Nainital – The Last Leaf

In short six hours you have left the smoggy wheezy plains behind and are driving through pine forests at an altitude of about 6500 feet breathing in fresh air by lungfuls. After a long time you are on an official vacation. The agenda is clear – there is absolutely no plan except to get to Nainital and just kick back. Lately it seems you are being influenced by the different movies you have been watching. Naina in the lighthearted ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’, when confronted by Bunny’s long list of sights still to be seen in beautiful Udaipur philosophies, “However hard you try, there will be things in life that you will miss out on. So just try to enjoy the present.” And that defined the agenda. You are just going to enjoy the hills and the fresh air of Nainital. There was no list of places to see in the phone’s note pad. Okay, you have seen the movie’s second half several times. And Naina had nothing to do with the choice of Nainital as the destination; even though they sound suspiciously similar. The sole criterion for choice of destination was that you wanted to avoid the roads and the train drops you so tantalizingly close to the hills.

Nainital - The Sun Soaked Lake and Mall Road

Nainital – The Sun Soaked Lake and Mall Road



Nainital - Sun Glinting on the Naini Lake

Nainital – Sun Glinting on the Naini Lake

Sitting in a restaurant on the Mall Road, you feel happy. The early December air is nippy, fresh and clear. There are few tourists this time of the year. Sun rays reflect off the dark green water of the lake creating silvery ripples. Wisps of clouds float in the incredibly blue sky. Such blue skies are seen over Delhi for maybe two days a year. You have chosen to sit in the open sided area. The sun is soothing. You are almost in a trance. It seems life has receded leaving you in a glowing fuzzy ball of warmth. And then you see the tree.

Nainital - Phases of Life Reflected in Cobalt Blue Skies

Nainital – Phases of Life Reflected in Cobalt Blue Skies

Nainital - The Last Leaf

Nainital – The Last Leaf

Nainital has mixed vegetation – the winter ready pine trees and a smattering of deciduous trees. The deciduous trees are in different stages of hunkering down for the winter. While some still have full canopies, others have totally lost their foliage. This tree right across the street is left with few leaves. And then you see this lone leaf on the branch as if waging its last battle against time and nature. The breeze is not helping either. In the sun the leaf seems to glow in an iridescent halo. Real life imitates reel life. The beautiful film ‘Lootera’ partly based on O. Henry’s short story ‘The Last Leaf’ tells the story of a woman who has willed herself to die when the last leaf of the ivy vine falls. The leaf you see seems to be the painted leaf that Varun has tied to the branch so that Pakhi peering from behind a curtained window of a house high above on the hill is inspired by the tenacity of the leaf and instead wills herself to brave her illness and live. Okay, you have seen the second half several times. Did you say you love mush? What is Nainital doing to you? You have been here for a couple of hours only.

Nainital - The Survivor Sparrow

Nainital – The Survivor Sparrow

Nainital - Tourists of the Winged Kind

Nainital – Tourists of the Winged Kind

The stroll along the lake from Tallital to Mallital is the best part of Nainital. Tallital is the southern end and Mallital is the northern end of the lake. You come down from your hotel at Tallital, cross over the street and start the walk by the lake. Boatmen come to you selling boat rides. Right now you want to walk. Guides come to you showing photo albums of places in Nainital. There are two packages – list of six or twelve attractions in and around Nainital; Rs. 500 for six places in a car that takes about 2-3 hours and Rs. 1200 for all day excursion. Your resolve stays steadfast. You are in grip of Naina’s words. You just want to enjoy the present. The Mall Road is clean with other people like you walking. There are benches all along where you could sit and look out to the lake. Yellow leaves light up in the sun. A sparrow – your bird find of the trip – seems content to finally have a city it can call home. There are other avian visitors high above the lake side.

Nainital - Hotels Lining the Mall Road

Nainital – Hotels Lining the Mall Road

The Rising Nainital

The Rising Nainital

Hotels of all budgets line up the mall – this is best time to bag great deals. Soon restaurants make their appearance. On some stretches the construction starts from the level of the road and goes all the way up the hill. On the other side beyond the lake the hills rises relatively less pockmarked; but then it is a matter of time. You just hope that this year’s ravage of the hills by the rains have instilled some fear and sense in the authorities.

