In Search Of Blue Skies And Birdsong
National Geographic Traveller India|January 2018
In Search Of Blue Skies And Birdsong

The winged songsters of Pangot dominate the tiny kumaoni hamlet in Uttarakhand

Radhika Raj

Two days before Diwali, a thick, grey haze starts settling on Delhi. The sky has been a monotone grey for weeks. The lone bulbul on the deathly-still mango tree outside my window has gone missing, or is perhaps harder to spot through the toxic smog. Getting far away from this city we have carelessly ruined has become necessary.

Pangot lies 290 kilometres from Delhi, just an hour-long drive away from the holiday-favorite, traffic-clogged Nainital. As my family of four and I leave Nainital’s packed Mall Road behind, the road gets narrower and the woods get darker. At every steep bend, beyond the treetops of rhododendron and oak we spot the Himalayas— majestic and golden in the evening sun. At first glance, Pangot seems like any beautiful village in the Kumaon— winding roads, endless rustling streams, tall, deep pine and oaks forests, and a view of snow-capped mountains. Then we see a black bird fly across the road, its metallic violet-blue wings glittering in the sun before it settles in a bush to whistle a tune. It is the Himalayan whistling thrush, author Ruskin Bond’s favourite songster from the Kumaon hills. Landour-based Bond has devoted entire chapters to its melodious “peehoo-hoo.” We are on the edge of our car seats now, our eyes scanning the roads for any movement.

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January 2018