Pahari Noises (Or the musical muses of an unmusical fan) – When the mountains sing
As I was walking one monsoon evening up a steep mountain incline in my solitude, I noticed how quickly I had been reacquainted to the silences of the hills. After all, I had only been back in Landour less than a week, and already, I had (happily) forgotten the piercing big city noises.
But then, I was reminded of a conversation I had overheard between two ‘city-wallahs’ the other day. This couple were clearly first-timers to Landour and were exploring their way around the Chakkar to Lal Tibba. As I walked past them, I heard one exclaim of the hillside’s silences, and I heard the other agree. I moved on and didn’t think of it again.
Until a few days later, back in my solitude, when I noted the silence again for myself, and I realized that it wasn’t silent at all. What I was hearing was just different, softer noises, noises that are beyond the usual hearing frequencies of most of us who have been away to louder places. All I had to do was strain a little harder and focus a little closer. On a clear day, the entire city of Mussoorie, the Doon Valley, and some of the regions highest peaks could be seen surrounding this area, but to hear the sounds of the largest panoramas, sometimes, paradoxically, one needs to focus on the smallest things.
Since it was the monsoon season, I knew that I heard the soft, irregular dripping of left-over rainwater, which now fell from branches and leaves and on to steel rooftops. I heard the little barks of rhesus monkeys and the louder sounds of entire monkey families jumping over my head from one branch to another. I heard songbirds of all kinds, and I failed to name the birds or their songs. I heard friendly dogs howling to welcome my arrival and unfriendly ones barking with nervous suspicion. A gentle wind whooshed in and shook a few branches. Somewhere out of my line of sight, an axe struck a piece of wood. From somewhere much further in the horizon, I heard approaching rainclouds threatening me to move indoors a little sooner.
I have lived in Mussoorie and Landour in all seasons, and each time of the year brings a different soundtrack to the silence. The monsoons provide hard clapping rains that sound soothing from inside the safety of one’s home. In the autumn, while marvelling at the winter-line, the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the evening namaz rise up the mountains and reverberate across the entire hillside. Winter is quieter, except for the migratory birds and more chopped wood to feed the hungry bukharis. By spring the birds get chirpier, and in the summer – if you can avoid the honking cars of weather-starved tourists – you can hear the rustling of the devdar trees and the hustling of chai-wallahs looking to make the most of the tourist season.
As the mountains sing their own tune, these days, the spring or the summer have been bringing up some modern tunes to musical souls. Ever since The Big Gig started, the most talented artists in the hillside region have jammed with some of the top bands from around the country to create magic for the ears. There’s some classic rock, there’s jazz, there’s sufi, there’s folk, and there’s an entire range of ragas. And somehow, this eclectic mix of talent joins hands seamlessly with the songs of the Himalayas to create more beautiful melodies.
Yes, the hills are indeed mostly, peacefully silent. Mostly, until you realize that even the silences are filled with sounds that enhance the peace and add to the charm up here in Landour. All you have to do is listen a little closer!
Karan Madhok is a freelance writer based temporarily out of Landour, who has a lot of music opinions and very little music knowledge. You can find him wherever you find Mutton Fried Momos. Follow him: @hoopistani
- Karan Madhok / @hoopistani