It was time to bid farewell to the winterline.

For at dusk, to the west, streaks of red, pink, orange, mauve, violets and crimson were splattered across the autumnal sky, as if a razor had slashed across the sky behind which the sun disappeared. And for that brief, fleeting moment, the snow-capped Himalaya to the north and the low lying Siwaliks to the south were awash in golden glory.

‘Why do you Mussoorie folks go on and on about the winterline?’ I’ve often been asked. ‘Isn’t it just another sunset!?’

No! It is not. Definitely not!

It’s much more than that.

The stunning spectacle is created by a unique set of factors. Foremost being the hill station’s sudden elevation from the plains. Our first foothills rise abruptly, well over a mile high in the sky over the valley of the Doon which is just thirty odd kilometers away. With the temperature falling, the inverse air-currents trap dust particles, moisture and smoke which settle over the valley down below to creating an artificial horizon. So while elsewhere in the world, the sun sets behind a fixed geographical feature – be it a tree, a mound, a hillock, a mountain or the sea. Up here the Lord of the Skies, vanishes behind this aerial line!

And we are not the only recipients of nature’s gift.

Cape Town is similarly blessed. Down there, the Table Top Mountain rises abruptly to rest like a crouched lion on the very tip Africa. It is almost 3500 feet above the landmark beaches of Clifton and Camp Bay. The difference, if you can call it that, is that the fiery line there forms over the waters of the Altantic Ocean and the sun sets not in the ocean, as it normally would, but above the water behind their own winterline.

Of course sometimes in winter, airborne travelers can see a similar phenomenon at the time of take-off and landing or over the wide open expanses of the desert — it appears briefly, vanishing no sooner the aircraft scurries to greater heights. But it’s ephemeral. Here one moment and gone the very next.

Want a glimpse of the real thing? Want to see the horizons march?

Come to Mussoorie and Landour at the witching hour.Be warned. Statutory warning: you’ve got to slow down in our bazaars. Our narrow lanes were not meant for cars.

Just be sure you get to the top of the hill well before dusk. Free seating guaranteed. Get comfortable. Feel exclusive. Feel special. Or choose your own spot: from the sun-bleached cliffs of Jharipani to the wind-smeared heights of Park Estate, or deodar clad Lal Tibba to balding Gun Hill.

Truly! Come witness an epic in a world running out of short stories!

 

Ganesh Saili

Ganesh Saili

Ganesh Saili wears many hats and, miraculously, sometimes, some of the hats actually fit! If you find him not teaching photography to the young Officer Trainees at National Academy of Administration, he’s probably trekking the high mountains, capturing in words and images the beauty of his roots in the Himalaya. Settled atop a spur in Landour’s, he has had the good fortune of living in these hills, seeing the changing facets of the hill station and recording it in over two dozen books. His screenplay for the film Splendour of Garhwal & Roop Kund won the Panorama Film Festival Award in 1994. In 1995, he was awarded the Sanghi Trophy for Best Travel Writing, and he followed it up in 1997 with the National Award for Best Travel Writing (English).

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