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A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
Garhwal, although politically under British protection, has never
attracted English residents and remains, under its own Maharajah,
to all intents and purposes, as conservatively Indian as it has been
for centuries. It is remote from all railways. No tourist and no
tripper yet cheapens this land. Moreover, a special permit is required
by any European to enter that part of the State which abuts on
Tibet The difficulties of access and travel, the absence of civilized
amenities, the lack of modern transport, and the unfamiliarity of
the inhabitants with Western ways are things which keep white
travellers away, except perhaps for a few rare and ultra-keen
sportsmen intent on hunting wild game. But those are the very
things which will now attract me. Moreover, the most sacred shrines
of India are here. Many stories of the deities, sages and Yogis who
have lived hi this secluded kingdom have come down from the mists
of tradition. Here, if anywhere, I may find a fit spot for my medita-
tions, for it is set amid the world's grandest scenery.
The cold grey shade that precedes the sun's rising has disappeared.
Dawn has spread over the East like a pinkish pearl. When the music
of twittering, chirruping, singing and jubilant birds, excited over
the event, has somewhat subsided, I get the bags opened. What a
varied mass of things have been jammed and welded together!
It is really wonderful how much can be stowed away inside a
military pattern kitbag! Suits, shirts, shoes, food, papers, lamps
and what not disappear down an eyeletted yawning mouth into its
voluminous stomach and still it asks for more!
Next I set forth to explore the environment, to make myself
more familiar with it, and to select a spot where the onerous task of
doing nothing in particular might suitably be undertaken!
Here I am at last, perched on top of a narrow ridge, the dividing
barrier between two deep valleys.
My first view is of the forest, my second of the snows. It is a
striking and superb scene. My bedroom possesses a back door
which opens out to the north-east, and to sight of the grandest
heights on the globe. There, above the tops of the fir and deodar
trees which literally grow within a few inches of thejioor, and which
are rooted down below on the mountain-side, the long and rugged
barrier of snow-covered peaks and pinnacles which separates Tehri
State from Tibet towers high above the whole countryside. Some of
these slopes are too steep even to afford hold to the snows and these
show grey against the prevailing white.
A veritable conflagration of colours blazes across the heavens.