Nainital - View from Tallital

Nainital – View from Tallital

Nainital - Another View of the Lake

Nainital – Another View of the Lake

Shimmering Nainital at Night

Shimmering Nainital at Night

The location of your hotel at the top of Tallital is a bonus. You had done some research on the net before booking your hotel. In the reviews people had indicated room numbers on first and third floors that provide awesome view of the lake. At night the hills go silent and the lights shimmer on the lake, perhaps the only redeeming feature of the houses built all the way up the hill. You could look at this postcard view all night.

Mallital - The Flying Omelette

Mallital – The Flying Omelette

Mallital - Playing Ball

Mallital – Playing Ball

Mallital is the northern end of the lake where the major action is. It is Janpath, Sarojini Nagar Purana Qila boat club all rolled into one with a live cricket and basketball match on the side. If the walking has made you hungry then it is time to dig into omelettes and noodles at the various street side carts. You can sit on the lake side boundary wall or the amphitheatre style seats on the edge of the basketball court. The breeze flowing over the lake is noticeably cold so the hot tea with the snacks is just what the doctor ordered.

Nainital Lake - Row the Boat

Nainital Lake – Row the Boat

After fuelling up it is time to take the plunge into the lake of course sitting in a rowing boat. Nainital grows quieter as you glide to the far side. Water turns darker in the shadow of the western hills. You keep filling your lungs with the fresh air just to make sure the air cleans up the farthest sooty alveoli of your lungs. Wish they had Nainital air takeaways.

Nainital - Shopping on Mall Road

Nainital – Shopping on Mall Road

Nainital is a Real Gem

Nainital is a Real Gem

On the way back you walk on the hill side of the Mall Road for some shopping. Nainital is famous for its candles. But this time of the year the showrooms offer good discounts on woollens. You stop by an artificial jewellery shop to indulge in some window photograph(shop)ing. Everything is unplanned and on the spur. Yes life does feel better this way.

Nainital - Majestic Views of Himalayas from Snow View Point

Nainital – Majestic Views of Himalayas from Snow View Point

Nanda Devi from Nainital

Nanda Devi from Nainital

Besides Nainital, the idea of seeing the mighty Himalayas seems exciting. So a deal is made of the six location package and the driver asked to take you to the point where Himalayas are said to appear. On the way you enjoy Naini Lake’s awesome aerial view. A little higher at the Snow View Point you are greeted with the unhindered view of a long chain of Himalayas. Under the brilliant sun the snow capped peaks shimmer in the distance against the backdrop of blue skies. It is a view to behold. Himalayas are truly majestic. The telescope guy points out Nanda Devi & Trishul peaks and the distant Mukhteshwar to you.

Nainital Lovers Point - We so Love Each Other & it Shows

Nainital Lovers Point – We so Love Each Other & it Shows

You spend most of your allotted time here and grudgingly come down. On your way down don’t forget to put arms around your loved one and get photographed at Lovers’ Point. The car driver leaves you at Mallital. You want to take another stroll by the lake.

Misty Nainital

Misty Nainital

And then without any warning the mist descends over the lake. The breeze turns chilly, and the streets suddenly get deserted. But there are bravehearts who dare to go into the lake. Standing on the jetty you see them soon melt into the swirling mist. The mist is the best thing to happen to you next to actually snowing.

The veil of mist soon lifts as you make your way up to the hotel. Nainital, its air, its skies will fill you up with life. Instead of waiting for the last leaf to fall you will be looking forward to spring blooms.

Getting There: Kathgodam Shatabdi offers a convenient connection to Kathgodam from Delhi’s Anand Vihar station. From Kathgodam hire a taxi to Nainital. Nainital is 24 kms from Kathgodam. If you have a list of places to see then you can visit Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal and several other lakes in the vicinity. Hotel Himalaya is a good option with a great view of the lake from the third floor rooms and terrace.

53 Comments

  • Vipin says:

    fully blown away…& still in the air…:)…everything was beyond words…just one thing that was lacking…a photo of you with madam ji…:)

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Vipin,

      Thanks!

