If I ever get lost or you don’t see me for a few days – Come find me in Manali.

Sometimes in life, we are stuck, lost – on our own train of thoughts – we do not know what to do anymore – where to go – what’s next – and how to get out of this dark mind space. That’s when you need an escape, right? That’s when the thing you love to do most – your hobby or something – helps. For me, writing does and more than that – it’s travel. I always say – “Travel is my escape“. And everybody needs an escape, for a small little while, from life.

But when you want to escape, you also need a place, right? You can’t just runaway to anywhere – mostly. For me? That place is Manali.

Manali - Getting Lost to Find Myself
Manali Memoir

I’ll be in the middle of the mystical meadows. Find me up somewhere in the snow-covered valley of Solang. Come look for me in the crowds of so many beautiful faces at the Mall Road. I will be in one of those incredible cute cafes where there’s a live band performing almost every night. You will find me humming those old school evergreen Bollywood sounds with the band.

The songs they play, you know, they seem magical – to say the least. The old songs from the Bollywood movies – when there were less remixes and more originality in the tunes. They bring back so many memories – a few forgotten ones too.

It’s not like I’ve been to Manali a thousand times. I had just happened to go there twice till date. But I have no idea how or when it made such an impact on me. You know those odors that bring back old memories, right? (btw, read this article by Living Science to understand more about why and how it happens) Like you’re walking down a street or getting something new to eat at a cute little café down the road, and you suddenly smell something that feels like your childhood? You might not realize what that actually is, but it feels so – magical. I feel those when I think of Manali – it takes me back to a place that’s unknown but feels like home.

First Experience of Manali | Blurry Images + Beautiful Scenery + Freezing Legs

My first ever trip to the Land of Wonder – is still somewhat blurred with little glimpses my mind has created by the stories my parents tell about that time we went to Manali.

I was really tiny at the moment, like about 2 or maybe 3 years old. It was a family trip – me, my parents and my elder sister. From what I remember, it was my first experience of a trip towards the mountains – those gigantic looking, pointy things covered with snow.

It was like seeing an incantation. Like someone, somewhere flicked a magic-wand and I was standing there – in front of a boulevard of a masterpiece created by the Nature itself.

Manali was like the very spot that people created paintings of – with the great mountains kept in the background while the sun peeks from behind, the sensational Beas river flowing through, and a large number of tall and wise Pine and Deodar trees of Manali.

It was like being inside a living painting by a kid.

Manali as a painting

That is what I feel about Manali when I reminisce it. But that’s not the first thing I remember about Manali. The very first thing that I remember about being in Manali for the first time ever – is that I was crying – and screaming for help!!

So we had headed to the snowy space in Manali called Rohtang Pass. It is basically a snow covered Pass where locals and tourists come to enjoy and play in the snow. So we went there too and enjoyed a lot while indulging in horseback riding, throwing snow-balls at each other’s faces, making snow fairies and all.

Manali Snow Fairy

But then came a point when I realized the snow – the icy cold snow – started to grow on me. It felt like it grabbed my little legs and I couldn’t move any further. I sat there – crying – and then Maa came to the rescue. ‘Cause that’s what mothers do, right? they always save you!

My legs were jammed from the freezing snow, Maa snuggled me in her arms and rubbed my palms, my legs to make me feel a little less frozen.

It was not normal – not for a 3 year old kid, back then. It was terrifying – but looking back at those photos – never bring back that pain or the cries – it brings back a homely feeling, a funny story even.

After that trip, we went to so many different hill stations in India – but Manali remained the one that stuck. Somewhere inside the little brain of mine – Manali conquered a space all to itself.

Second Experience of Manali | Back after 20+ years

Manali 2018

Yes, it took me more than 20 years – two decades – to return to the place. We travelled to many other Hill stations meanwhile like Darjeeling, Kashmir and some other wonderful places in the Incredible India.

In January 2018 – we decided to go on a trip. It had been a lot of time since we last went on a trip – the family, together. And the first thing that came into my mind then – was Manali.

“Let’s go to Manali” I screamed at the dinner table!

“Hmm, Manali, but we’ve been there.” Paa said.

“Ya, but I don’t remember it. I was really tiny back then.”

“Well you were tiny at many places – we can maybe head to Darjeeling once again and experience it. It is a wonderful place, right?”

“Yes it is. But my mind and my heart – seems to not shut up about Manali. It’s like I need to be there. It’s calling me.. like something’s waiting for me there!”

So, after a filmy discussion from my side, we agreed to plan for Manali. Along with Chandigarh.

You can read what all happened in our trip to Manali and why it called me on my Manali Blog by clicking here.

After two really amazing trips to Manali, I still feel like there is some part of me left in Manali – a part of a kid that played and cried and relaxed and memorized the place somewhat, and a part of a guy who realized the true meaning of love while sitting on a balcony looking at the incredible scenes Manali unfolded in front of my eyes.

Even as I grew and travelled within India to many different places along with my family and friends, I had felt a “calling” from Manali. It may sound (or read) weird, but that is what it is. Manali is my go-to spot to get lost in – to find myself. Over and Over again.

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