Forget these not!
The arrival of the winter has been rather slow this year, as if it were waking up from a slumber it lulled itself into while the summer sun was blazing. In this short span when the mercury drops, don’t waste your time snoozing under the quilt, though it is tempting indeed. Here’s a ready reckoner of things you just can’t miss to do in the winters.chandigarh Updated: Dec 31, 2013 09:48 IST
The arrival of the winter has been rather slow this year, as if it were waking up from a slumber it lulled itself into while the summer sun was blazing. In this short span when the mercury drops, don’t waste your time snoozing under the quilt, though it is tempting indeed. Here’s a ready reckoner of things you just can’t miss to do in the winters.Each season brings with it its own special flavour. Winter, especially, certainly comes with its share of romance and warmth. After the sweltering summers, it’s a relief to be able to do things without sweating like a pig, especially when it’s only a select few states where people get to breathe in fog and pull on piles of warm clothes. But, while most dream of catching up on sleep in the warm embrace of quilts, winters can actually be more fun if you got up and got moving.
From skiing in Auli, Uttarakhand — one of the best ski destinations in the world — to gazing at the wondrous tulips in verdant Kashmir, taking in a quiet glimpse of the majestic Dhauladhars or just immersing yourself in the regalia of the many winter festivals, catch your special moment and see if your list matches ours.Enveloped in white
A white winter isn’t a permanent fixture in Yash Raj movies alone. Up north are situated some of the most terrifically cold places in India, abundant with fresh white snow that covers every tiny leaf. So, why let the chance to build snowmen go? From the higher altitudes of Himachal Pradesh to Kashmir, winters are the best time to visit these holiday destinations. Once there, pluck fresh icicle daggers hanging from trees or reignite romance in a high mountain cottage — there is so much beauty waiting to be captured on your camera. To ski on freshly powdered ski slopes, forget the Alps and head to Gulmarg — our own ski haven. Bunk in at the luxury of hotels like the ski-in and ski-out Khyber Resort that boasts of the world’s highest ski lift, the Gulmarg Gondola that takes you to Kongdoori Mountain, the highest ski point in the Himalayas. Yash Sinha, TV actor and Nach Baliye Season 6 contestant, vouches for a vacation in Kashmir, saying, “My wife Amrapali and I love to go to Kashmir and enjoy a view of the snow covered mountains and the cold weather.” Just make sure you avoid all the regular tourist spots and connect with yourself and nature.
Go on a reading marathon
Quiz anyone on what his or her favourite winter moment is and you are most likely to be told it’s to snuggle in a warm bed with a good book. Oh, and did we tell you that it is unacceptable to read without a cup of hot ginger tea in your hands? Begin with Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, devour Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, try Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis and later pick Conor Fitzgerald’s The Memory Key. You won’t know when spring came.
This is a time when none of those diets are going to work. Not when there are mouth-watering delicacies like saron da saag, gajar halwa or gajak and rewaris to lure you into tasting them. You have all the reason in the world to give your taste buds a twist by intake of freshly brewed Kahwa, the favoured drink of Kashmir. Let the aroma of fresh saffron and the sublime freshly chopped almonds sustain you for a long winter spell and soothe your soul. It’s also the perfect time to dig in, guilt-free, into those spiced Indian savouries and sweetmeats, though you must remember to not count the calories. Don’t forget to munch on as many peanuts as you can while sunning yourself. When eating out, remember to skip the fancy restaurants and cafes and instead head to some of the oldest eateries tucked away in the interiors of Punjab, such as Bhrawan da Dhaba in Amritsar. These are the places where you can observe life as it goes by in real time, and not through the fogged-up window panes of a ‘la di da’ café!
“Ever winter, I must have two teaspoons of ghee everyday to moisturise my skin from within. I balance the caloric intake by cutting down on other food items.”– Gul Panag, actorInvoke the ghosts
Imagine a really cold winter night when all modes of technology bore you. Better still, the power’s out. What do you do? Well, you call a ghost. After all, when else can you build up a big bonfire to not only sit around and warm yourself but also recall the most spine-chilling and supposedly true ghost stories that you have heard of? You can get some red wine pasta and coffee ready for good measure, but there’s every chance the tales leave you anxious and scared out of your wits to taste the food! (Add to your knowledge with Ruskin Bond’s many spooky tales).Be a desert rose
Head to the land of the Rajputs after you’ve had a taste of the winter chill. The Desert Festival, held annually in February at the Sam Sandunes, 42 kilometres from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, is an absolute must. Cultural events, camel races, turban-tying competitions and numerous other colourful activities make this festival an experience of a lifetime. The ‘golden city of India’, with its grand havelis, awe-inspiring palaces, tall fortresses and temples will take your breath away.Spare a thought for them
This winter, spare a thought for the needy. Countless people perish on the streets everyday for want of warm clothes as the mercury dips at night. Volunteer to donate used warm woollens this time around to make winters pleasant for the needy. NGOs such as Tammana (tammana.org.in) collect and distribute used clothes — just the right way to save someone from the winter chill. Donating warm blankets, beds and overalls for the homeless dogs is another way of doing your good deed of the season. NGOs like Red Paws Rescue and Frendicoes are a click away for sharing some winter warmth by way of donations.Wake up to lions’ roars...