      No, that was not the intent. Like the last leaf, I dont want you blown away. Hang on :)

      You know I am very shy in front of the camera!

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Amazing post…..I am speechless. Every word and every picture was peerless. “The last leaf” picture was really great. This post made my day……

    Thanks.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Mukesh,

      I am overwhelmed with your appreciation – Thanks much!

      Yes, the leaf provided me a story to write. If you get a chance do watch Lootera on a quiet evening.

      Thanks again!

  • AJAY SHARMA says:

    Dear Nirdesh,
    Wow! Brilliant write-up man. It is definitely better to visit hills in winter with lesser hassles. The view of snow on the far ends are surprise gifts in Nainital because that part is generally covered in dense cloud. A stroll on Thandi Sarak is always a blessing. Thanks for sharing your poetic view on Nainital.

    Keep traveling
    Ajay

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Ajay,

      Your post was a big motivator for choosing Nainital. And also thankfully it still retains its small town charm at least in the winters.

      Yes the Himalaya view was heavenly and the skies were clear. Few hours later it was misty and cloudy.

      Loved the walks on Thandi Sarak.

      Thanks for reading and the appreciation!

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    enjoyed reading the post. The languidness of the place is so well conveyed through the prose.

    Pics are superb.

    Thanks.

    Auro.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Auro,

      Welcome back!

      Yes the word ‘languid’ describes the trip and Nainital in winters in a single word!

      Thanks for reading and the appreciation!

  • Munesh Mishra says:

    Dear Nirdesh,

    Greetings for the post.

    Enjoyed the informative and interesting Nanital post. Crystal clear view of the sky and Naini lake refreshes readers mind and soul.

    thank you very much.

  • Venkat says:

    Nirdesh Ji, your beautifully written post is an ode to Nainital. Your words and superbly captured frames made us fall in love with the place. Thanks too for all the travel details at the end of the post.

  • Avtar Singh says:

    Hi Nirdesh ji

    The Last Leaf – O’ Hanry – The Nainitaal

    Only a master writer of the caliber of Nirdesh Singh could have done justice to this ode and this great human being once again steal our hearts with his well crafted post.

    Great post with stunning pics… what else one can say after reading this?

    And ofcourse, God bless:)

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Avtar ji,

      Yes O. Henry, Nainital and the sublime film Lootera – what an association! The movie was playing on my mind for some time and then I see this leaf and rest like they say is history :)

      Thanks for the effusive praise.

      Happy New Year to you and your loved ones and may God bless India!

  • Ashok Sharma says:

    beautiful post,excellent photos.keep it up my dear.

  • Gaurav says:

    Superbly crafted!!
    Nirdeshji, I wonder if Nainital offers such a close view of Nanda Devi peaks, from which place in Nainital have you clicked it?

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Gaurav,

      Thanks!

      There is a place called Snow View Point few kms up that provides a nice view of the shimmering Himalayas (shown in the first photo). There are people with telescopes there and you can see close ups of the peaks.

  • jaishree says:

    what a refreshing take on otherwise ‘clichd’ Nainital! And some brilliant angles and composition id Photos.

    A trek to Naina peak or China peak( three km ) gives astounding views of naintal in this season, you get a bird’s eye view of Naini lake and city and raptors flying above it.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Jaishree,

      Thanks for the appreciation! Yes I wanted to write something different for a very usual trip to a hill station.

      Just glad that a leaf came to my rescue.

      Will do the trek to the Naini peak some day!

  • Nandan Jha says:

    With no clue of either Naina or ‘Lootera’, I had to pay more attention to ensure that I do not miss the message. A walk on “Nainital Mall Road” can be a ‘Character Building Experience’ in high season but come winters and its a blessing. Your log made me remember our trip (just the two of us) in winters of 2010 and it was simple out of the word.

    “The Last Leaf” has often been a source of inspiration (a muse) for many a expressions. In old days of only Doordarshan, there was a brilliant serial (Katha Sagar) on the same story.

