The other road—they are in Deradhun in India’s North-Eastern Part near Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. His brother invites them. The town is surrounded by Himalayas from South and India’s great rivers Yamuna and Ganga from west. In fact the water divide of those holy waters passes through the city. Their group travels in two white Forest Preservation Agency jeeps that her brother-in-law so kindly arranged for them and family.
They are driving on the winding spectacular road climbing up and down the steep gorges sunken in lush vegetation, occasionally showing the grayish, dark brown, rusty colored peaks with the furthest one, that distant dream of climbers cupped with white snow. It glitters from afar as a gem in magnificent royal crown. The road is smooth; the heat rising from tarmac makes the view ahead unclear, void of focus—contributing to the sense of transience liquidity of time and space. Car goes fast enough not to experience the head ache from a such a steep climb, still the eardrums react to the change of altitude, and as turns go around to 360º the head starts spinning. The heat is also a contributing factor, the main culprit.
The sun is set on to melt everything around. It is a high noon, the leaves of saal forest surrounding the road are glistening in the scorching heat, the colonies of monkeys usually lively and active in the evenings are settled under the sparse shade of the threes, their color mimicking that of the dust at the roadside. The monkeys sit in groups and watch the cars passing by idle, immobile, only golden eyes alert and ready to charge after occasional banana thrown to them by a passenger, or just the skin of devoured fruit, still happy to substitute their beetle and crawlers diet for healthy vegetarian one. Their eyes reflect the weariness of hunger and curiosity, it seems they assessing the chance of food thrown at them from each passing car. Mothers are keeping the watchful eye on babies.
The cars now reached the highest point and start to descend. Every mountain and small hill is open to magnificent view, faded pale skies without single cloud, dusted green of forests, metal grey of cliffs in distance, shrilling songs of grasshoppers, and somewhere far down around the other gorge the noise of water, distant, powerful constant noise of falling stream broken into a foam.
The cars climb up the gorge again, steadily approaching the destination. The road narrows. She looks at winding of the road and the dust on its shoulders and the tall, taller than human termite castles, perched some near the saal trees or just at the clearing. Its rent-free inhabitants, big glossy ants, much bigger than their European cousins are busy running errands commuting to and fro from their apartments up the tree smooth trunks and back.
The sound of the motor, hubbub of cicadas and grasshoppers, the heat makes one sleepy while the turns and twists of the road makes the head spin. But she fights off the drowsiness in anticipation of the waterfall—Kempty falls is their destination. The cool freshness of water—pani in Hindi (the word reminds her of etiology of name of her native Georgian city Shorapani)—tskali, in Georgian, and life the water brings to surroundings.
Her thoughts wonder as the road ahead.
The smell of droplets in the hot air some two or more windings downwards of this helix road makes her alert. She feels thirsty and longs for the cold, teeth shattering water from mountain spring—tskaro, she once, long ago drank back home at Pasanauri. She still remembers how numbing the icy tskaros water was, her teeth ache, the mouth gradually getting used to its freezing temperature and heavenly taste of it. Gulp of spring water taken rather licked from the folded palms, numbed by it as well. The taste, freshness, memory of it, clear icy water in one’s palms, put to lips, swallowed, trickling down the throat. Filling another palm fold and drinking, drinking it, killing the thirst for good.
Hubby sleeps on her shoulder, his head repeating the movement of the car and periodically slipping from the comfort of the newly discovered pillow. His mouth is open, he is snoring his usual low guttural snore. He forgot to remove his sunglasses, and she quietly takes them off and strokes his soft hair. In sleep he resembles a child. He tells her the same; he likes to watch her sleeping. Whenever she catches him watching her asleep in the early morning, she—half awake, in between the dreams, which usually come to her in installments like movies, asks him why he is not sleeping. He tells her, he enjoys the peaceful reign of dream on her face.
Now, she wonders whether he is dreaming or not. She studies his face, calm, taken by deep midday sleep. She imagines him as a kid of age eight to ten, wearing shorts and tee, sunburned and skinny, running around with his pals, playing the cricket, sneaking to the movies at the local theatre, raiding the nearby farms for green not quite ripe apples, somewhere in time and place that then used to be the outskirts of Delhi, playing in the torrent rain during monsoon—the same staff kids all around the world do while growing. And it strikes her how similar the peoples everywhere are in their stories, aspirations and small, yet fulfilling to them lives. And they, two of them- how close they have become, in just one year sharing the goals, dreams, memories and all.
The sound of falling water reminds her of that rain they experienced while being here in Dehradoon—(it is pronounced Dehra-‘Doon, she repeats it for herself). The torrent came suddenly out of nowhere, couple of strong gasps of wind, skies immediately grown copper grey, heavy with humidity, and then the lightings stroke with such vehemence and power, that the ground shook with every stroke. The wind broke down several saal trees, leaves flying around now lush and green from downpours of water, wind changing directions and more trees falling, big trees made brittle by endless days of drought and heat.
One more turn, rather the full circle down the serpentine and they are there at the bottom of waterfall, the sound of waters plunging from the cliffs so loud that they need to shout to hear each other. Her brother-in law explains that the state is doing some ground works on premises to attract more tourists. There is an air train getting to the basin of the fall, few workers are mixing the cement to make the borders at the parking ground. Several Indian families are around for photo-ops at the open viewing balcony near the parking.
Cars are parked and now they going down taking the air train and admiring the lush green covered hills mounting above. Finally they are at the very bottom of the bowl, it is suddenly very cold and damp and everyone is putting their jackets, or sweaters on. She climbs out of the screeching air train car and reaches the steep damp cement stairs leading to the wet basin of Kempty fall. The air is full of moisture, tiny water droplets are sparkling through the sunbeams hardly reaching the bottom of the waterfall. They struggle to figure out how deep below the sea level it is, she asks her brother-in-law who is their host and made this magic trip possible. He tells them the number, she almost instantly forgets, the sight and force of falling water fascinates her.
She wants to feel it; she goes closer and puts the palm up into the outer rim of the stream. It hits her with great force, the slap on the hand, the foam flying all over the wrist, wetting her jacket, reaching her face as she lifts the hand up higher in the mad noisy seething stream. She opens her mouth and feels the small-pulverized droplets settling on the surface of her tongue. She waits until a single drop of it accumulates on the surface of her taste buds and rolls down the throat. Aaahhh, tasty! He takes pictures or films, for keeping the memories in check. She laughs like a small kid, and closes her eyes, as always—he took pics—his boosie laughs with her eyes closed, says he. He is filming. She wants them to be filmed together, he, she and the white foaming water, once in time, one instant, one splash of water wall.