India Day 7: farewell but not goodbye

It was with some sadness, but immense gratitude, that we bid our band of Indian friends at Ananda farewell yesterday. Before the emotional ( for me at least) parting though, there was still one more day to be relished. We were determined not to let our impending departure undo any of the great positivity this past week had brought us.

As the weather had been misbehaving, with impressive thunderstorms lighting up the Himalayan foothills all around the previous evening, our usual open-air yoga practise was relocated to the splendour of an upper room in the Palace. As we moved from warm-up to salutations, the view through the wall-to-wall windows was more breathtaking than any exercise. The mountain ridge we were perched on stretched majestically for miles in each direction – “and these are only the foothills” our tutor reminded us. What a perfect place to complete our week’s tuition. It was all I could do to hide the emotion which welled up inside me as Mr Shambuji drew our lessons to a close in such a jaw-dropping and inspirational setting.

As the warming sunshine returned, we took the opportunity of a stroll around some yet-unexplored parts of the lush estate. The overnight rainfall had freshened the foliage and the plant-life had taken on a brighter hue, its exotic scents perfuming the air, encouraging insect and birdlife to a spring-like frenzy. The trees and shrubs around us teemed with small birds as we walked the slopes. We gave up trying to catch photographic evidence of these tiny, busy creatures and just soaked up the visual delight of these unfamiliar and colourful little souls.

Looking below us into the valley, Mata Ganga peacefully wove her watery ribbon between the hills and on as far as the eye could see. The dryness of the season revealed large floodplains, which must be spectacular when seen after the winter snows thaw. We paused to admire the view, then glancing into the trees nearest us we glimpsed a movement. Into a small clearing stepped a russet-hued deer; a Barking deer, we later learnt, named for their warning calls when leopards are near. Fortunately, this one was silent!

As we watched, entranced, this beautiful creature gently tiptoed about inspecting the undergrowth, then just as silently vanished back into the undergrowth from whence she’d come. Exhilarated at our further good fortune, we returned to the track we’d been following and made our way back for lunch, and to share news of our sighting.

The afternoon passed all too quickly with a meditation session and a crystal-based therapy. Unfortunately the weather gods had changed their minds again, and as we emerged from the spa the ground was puddled and dark clouds gathered threateningly.

We had been looking forward to seeing the children from Ramana’s Garden children’s home once again, as their prize-winning dancers were scheduled to perform at dusk in the outdoor amphitheatre. Sadly the weather forced them to relocate to a basement hall in the Palace, which lacked some of the atmosphere of the outdoor setting. However, it was still a joy to witness their performance, particularly knowing a little of their desperate stories and family histories.

This could have been the climax of our Ananda experience, but this incredible place was not spent yet. As we settled for our final Ayurvedic dinner, we were surprised to find our favourite chef Arun at our table. They had not finished spoiling us yet! Having checked our personal preferences, they bustled off and we were served a truly delicious meal of local dishes prepared especially for us. What an unexpected treat and perfect way to send us off on our own culinary journey, having purchased a cookbook to guide us.

As we almost waddled from our table, stuffed full of the most flavoursome food I have ever tasted, the warmth of our bellies was only surpassed by that of the send off from our favourite waiters. The young men and women of the staff team made this adventure so much more than a trip to a foreign country. Their service and good humour went way beyond the extra miles and as we bid them all a fond farewell we genuinely hoped to seem again.

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