    May 2014 take you to more new movies, w or wo me having any clue of it, and may you travel to more Taals. Wishes.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Nandan,

      I had gone to a hill station after a long time and intentionally in the winters. I remember having a good time all by ourselves in McLeodganj few winters back. I just cant go through character building exercises on the hills.

      And Nainital was real fun.

      I cant seem to remember Katha Sagar – I lapse into selective amnesia frequently.

      You will have to start watching movies – you are missing out on a huge part of popular culture (nerdy bespectacled Naina included) and 2013 gave some good Hindi movies.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    Nirdesh Ji,

    As usual a great post along with brilliant photographs. Pictures are so clear and inviting us to visit there.

    Keep Writing……………

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Saurabh,

      Long time no see!

      Nainital arranged great weather for us! And all I had to do was click.

      Waiting for your next post.

      Thanks for writing in!

  • Ram Dhall says:

    O.Henry, Somerset Maugham, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhow – your brilliant write up has reeled me back to my chidhood days, when a second hand bookseller presented me a book “Great Short Stories of the World”. This was my formal introduction to the world of letters. I loved O.Henry and Maugham and still love their stories. I must have read them many times over. I saw the movie “Lootera”, despite its rather unattractive title, simply because it was inspired by an immortal story by O. Henry.

    Yes, my association with Nainital goes back to the early sixties, when a friend asked me to accompany him on a business trip (who minds a free holiday). I did go there once or twice thereafter, but 1982 onwards, I was a regular visitor to Nainital, as the bank for which I worked had bought a Guesthouse at Long View, Tallital. My obssession for Kumaon Hills became so strong that my children decided to build a cottage at Naukuchiatal, where we go practically every second month.

    While thanking you for reviving my fondest memories of Nainital, I am in total agreement with Autar Singh ji that this masterpiece could have been crafted only by a person of the calibre of Nirdesh Singh. May God bless you.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Ram Sir,

      You have been indeed lucky for having people like your uncle who gifted you Born Free and this gentleman who introduced you to the masters of English literature. Books are our friends. During Diwali cleaning, I discovered a box full of books and cassettes from my childhood. Often in the evenings I leaf through them smelling their musty old familiarity while listening to the noisy cassettes. Most books are priced at one rupee or 125 paise! Priceless.

      Lootera is a beautiful movie. The movie deserves to be seen and appreciated. But then Vikramaditya Motane is turning into a great director after his eqally impressive debut movie Udaan.

      And you are again lucky to have a long association with Nainital and now with Naukuchiatal in form of an anchor. Wishing that this association with Kumaon Hills continue for ever.

      Thanks for reading, and the appreciation and for writing these thoughts!

      Happy 2014!

  • As usual, Brilliant photos…Excellent post.. Nirdesh’s style..
    Nainital is a real GEM.

  • Wonderful pictures, beautiful write up and my cup of coffee… I am loving it Nirdesh!! I am late in leaving a reply here, but today’s read is my 4th time read of this story from you. I enjoyed it every bit and thank you for such a treat!

    Cheers

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Archana,

      Hope you are enjoying your time off. And far far from Delhi’s frigid weather. Speaking of which let me get another cup of coffee!

      Thanks for reading and reading and reading and reading!

  • Rishi G says:

    Hi,

    you dont need to describe your journey, Pictures spoke louder than words.The stunning photographs mesmerised me. in fact i saw (devour) these picture postcards and appreciated your feeling for light, shade and pefection. Great! Wow! Unmatched!

    Well Done

    • Usha says:

      ‘The Last Leaf’ – amazing! I had been to Nainital in 2005 and have been reliving my memories so much so that I have decided to spent my entire life there.

      I have watched the movie ‘Lootera’ with teary eyes and your match of the Last Leaf and Nainital brought tears again, kudos!

      • Nirdesh Singh says:

        Hi Usha,

        Thanks for the pretty words.

        Of course it was never the intention to make you cry again! But yes Lootera is a beautiful movie with a tragic but uplifting ending. Being a guy I will never admit publicly that I too almost cried watching the movie!

        You are lucky to be spending your life here in Nainital. So how did you find this post?

        Keep visiting Ghumakkar and thanks again for reading.

