The lake for Naina Devi. And everyone else, really

A quick weekend trip to Nainital, and I am all recharged with its stupendous beauty.

When I first entered Nainital as a not-so-young bride 4 years back, the famous lake did less than take my breath away. B, my excited husband, wanted to see me go all giddy with oohs and aahs, I suppose. But at that time I was rather overwhelmed with my newly baked marriage. I can be excused, surely..

Not since then, no. I’ve never ceased to feel (and express) appreciation for the beauty of this limpid emerald. (No the oohs and aahs of marriage have not lost their lustre yet, but there’s room for more!)

Nainital is a portmanteau with Naini for Naina devi, the Goddess of extreme importance for the locals, and Tal for lake. So the town takes its name from the lake itself*. And rightly so. Because the lake overwhelms you with its serene, very royal presence.

Before you begin assuming, don’t think I am saying the town doesn’t have anything else. Try trekking the hills or climbing the China Peak. This post, however, is actually about the one, primary aspect of this town rightly named after its lifeline. The Naini Lake. So.

The Naini Tal. A bean-shaped green well-pool fed by the well-springs, the relentless gifts of nature. Yes. That’s what I like  best about the Lake, its resilience against the onslaught of human population. Like a lone soldier, it continues to provide for lakhs of people, and sometimes more, when the tourist season is at its busiest (and rowdiest).

A part of the Nainital town, Mallital

I also appreciate the fact that the residents of this town woke up well in time! Before the natural springs stopped feeding the lake, they actually woke up! They ensured that plans to clean, desilt, aerate the waters got implemented. And that these measures continue to be employed. The lake looks safe.

One of the several aerators for the benefit of the water and its creatures


Thandi Sarak. Several residents resist getting it tarmac-coated. Good people.

So, what I like doing best on a quick weekend trip to Nainital, besides meeting relatives, is taking a walk along the lake’s periphery. My usual routine is to begin the walk from the Thandi Sarak, which is just that, a track cooler than the other side, because it is sheltered from the sun. The chill in the air is at its mightiest here in any weather. Since the road circumcircles the lake, you can keep close to the green waters, even when the Thandi Sarak converges with The Mall, which is everything you expect from a pleasant hill station; old hotels, charming library, sturdy church, wrought iron lamp posts, shopping arcades… But.

The lower part of the town, or some of it. Tallital.

I would rather enjoy the lake, thank you very much. It’s quite rewarding, too. The morning sun reflecting off the healthy, post-monsoon bulge is like that reassuring hug. All is really well, you know.

The gentleman who works.

And if it isn’t, there are people, thoughtful souls, who relentlessly pursue well-being.

You can’t stop the stupidity around you. Tourists and residents alike throw waste into the water and consider it forgotten.  Measures need to be  taken to make stupid people think twice before ruining limpid green pools. So, to battle this never-ending menace, another (small) set of people like this 60-something gentleman kayak and canoe along the perimeter of the lake, collecting plastic waste people so heartlessly throw after a moment’s gratification. When I asked him if I could click a picture of him, he said, “Why not! As long as it comes out well, and you publicise it. We need to publicise the work we are doing here.”

So. I promised him the picture would come out as well as it could in my small mobile phone camera, and I am publicising it in this  blog that’s never read.

Boats waiting for tourists who can take a ride, cackle like uncouth devils, and throw waste. And pay.

These images capture but only a little of what this emerald town looks like if you take a walk at 7 am on a pleasant October morning.

Can't caption 'em all!

Another thing I really like doing is stopping. Just looking the water now rippling, now not.

This boat was still there, just this way, when I came back the next day.

The sun and the water make for a combination to let all thoughts fade away and just sit/stand there and look. Or if  you are the kind that needs to be on the move, keep walking. But notice how each being, phenomenon of life, the tiniest drop, the newly formed leaf, the swimming fish, all magically become one, somehow. And they have large hearts, too. They include you in this oneness. Even if you are on the move.

One of the many locals, who enjoy their bit of water sports.

Even lone boat-men, rowing on to fight the force of water for recreation, exercise, glory. They all seem to meld in, somehow. And so very perfectly, too.

Oh the emeralds..

As I walk on, I remember an old lady, who gave me a knowing smile once, and said, almost informed me, “You are new here.” (Some part of me must have told her I wasn’t a tourist, but something, some strange thing I must’ve done also told her I hadn’t spent my entire life there)

“Yes I am. How do you know?”

“You keep stopping. To look at the lake.”

“Yes, I do. Don’t you?”

“I’ve been living here all my life.”

Just another image..

It’s like looking at the smiling, wrinkling face of your parent enjoying his/her favourite ice cream and looking away.  It’s nothing, really. You’ve seen it your whole life, after all.

And another.

Or watching your son coming back from a tough, tough play field after a glorious victory, his face aglow under sweat. And looking away, feelingless. He’s 36, for heaven’s sake. It’s happened a thousand times already! What’s new?

And another.

I remember an instance and the feelings it evoked very clearly in my head as if it happened just 2 minutes back. But it happened, much, much before 2 minutes ago. Countless minutes ago, forming into years I can’t remember, I was sitting pillion on a scooter in Delhi. Weaving through the hopeless traffic, and looking up at the dirty grey sky and golden sun and the passing trees that kept flitting past my vision of the dirty grey sky and the golden sun. Then all of a sudden, in a moment of time, I felt a certain sense of being. Of bliss, if you accept the word. Of knowing life is beautiful, despite hopeless traffic, dirty grey skies, no money and dying trees. Don’t ask me why. I can’t explain. It’s something ineffable. But understandable, I dare say.

And one more.

Much like walking around a lake for the thousandth time and stopping to look at the bent branch. Or the insistent fish. Or the shades of green and blue and gold.

*If you want a little more information on the lake’s name, check out the Historical Background section here.


12 thoughts on “The lake for Naina Devi. And everyone else, really”

  1. I feel as though I’ve been there. Beautiful photos and descriptions. I really like the dialogue you wrote about the old woman, and phrases such as “post-monsoon bulge” and “the insistent fish”.

    Thank you.

    Looking forward to reading your novel!

  2. I love your comparison of looking at the face of your parent whom you’ve seen a thousand times over and looking at the beautiful lake which you may also see a thousand times over….may you always stop to really see it as you have so beautifully described it.

    1. Thank you ever so much for your lovely comments, Linda. And thank you for visiting an old post. I really like it if the old is not relegated to being ‘old and forgotten’.

  3. Beautiful photos, Priya, and writing to match.
    I know you’ve a busy life (and a busy mind) but I wish you’d update your blog more frequently – particularly with your thoughts and photos, and your family history. I love it all so much!

    1. Thank you ever so much for this comment, Val! I am delighted, to say the least. I promise to be more regular, just because of this comment of yours. Many thanks!

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