would dare swear falsely
before her. Her suppliants propitiate her by driving nails into
deodar trees; and as a result there are deodar trees at Manali
heavy with iron!
....then came the porters- some
bare footed, some with handmade grass sandals, all of them
wearing course, short trousers, brown skull caps trimmed with
red and heavy brown woolen coats coming to their knees. They
were smiling except the last man who was carrying the heaviest
load. Single-file we turned north at the bridge towards Rohtang
Pass and settled to about two miles and hour.
The trail follows Beas for three
miles or so before it climbs up sharply. In this stretch-
in-fact, throughout all the eight miles between Manali and Koti-
the valley has the grandeur of a vast open park. There are horse
chestnuts, deodars, maples, elms, poplars, mulberries, and
walnuts - all sown with an uneven hand among scatterings of fir
and spruce. There is an abundance of wild currants, barberries,
red raspberries and gooseberries. One finds here the madder from
whose roots the local people obtain a brown dye.
The canyon walls, rising six,
eight, ten thousand feet, are made of layers of slate whose
sides are covered with moss and lichens and whose top is capped
with granite. Cascades of pure water tumble in white spray of
dizzy cliffs. Hundreds of springs send trickles of water
dripping over rock and oozing through the thick sod of upland
grass. The elevation is so low for the latitude (Manali: 6,400
feet and Koti 8,100 feet) that by late july most of the wild
flowers are gone. But the day I passed this way there were fresh
violets on the mossy banks and golden streaks of mimulus along
the small creeks that feed the Beas.
Such was Som Dev uncle that I
knew- a man who lived his life by the principles he believed in.
Dedicated but caring, full of knowledge, yet inquisitive like a
child, plants intrigued him as much as people, diversity in
vegetation as much difference in culture.
He could tell you more about the
British in the Doon Valley than any book of history, just as
much he could identify the bell shaped ubiquitous pendulant
white flowers you plucked from the river.
He was not just a store house of
botany, a collector of plant specimen in his herbarium and
amazing bits of information- he was a lover of humanity, a great
human being who always inspired people and brought out the best
in them in ways very few people could. Inscrutable to the last-
he was Som Dev Uncle