The book “Welcome to Aaraampur: A Sleepy Little Hill Town” by Dhruv Nath is a humorous and episodic tale filled with quirky characters and charming stories.
As you immerse yourself in the pages, you’ll feel the cool mountain breeze and escape the heat for a little while.
This charming and amusing book will momentarily transport you far from the din of everyday life to a slower, more agreeable rhythm.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
I’m sure you have heard about the Aaraampur club. If you haven’t, you’ve missed something significant in life. A visit through its hallowed portals is like a visit to the famous pyramids of Egypt. Or even seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night (not in the daytime— that’s commonplace). Closer home, being invited to the Aaraampur club is like being invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan. And of course, its members consider it to be at least a couple of notches above the Delhi Gymkhana club in the pecking order. At least, that’s what the good citizens of Aaraampur would have us believe.
As you might expect, Kaptaan Sahib was a member. Not just a member, but a very important member. Any activity in the club, and you could be sure that he was involved. And therefore, when the club had its annual picnic, Kaptaan Sahib was the chief organizer.
Now, I must tell you something more about this picnic. The club would take you to exotic locations like Dochi or Subathu, or even the majestic hills of Jubbal. Everything was organized by the club, starting with the food and ending with the transport in the form of a van. The members needed to pay for the picnic, of course, but after that their worries were over. And our story begins with one such picnic, which took place in the scenic village of Manerghat.
On that auspicious day, the members who were part of that hallowed trip landed up at the club in all their finery. Ladies appropriately decked up in their finest gold and diamonds, and the men looking quite dapper in their bandhgalas. After all, this was no ordinary picnic. It was a veritable fashion show. With each person looking at the others with a smirk, as if to say, ‘How overdressed he (or she) is. What vanity!’
At the centre of it all was our very own master of ceremonies, Kaptaan Sahib. Bustling around, looking terribly busy (I suspect he wasn’t too busy, but then it wouldn’t do any harm to look busy, would it?),
The van was ready, along with its smiling driver, Hukam Singh. After the members climbed in and took their seats, off it went. The hills were a vivid shade of green—quite at their post-monsoon best—and the drive was lovely. A couple of hours later, the party arrived at Manerghat and walked to the picnic site, which was a cute, hooded glen, a few hundred metres beyond. And what fun they had all day. There was music and dancing and tambola and cards, and everything else a wonderful picnic should have. They also had musical chairs—minus the chairs of course. On the menu were poories and parathas and biryani and just about anything you can imagine— except crabs. It was such fun.
However, all good things must come to an end, and so did this picnic. Late in the afternoon, the happy citizens of Aaraampur decided to wind up. Having gathered up all their belongings, they looked around for their driver. But this is where our story takes a twist—the driver was nowhere to be seen. A little surprised but definitely not alarmed, they assumed he was taking a nap. Anyhow, the enterprising Kaptaan Sahib, along with another gentleman, Mr S.K. Sharma, went off to search for him. It wasn’t too difficult. The two of them did find him, resting against a pine tree and smiling benignly at the world.
Now here you must understand the psychology of our wonderful paharhiyas. They are generally happy, contented people. All they need is abundant sunshine, along with tea and the occasional beedi. Of course, a soft drink, appropriately fermented, is always welcome as a bonus. That’s all they need. And since they are happy, friendly people, at peace with themselves and their lot in life, they tend to smile benignly at the world around them. Which explains why Hukam Singh was smiling benignly at the world.
‘Hukam Singh, chalo, vaapas jaane ka time ho gaya hai,’ said Kaptaan Sahib. But Hukam Singh continued to smile benignly at him, without moving an inch. A little irritated, Kaptaan Sahib repeated himself. Hukam Singh merely nodded, settled even more comfortably in the nook of the tree, and smiled benignly once again.
By now Kaptaan Sahib was getting angry. He moved closer, and was about to give Hukam Singh a good shaking, when suddenly he stopped. And sniffed. And then sniffed again. And then he stepped back as if he had been slapped. ‘My God, this man is drunk. Dead drunk!’
Kaptaan Sahib and Sharmaji stared at each other, aghast. And then hurried back to the rest of the picnickers. ‘Our driver is drunk. There is no way he can drive us back on hill roads. That too, with darkness setting in.’
The euphoria of the picnic evaporated, as if by magic. Irrelevant questions started coming up. ‘Where had he got it from?’ ‘Was he carrying it in the bus?’ ‘Could he have bought it locally?’ ‘How could he possibly do such a stupid thing?’ Now I’m sure you would agree that these were completely meaningless questions at this stage. The key issue was, what should the revellers do now?
‘What about taking a bus back?’ said one of the party. ‘Virtually impossible,’ said someone else gloomily. This is an unimportant road, and we won’t get any bus till the next morning. And to get to the main road, we’ll have to walk five kilometres.’ So that was the end of that silly suggestion.
‘Can any one of us drive this van?’ asked one of the members tentatively. There was no response. Quite understandably. After all, how many people, other than professional drivers, are able to drive a van? Incidentally, Kaptaan Sahib was a good driver, but unfortunately he had injured himself and was in no condition to drive for a few days.
By now, the fun and frolic of the picnic was completely gone, with gloom replacing it. Comments like, ‘How will we get home?’ Or ‘My children will be desperately worried.’ Or ‘I had to go to a party tonight—how can I face my friends.’ Or even ‘There is no signal here. Why did we come to such a desolate place? How will I inform my family?’ Yes dear reader, there was gloom all around. No, gloom is too mild a word. There was abject fear. Fear of ending up sleeping on the hillside all night. With bears and panthers on the prowl. What a chilling prospect!
But of course, the picnickers had reckoned without the leadership qualities of Kaptaan Sahib. In his most persuasive voice, he asked, ‘Don’t worry about the van— can anyone here drive a car? A private car?’