Most of the summer vacations in my childhood were spent in army cantonments, since my uncle was in the army. Army cantonments are really beautiful and peaceful. The army makes sure that the greenery is maintained, they take humongous efforts to preserve nature as much as possible. My brother and I have had a lot of adventures, but he passed away in 1999 because of kidney failure. We had a lot of fun along with our cousin as well, who also passed away in 2005. Those were the most memorable times I had with both my brothers, Indranil and Advait. I have done parasailing and gliding on a 2-seater plane, all in one day, at an army cantonment. It was the most exhilarating experiences of my life! And I was only 13 years old when I did that. I will never forget these adventures. This blog is about my adventures in Alhilal Cantt., an idyllic town near palampur in Himachal Pradesh.
The name ‘Alhilal’ translates to “the land of the crescent moon”. The beauty of Alhilal is a real treat for the eyes. It served as a fortress for Maharaja Ranjit Singh once, but now this scenic town is known for its panoramic views. It was in 1993; I was 9 years old, Indranil was 13 years old and Advait was 8 years old. Indranil and I went to Alhilal with our grandparents. We set out from Nagpur on a train and got down at Pathankot in Punjab. From there we took a narrow gauge train to Palampur. The journey was so amazing; the scenic beauty was picturesque and magnificent. I don’t remember how long the journey was but I do remember the stunning sights. When we reached Palampur, an Army truck was waiting for us; it took us to Alhilal Cantt.
When I landed up at my uncle’s house, I was simply awe-struck! Just imagine a small house on a huge patch of green land, a stream flowing by in front of the house and huge snow clad mountains on all the sides. Imagine breathing in the pure air; and the cool wind touching your face. It is the most peaceful feeling you’ll ever have and I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was such an incredible sight, something that the amazing poets of the romantic era would describe in their odes and idylls. I always imagine Wordsworth, Keats or Shelley writing their masterpieces sitting at places just like this.
Having only two brothers for company, I always used to play all the games these boys used to play. We used to imagine ourselves as G.I. Joes and we used to fight the bad guys together. We would have these toy guns and we would imagine we were being attacked by the Cobra Commander and his henchmen. We used to have imaginary hand-to-hand combats. The stream also had a mini water-fall a little distance ahead; we used to play there quite often. The waterfall was really small, but it was amazing. We played football and cricket together, we ran around and chased each other and frolicked around. We had picnics by the stream to enjoy the nature. We used to sit out at tea time and just admire the scenic beauty surrounding us. One day on one such occasion, we saw a forest fire being created on one of the mountains by two trees brushing against each other. It was an unbelievable sight. Once we saw such a bright rainbow, it looked as if someone had painted it there. I have never seen such a bright rainbow in my life! I wish we had a camera back then; I’d have loved to share the pictures.
My uncle used to take us sightseeing inside the cantonment. Once we even sat on a non-operational Bofors gun, we turned around its cannon a little just for fun. We used to do rope climbing at the obstacle course almost every day. My grandma and my aunt would tell us so many stories. My granddad would sit with us outside and admire nature with us. Once we visited Palampur for a day and stopped over at a temple nearby. There were so many monkeys there. They tried to snatch away our food basket, but we were able to escape somehow. We laughed about it like crazy once we were back in the army truck.
I can never forget that feeling of peace and quiet and happiness and the carefree life for the two months we were there. They were one of the most spectacular and most memorable times we had had together. I will never forget the Alhilal vacation, even though I was very young. Some memories will forever be etched in my mind. And I hope someday I can visit Alhilal again and relive these memories.