I had come to Kasauli on an official duty and was staying in the Government Tourist Home. Surrounded with pine trees, beautiful flowers all around, and with lush green lawn in front of it; the ambience was simply fascinating. A rare display of nature's gift blended with human efforts. Coming out of dusty crowded streets of Delhi and its smoggy skies, the location of the guest house was very soothing to my fatigued nerves and tired soul.
Next day, after the official engagements, I hurried back to the guest house and asked the attendant to take out a chair and a table for me to sit in the lawn. I wanted to enjoy the scenario, which was dancing in my mind even during the meeting. I declined all offers to be taken around the town, preferring to sit in front of the guest house and relish some beer.
It was warm comfortable sunny day with cool breeze. I was enjoying the music on a portable radio cassette player that I normally carried during the tours. I was reading a book and I was enjoying the cold beer. In fact I was enjoying every moment of life in that sylvan surrounding. It was like romancing with my self. It seemed as if the heavens of mythological world had descended there.
The attendant and his wife were there, providing me the creature comforts. I asked them to prepare some good dinner. His wife suggested a local preparation of trot fish. I agreed.
Later in the evening, I came out for a walk up to the town market. The market was very small with only few shops. I couldn't find any gift for my wife and for my sons.
I picked up my evening quota of drinks and was back to my dreamy surrounding. It was already dark and cold. On my return I saw the room done neatly and beautiful flowers in a vase adoring the centre table. It was a few words that I had spoken in the afternoon of my love for flowers that the couple had reciprocated with such a fine gesture. The wall bukhari was on, making the room warm and pleasant.
In few minutes, the chowikidar's wife came in with a tray of tea and hot pakoras. What an ideal snack in the cold weather! And I thought of the consideration that these simple souls had for unknown guests.
Were they equally nice to every visitor to the guest house? I thought it must be so. After all I had returned their courtesies in no way other than a few pleasing words, typical of urbanized culture. But I was quizzed. Shouldn't I reciprocate in some way? A small tip of few rupees was of too little value and I felt myself belittled.
I was enjoying the fish curry, the drinks and the music. This time I was listening to the local radio station broadcasting some folk songs. Being from hills my self, I love flute and hill folk songs. It might have been a mere coincidence that the songs being played were of my liking.
Then I thought; what does one seek from life? Was there anything better than this? The comfort of heaven must have been conjured out of such moments. Benevolence, love, affection, food for body and enthralling music. No ill will and being in love with every thing around; that is my concept of heaven wherever it may be. For me it was there.
By now I had picked up the names of hosts. The attendant was- Piplu and his wife was Shahane. I could see Shahane singing the song. Perhaps she liked the song as much.
I was eating and the two of them were serving me hot delicious food. Suddenly Shahane asked me, "Sir, this radio must be very costly?"
I stopped for a few seconds and then replied that it wasn't much expensive.
"No Sir, it may not be for you but for people like us it must be very costly," she said in a low voice and then added with a little pause. "I have been telling Piplu to get me a radio and he says he can't afford it."
Piplu was visibly annoyed. He hissed some words in the local dialect and Shahane hurriedly left the room. I was a trifle upset. I finished my dinner, washed my hands and went to my room telling Piplu to come to my room along with Shahane.
When they entered my room I spoke few nice words to them and then asked Shahane if she would like to have my radio set as gift from me.
"No Sir," Piplu snapped.
I told him to keep quiet in a terse tone and put the small radio in the hands of Shahane. "Please keep this as a gift from me, I will be very happy," I said to her.
I could see the strains on Piplu’s face. He in fact used harsh words for Shahane.
"She is greedier like a bitch. Please forget whatever she said. I will buy her a radio set as soon as I can."
I didn't like the demur for I didn’t want my heaven to crash so soon.
"You hurt me with such words. After all it is a small gift and I thought she loved music,” I told Piplu. Shahane accepted the radio set and I went to bed though not very happy yet satisfied that I could give the couple something worthwhile.
Next morning I got up early and took my breakfast hurriedly to catch my return train. I was carrying with me the memory of some unforgettable moments.
I settled the bill and gave some tip to Piplu with a few words of thanks from the core of my heart. As I was getting in to the taxi Shahane came with a small basket of flowers which were more than beautiful. I was moved by the gesture.
"You love flowers," she said handing me the basket. I wanted to thank her but the words failed. The taxi moved and I was sad to leave the place for no logical reasons.
As I was feeling the soft touch of the flowers, I felt something was there below. It was a small packet wrapped in a beautiful silk scarf with fine embroidery. As I un-wrapped it, I found the radio cassette player, which I had gifted to my hostess.
A pain sheared through my heart. I looked at the scarf and the radio set for a long time. And then I looked up. The taxi was running away leaving behind the valley and the heaven I had conjured.