Mountain Walking

Imperial Style Leisure at Renuka Lake

In the third week of January 2018, Abhishek and I, along with two of our childhood friends, decided to head out to Renuka Lake for our annual catch-up trip. As is the case with all such trips of ours, we all wanted to go to some peaceful, “off-beat”-ish location, for we were getting together after 2 long years.

Our departure from Shimla was delayed but Abhishek was able to ensure that we reached the whereabouts of Renuka Lake before sunset. This aspect is very crucial in any trip that Abhishek does, for he doesn’t like to reach any destination in the dark when half the senses, orientation, and judgement capacity are already running low.

We had already gathered some information of our own regarding staying arrangements in and around Renuka Lake. Although we were aware that our last (and most probably the best) option would be to go to the HPTDC hotel at Renuka Lake, we started looking for hotels right from the time we reached Dadahu, a small town located 2 km from Renuka Lake. The few options we did check out in and around Dadahu didn’t really appeal as the views from the room windows were either of a wide and dry river bed, or clusters of houses and roads.

We picked up some essentials from the market at Dadahu and headed off to the HPTDC hotel. The dry look of the water bodies that we had crossed so far made us somewhat sceptical about the state of the Renuka Lake itself. However, as we neared the Renuka Mata Temple, it was a relief to see water in the Renuka Lake. We quickly parked the car and went inside the “Renuka” HPTDC hotel to start the check-in formalities.

As we walked into the hotel compound, we saw that the reception and restaurant was housed in a newer looking building. Our sights however lay on another single storeyed building that stood a little distance away, for we knew from our information that it was the old Forest Rest House building that was now a part of the HPTDC Renuka. We quickly finalised two “suites” in the old building and eagerly went ahead towards what was to be our abode for the next two days.

The roof of the rooms were very high, with wooden rafters, and these immediately transported us back into our childhood days in Shimla, when we used to stay in houses made during the British presence in India. The nostalgia of being in an Imperial accommodation continued as we spotted the fireplace with the mantle on top, along with the antechamber leading into the bathroom, and old clothes hangers both inside and outside. There were, however, quite a few modern gadgets and amenities, which although relevant in the present times, somewhat stood out as sore spots in an otherwise pleasant looking and feeling old style accommodation. The four of us gradually settled down into the evening over conversations old and new, and after enjoying the simple but great tasting freshly cooked food from the HPTDC kitchen, called it a night with no specific plans for the next day.

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Such clothes hangers outside the doors are a sign of the times bygone; Photo: Ameen Shaikh

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A glance at the old and new – the mantle above the fireplace (which would’ve been adorned by framed photographs in the old ages) is now occupied by a LCD TV and Satellite Dish Set Top Box, while the old clothes hanger tries to stay put against a newer plastic bottle of “mineral” water and a steel dustbin; Photo: Ameen Shaikh

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An enticing morning sight, with the sun just around the corner; Photo: Ameen Shaikh

We woke up to a cold and clear morning the next day. Stepping out of the room, the view in front of us was so mesmerising that ideally we would have immediately started going around the place, exploring. That was however not the agenda this time round, and we happily settled down back in the room to gulp tea and chit-chat while waiting for the sun to come up and warm us. After freshening up, we had a sumptuous breakfast comprising poori with aloo sabzi, aloo parathas, bread butter and coffee.

Our satiated stomachs gave us enough impetus to just come out of the room and into the wide veranda, which reminded me of various stories that I had read in childhood. I could easily visualise how the setting here would have been in the Imperial times – tea sessions being held in such verandas, with tables and chairs set around, the warm sun and soothing winds adding flavour to conversations, children running around and playing while enjoying the terraced flower beds and small grass lawns that had a line of short plants acting as the borders.

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Rough translation of the foundation stone: “Rest House Forest Department – In accordance with the policy of Himachal government regarding the progress of the historic and popular pilgrim destination of Shree Renuka Mata and Shree Parshuram Ji, the foundation stone of this rest house was laid on the auspicious occasion of Mela Renuka on 16th November 1953 by Major General Himmatsinhji, Lieutenant Governor of Himachal Pradesh” ; Photo: Ameen Shaikh


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The “Old Building” with typical features of structures from the Imperial Era; Photo: Ameen Shaikh

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Lots of space around the “building” to free the mind, body and soul; Photo: Ameen Shaikh

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A bright day with a enough sights to keep one busy… or rather – idle…! ; Photo: Ameen Shaikh

I looked around and found a wrought iron chair with round rexine cushion kept nearby, into which I settled to continue musing. The others resorted to moving the heavy chairs to convenient locations or setting up make-shift arrangements for indulging in their own lounging sessions. We read the newspaper, lied down on the cold floor or in the lawn, with the round rexine cushion being used as a headrest, or simply ambled around the lawns.

Tourists and pilgrims arriving in different vehicles were peacefully moving around the car parking and temple area, without creating any din typical of religious destinations. This quietness further aided in keeping us rooted to the “Old Building” area and was perfect for the relaxation mode that we all sought. We all continued to laze around in this “Imperial Leisure” mode for almost 2 hours and although we achieved nothing “constructive” in this time, the purpose of our present trip was being fulfilled and that is all that mattered for the time being. The thought however did cross our minds that it would be fun to visit this destination again in a different season and check out other aspects that might be of interest to avid travellers; but that’s for a different time and a different experience.