I spent an incredible week in Surajkund recently — it was my first trip there. You may know it — it’s a beautifully rugged place up north, even further north than Delhi and Faridabad. It was peak summer, a bit colder than I expected, and while I saw a fair number of foreigners, it didn’t seem to be very popular with our domestic tourists. That was kind of surprising because Surajkund offers virtually everything that we could want. Starting with excellent cuisine — Indian as well as international options — with some great vegetarian restaurants. Complemented by numerous bars serving a wide range of awesome beers and whiskies. For the ‘trigger-happy’, there are stunning locales, mountains, lakes and rolling farmlands. For the history buffs, Surajkund has centuries of war, peace and passion buried in its dilapidated forts and proud castles. And while I know little about golf, inherently failing to appreciate why anyone should strive to be ‘below par’ in anything, some of the courses are truly world-class.
Most of all, I was overwhelmed by the people; they don’t give strange looks and attitudes to visitors — you know, the mocking glances that some north Indians give to south Indians and vice versa or the perpetual tussle between the west and the east. Here, they don’t seem to care which direction one comes from, or if one has black, blonde or purple hair. They are equally welcoming and courteous to all.
I experienced instance after instance of heart-warming graciousness. A friend dropped a wallet in a grocery store; a stranger found it, saw a bank credit card in it and dropped it off at the nearest branch of that bank. The bank teller got her contact information from the system, traced her and returned it, everything intact. I got into a taxi, wanting to go to Point A, but somewhere along the way the driver realised that he had erred and was instead taking me to Point B. He discreetly switched off the meter, turned around and drove me to the correct destination, not charging me one extra paisa than what the original journey would have cost. And at the tiny local airport, I came across an ‘honesty box’ — an unmanned, unlocked cupboard filled with snacks, soft drinks, knick knacks and a price list. Travellers could help themselves to whatever they wanted and leave the correct payment in a small container. No checks and balances; everyone seemed to be adhering to their own personal honour code.
It was absolutely refreshing to discover such a fascinating destination and I just didn’t want to return to the grime and grind of urban India. And I left with a heavy bag and a heavier heart, promising myself that I will return to relive the beauty, culture and warmth of charming Surajkund.
Surajkund? Did I say Surajkund? This damned auto-correct feature. I meant Scotland.