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Rishi,

    Honestly, I had no idea of light/shade when I took the photos.

    Now that you decribed it so beautifully, I realised yes there was some play of shade and light!

    Thanks for the appreciation!

  • Pooja says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    Very Beautiful Pictures!

    I have been to Nanital, but it looks more beautiful in your Pictures :)

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Pooja,

    It is time for another trip to Nainital!

    Thanks for the appreciation.

  • Somyata says:

    Wow !! simply beautiful …

    Amazing pictures …

    … no words :)

    Really thanks for sharing
    Somyata

  • SilentSoul says:

    Nirdesh, I have read many articles on Nainital, but this one is unique with beautiful fotos and with your inimitable writing style.

    The title itself is so beautiful…what to say of the foto of last leaf

    Bravo !

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi SSji,

    Thanks for the appreciation. Just wanted to try something different with a place we all love.

  • Anupam Chakraborty says:

    Hi Nirdesh

    Let me recall, if I have read such a beautiful story on Nainital? No, perhaps not. So, I read it again and enjoyed the splendid story telling photographs and a great story on Nainital.

    Simply Wonderful.

    Best wishes.

    Anupam

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Anupam,

    I think you have gone overboard with the appreciation – its just another Nainital story!

    Nainital is indeed beautiful in winters.

    Thanks a lot for reading and commenting!

  • Amit Kumar says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    Anupam Ji gave me the link of this beautiful writeup on Nainital and I am quite amazed with the way you have described this beautiful place. Nainital looks more beautiful to me now.

    Thanks for sharing…

    keep traveling and keep writing…

    Amit

  • Anuradha says:

    Hi!
    Ipleasantly stumbled upon your Last Leaf, while looking for something else. I want to say many words appreciating your work. I’m speechless right now but for the word ‘Pleasant’…

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    ??????? ?? ?????? ?? ?????? ???? ?????? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????? ??, ???? ???? ????? ??? ???? !

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    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Dear Sir,

      Aapne toh itna senti kar diya!

      You are so kind. The post came out inspired from all the wonderful and poetic travelogues I read here on Ghumakkar especially from authors like you. Regarding the photos, I have learnt quite a lot from your photography posts and discussions.

      Thanks again for reading and your heartwarming words.

      Regards

      Nirdesh

  • Sandeep Gupta says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    1. Hope it is not too late offering a comment on your post which was initially penned in Jan 2014.

    2. Only one word for it – “Brilliant”.

    3. Bhimtal is our residence for 9-10 months in a year. We go to Nainital often, especially to witness the Grand Dussehra Celebrations which culminates in a Mind Boggling Fireworks display which is easily comparable to the Fireworks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge to usher in the New Year.

    3. So, Nainital is a matter of routine for us.

    4. How-ever, after reading your masterpiece of a travel post, a new Dimension has been added. We therefore must re-visit Nainital with a different mindset, wherein, your experiences template ought to be transposed on our new mindset to re-enjoy Nainital.

    5. My wife joins me in extending our Complements once again for such a riveting Travelogue which is worthy of absolute praise.

    Regards,
    Sandeep.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Dear Sandeep Sir,

      Thanks a lot for your effusive praise. It is largely unwarranted – usually until now, I had written historical accounts that took time to write. This post was a change and I breezed through it in few hours!

      Yes Nainital is indeed beautiful and I was visiting the town after almost a decade. I hope to visit more often and do hope to meet you in Bhimtal! Dusshera is almost here and watching the fireworks would be incredible. Yes reading through new experiences is always novel and provides a new dimension like you say. Its the same with photographs – if I see a new angle of a heritage monument, I have to go back to click it!

      Please give my regards to ma’m. Once again you are too kind.

      Regards,

      Nirdesh

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Sandeep Sir – I am sorry for not showing up at your place after our first meeting. I do hope to knock sometime next month or whenever I go again. Good to see your comment here.

  • Gaurav Dixit says:

    i never thought that nainital would be a place worth going due to its commercialization but after reading this post i feel that my next vacation would be in nainitaal..i just wish i could witness the same nainitaal, i read here.

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