That is if you’re lucky to spot one in your vicinity. The Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand — India’s first tiger reserve — opens to visitors from November 15 onward for a period of six months. Spread over 1,288 sq km, the park’s splendid landscapes provide a comfortable habitat to the Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant. With various other forms of wildlife to watch, planning a trip to the conserve is a steal. But, remember that you are an outsider in this animal zone, and the rules are theirs.Plant your own herb garden
The world is going organic, so there’s no reason why you should wait any longer. With food from outside not to be trusted much, there is nothing like plucking some fresh sprigs from your garden and flavouring your food. It is a good idea to have a winter outdoor herb garden as it can be entirely pest-free against an indoor summer one. Herbs such as cilantro, oregano and dill are best suited for a winter herb garden. For indoor herb gardening, parsley and mint are two of the better choices.
Take the track less beaten when you are feeling a little more restless than usual, and be a participant at the Eon Tour de India — an event at par with the Tour de France — that will be hosting internationally-accredited cycling races with participation by more than 150 foreign cyclists and mass participation races. Look out for this cycling jamboree in Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai. For the many Harley Davidson fanatics, the winters bring with them the Northern HOG Rally, which is one of the biggest congregations of HOG Riders in North India. It happens on January 17-18, 2014, in Goa and you are to only love the bike enough to ride towards the sunny area.Bird watching at Harike
Spread over an extended area of over 8,600 hectares is the Harike Pattan Bird Sanctuary in the Harike Wetland in Amritsar’s Tarn Taran district. With over 200 species of birds which migrate to the wetland in the winters, there isn’t a more appropriate time to head to this area with your binoculars in hand. From Yellow-eyed Pigeons, Diving Ducks to Yellow-footed Gulls and White-winged Terns, it’s a complete joy spotting friends here for a short stay. What’s more, your children will forever thank you for helping them gain familiarity with nature. The wetland also has a rich floating vegetation and aqua fauna (including the Testudines Turtle), with some even having spotted the Indus Dolphin here. However, the ecological crisis has forced environmentalists to predict that the wetland’s lifespan is decreasing. There is also the Ropar wetland, a manmade freshwater wetland situated on river Sutlej in the Shivalik foothills. With a rich and diverse biodiversity, visiting the wetland in the winters would be an experience you are not likely to forget, ever.
Travel back in time
This year, Patiala turned a glorious 250 years old. On February 12, 1763, Baba Ala Singh laid the foundation of the Patiala fort, called Qila Mubarak, around which the city of Patiala is built. The royal city’s 10th silver jubilee can be celebrated best by visiting its bylanes.
Your tour can start from Qila Mubarak itself, the residence of rulers of the Patiala dynasty. The fort-cum-palace, located in the midst of the city, boasts of the Patiala Shaily architecture, which is a synthesis of Rajashthani and Pahadi architectures. A large part of the fort, however, has been converted into a heritage museum. Take a look at Qila Androon, inhabited by the royal members of the Patiala dynasty. Your next stop could be the Sheesh Mahal, built by the third descendent of Patiala riyasat, Maharaja Narendra Singh, who was a great patron of literature, music and art and had invited painters from Kangra and Rajasthan to paint the walls of the Sheesh Mahal. Their works, depicting the vision in poetry of Keshav, Surdas and Bihari both in line and colour, are a treat to the eyes of the beholder. The Moti Bagh Palace ought to be next, that was constructed in 1847 by Maharaja Narendra Singh at a cost of Rs 5 lakh. Maharaja Narendra Singh was as great a builder as Swai Jai Singh of Jaipur. The Moti Bagh Palace was designed on the patterns of the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore, replete with terraces and water channels.
Also not to miss are the ten gates of the city that were built by Maharaja Narendra Singh to fortify the city. The first, called the Darshani darwaza was built in 1850 outside Qila Mubarak. It was later followed by the Sheranwala gate at the southern corner of the city. Simultaneously, others such as Lahori Gate, Nabha gate, Samania gate, Sirhindi gate, Safabadi gate, Sunami gate, Ghalouri gate and Top Khana gate came up. Now, only four still stand firm.Venture on an adventure
Rev up the adrenalin and burn off a rather huge amount of calories by trekking up the far-flung mountainous peaks. For a more exciting journey, just hop on to your favourite bike and head to Manali, from where you venture on foot to Dharamkot and Triund. Better still, you could join a mountain biking class and gear up for a ride of a lifetime. The feeling of achievement that you would get at the end of it would be akin to being atop the world.
Whoever said fashion isn’t for the winters hasn’t really lived in this century. Low temperature is no reason to don baggy and oversized jumpers instead of well-fitted tweed A-line skirts or worsted wool trousers. Faux fur is back in fashion, so pull on an overcoat for the extra pizazz for an evening do! Accessorise with trendy silk and tissue scarves and a slim belt and you are high on the fashion quotient. For a traditional wedding garb, stick to silks and Phulkari. The go-to colours this winter are ochre and deep purple.
Note: The third National Winter Carnival kicks off at Manali from January 2-6, 2014. An annual event, the carnival is a potpourri of various events, from skiing contests to cultural and folk programmes that keep the tourists regaled
Photos: Sanjeev Sharma, Bharat Bhushan and Thinkstock