MAKING A GABLE ROOF over my eyes with my hand, I peer into the distance. My father is tracing the faint outline of hills in the distance, announcing their names. Nodding and sipping our crisp ginger tea on the little terrace verandah of our cottage, my mother and I follow his index finger. We might be tired from our journey to Ramgarh— perched in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region—but our fall down the rabbit hole of nostalgia is dizzyingly fast.
Four decades ago, my father—then a young and sprightly forest officer— traversed most of this region in rickety green jeeps, on his bulky Royal Enfield, and on foot where neither could go. In the early days of his career, he facilitated multiple plantations that transformed the pine-infested Kumaon hills, converted bare land patches into forest nurseries, and sealed many friendships with families at remote outposts. Oblivious to his work, my mother was attending college barely 40 kilometers away in Nainital, where I would eventually take birth and grow up. Ramgarh is where she brought me and my brother for a break when we were kids, she tells me as she takes in the cottage-dotted hillside that was once pure wilderness.
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