Was I nervous the first time I hopped on a bus without even knowing what was waiting for me on the other side? A little. While I have done a fair amount of travelling till date, I had never taken a trip completely alone before. But, well, it was quite an exciting experience for me!
After having spent 18 days in Kashmir with 10 other people, I finally decided to take the plunge and go on a solo trip (err..workation) to Jibhi, a quaint village in Himachal Pradesh.
I got off the bus at Aut and hired a cab which drove me to my cute little hostel – Mudhouse. Tucked away in the Himalayas, away from all the noise and chaos, this hostel has a river gushing in its backyard and the best part about the place is waking up to the sound of it which is like music to your ears. Here, I found the tranquillity and peace that my soul was craving for.
The hostel was fairly empty the day I arrived as it was a weekday and there were hardly any tourists in the village. I wondered if I’d be able to fit in and enjoy my time there or not. The restless Radhika in me did not realise that good things take time. As soon as I entered the place, I was welcomed by a cute little puppy who came running to me at the first glance itself, and at that moment, all my apprehensions faded just by holding her into my arms. One of the travellers in Mudhouse had rescued her a month back near the river and named her Jibhi. What a perfect name! – I thought to myself. ?
After freshening up, I decided to spend some time in their café and work from there. To my surprise, I met Rahul, the founder of Mudhouse. While talking to him, he had many things to say about Jibhi and I could feel the love he had for the place and the locals here. He spoke about how the locals in Jibhi used to come over and give them groceries for free during the lockdown just to support one another during tough times. It made me smile. It made my heart happy thinking about how simple and beautiful life is in the mountains unlike the one in the cities where we are constantly rushing. It’s true, the world is quiet here.
He spoke about Nanu, the eldest member of the Mudhouse clan. When Mudhouse had just started, Nanu asked him if he could help them with the work there, but Rahul was a little apprehensive keeping his age in mind. Oh, we laugh thinking about how wrong he was to even think like that! This man walks for an hour to the hostel every morning, helps them in cleaning the area, makes sure the café is neat and tidy before everyone wakes up and never takes any leaves unnecessarily. Not only that, he asks for salary only when he has to pay for his granddaughter’s school fee. But, let me tell you, all these are just his side chores. His main job was to just be there and spread his aura all around the place. His presence, his smiley face, his wit, his stories, his curiousness to know about our lives in the cities, his laughter and his warmth never failed to make everyone feel at home. He is one of the major reasons why people revisit Mudhouse. It’s true, age is just a number and Nanu is a living example of that.
It was my first night in the hostel, and I, like any other first time solo traveller had my guard on. I met my co – hostellers later in the evening and we all huddled up together to celebrate one of the guy’s birthday. His name? Sandeep urf Guruji. Now Sandeep is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. He is a vivacious person. He is someone who feels a lot and always tries to make everyone feel a part of the group. He is a gem.
It was an eventful night. We tried some local drinks, had meaningful conversations, shared stories, spoke about our dreams and played some Himachali music. When the clock was about to strike 12, we decided to go to Jibhi waterfall and made Sandeep cut his birthday cake there. We spent quality time under the stars, listening to the sound of water droplets falling from the high of the fall. It was my first night here and I couldn’t be happier. There were a number of thoughts running in my mind at that moment, but I remember looking up at the sky and feeling grateful for just being there.
Oh Jibhi, I think I am already in love with you!
Over the next few days, the co – hostellers and I developed a strong bond with Pankaj bhai and SP bhai as well. They managed the place and cooked meals for us every day. While Pankaj bhai was the shy one, who spoke less and smiled often, SP bhai was the complete opposite of him. He always told us that he is the king of his life and there’s no denying that he was the king of Mudhouse as well. He was the life of our parties. Every night, when all of us would finish our work and sit together in the café, SP Bhai would get his dhol and sing for us. What I liked the most about them was that they never treated us like guests. They made us feel like a part of them, a part of this cute little village.
Those 12 days in Jibhi were as dreamy as my first day there. Every morning I’d wake up and step outside my dorm only to see Jibhi and other travellers basking in the sun, Pankaj bhai and SP bhai whipping up some delicious meals for us and Nanu happily doing his chores and making sure if I had my breakfast on time or not. I’d sit on the bench with my morning tea and thank my stars for giving me this beautiful life where I could experience all this. Every night, my new friends and I would huddle up around a bonfire, talk to the new travellers, share stories with them and take them to the nearby waterfall just to sit under the stars and absorb the beauty of the place. On Sundays, we’d head out to explore the nearby areas. One of the days, we’d just go sit near the river and have our breakfast there. We’d grab our corners and lie down on the rock for hours. We got so comfortable there that in the last two days, the hostel was overbooked and there were hardly any beds available. So, my friends and I decided to sleep in their in-house café because we did not want to shift to some other guest house. Well as Neeraj says, “what’s love if not biased, irrational and absolutely loyal”.
There was nothing fancy about the place or the people there, but I was always at peace. Always! In a way, Jibhi and Mudhouse became my home, my safe place and a beautiful feeling. Strangers turned into family. When I think about it now, there is only one thing that comes to my mind – you can have the right people, at the right place, at the right time, all at once. It is such a complete feeling to be with a good company amidst beautiful surroundings.
My 13 days in Jibhi were nothing less than a dream. I have made homes out of strangers who I thought I’d never meet in this lifetime, I have made homes out of locals who always greeted me with smiling faces and made me feel comfortable, I have made homes out of pretty corners where I’d sit for hours and think about a million things and I have made homes out of furry doggies. I made some beautiful memories which I am going to cherish forever and ever.
This was Jibhi for me.. and as I write, I feel like a part of me is still there.