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Placing our baggages on the bus, we signed off our Nainital leg with a group selfie that managed to cover every one from the two buses that were having a time of their life. Next was Jim Corbett, the final block! We reached JC after a good 6 hour journey that had us passing through the state of Uttarakhand for the last time before we head to the capital again!
“Sirjee aage se left lena, 431 aa jayega”, instructed a concierge as we checked into Corbett Anand Aamod. This was unlike any other accommodation I had come across. Each group had their own river-side cottages with a porch outside adorned with wooden pillars. There were some that resembled a cave with a converging ceiling painted in dusty white. Outside there were chickoo, mango trees lined up in the lawn with their foliage hanging over. At the end of the cottages, was the gym and a closed gate. That had us intrigued when we stepped out in the evening to find where does this estate ends.
“Aapko jaana hai sirjee uss aur?” , came a soft but direct voice and noise of baton behind.
Coming from Mumbai, getting called by respect was something unheard of. The local guard opened it and led us to a flowing stream of water from the River Kosi amongst pebbles and dried fern trees. Night was falling upon us as we came now to the central lawn where tea and some amazing nankatais were served. Dipped into the brewing tea, the grainy cookies melted in the mouth carrying along them the flavor of the awesome chai! The handles of the racket were really cold as we commenced our game of Badminton. Slight cheating incidences aside, it was played with sways of the serves and misses!
A game of kho-kho followed with confusion prevailing as to who is chasing whom. As the player number bulged, a more accommodating game was suggested with active participation from everyone. Rules were made clear and we formed a big chain of circle, which shrunk as the game progressed! After a great fall, I was adjudged the runner up and it became evident that a more static game was required by gasping scattered people across the lawn.
We noticed, in the middle of the gardens, a sitting area with a thatched roof and soft lighting. A perfect setting for a game of Mafia! We sat in a circle as cards were distributed and the game began in that log cabin below the starry skies and cold air. Pin drop silences, small giggles, and hushed voices! The call for dinner was regretted for the first time as the game was at it’s climax with winks exchanged across amidst conjectures and plain cold accusations and justifications! There were definitely Gulab Jamuns was what I remember from that dinner. We now headed for Table Tennis and Carrom in the lobby. The night was stretched well into late midnight before we headed out to venture in the demesne as was our thing with nights for the past week. The atmosphere was so soothing with the whistling trees and gargling water noises that sleep seemed impossible and taking the primacy of being surrounded by cottages as opposed to hotel rooms, we made it our mission to make it impossible for other sleepy heads by thumping the glass windows, shaking the trees and making the occupants jump out of their beds. But seriously who comes this far to sleep. Definitely not happening on our clock!