“Mountains are calling, and I must go” ~ John Muir, world renowned environmental philosopher
On a hot and humid night of 16th June’17, first 32 members of FinSocial set on 2 days trip to the lush green Parvathi valley situated in Devbhoomi, Himachal Pradesh. A giant, green beast of an AC bus welcomed us all to start our voyage from the Model town Metro station.
In the bus, Disha Verma (founder of a retreat organising company, Kutumb), introduced us to a unique style of breaking ice with each other. The activity required three participants in a role playing situation. Once they were done with the act, they had to introduce themselves and nominate further three participants to enact a different situations. This activity brought out the hidden talents possessed by the participants, for eg. Rajiv sang ‘chikni chameli’ in form of a bhajan in such an effortless manner; Pooja flawlessly impersonated Arnab Goswami, Asmita & Gaurav made such a cute couple while acting. By the end of this activity, we had oodles of fun and knew each other’s names.
With growling tummies, we marched our way inside the Gulshan Dhaba at Murthal- our first stop for dinner. The 32 of us occupied the centremost dining table and were literally the centre of attraction of all the servers. Few minutes post ordering, the table was filled with glasses of lassi, plates of sweltering hot and huge aloo/pyaaz/gobhiparanthas, numerous bowls of gleaming white makhan and tangy achaar. All of us gnawed at the delicious spread and gladly posed for the shutterbugs, courtesy Sarthak Taneja and Rahul Sethi.
Post dinner, all of us got involved with the singing spree. With Abhishek, Krishna and Ankit melodiously strumming the acoustic guitar and ukulele, we sang all sorts of Hindi and English numbers ranging from dooba dooba rehta hun by Silk Route, Maeri by Euphoria, Sach keh rha hai deewana dil from Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, Somebody I used to know by Gotye, Yellow by Coldplay.. What a magical night! I am sure that the passers-by must have had a good time listening to such beautiful renditions of these popular numbers.
At dawn, we were woken by the spectacular sight of the hills surrounding us in all directions. Little houses, cool breeze and lush greenery made such a beautiful contrast to the concrete jungle that we had left last night. We spent next few hours playing interesting games such as RST and dumb charade. In game of RST, the first participant starts the game with one word/phrase (other than a proper noun) and the following participants are required to the say a word/phrase in relation to the previously said word/phrase. The catch is that such word/phrase should neither begin with ‘R’ nor ‘S’ nor ‘T’. We had a fun time playing them.
Gradually, the sky started to turn grey and we could hear roaring thunder claps. The little hills were becoming gigantic mountains. We had started climbing these ginormous, rocky structures. It was like spiralling up a staircase made of sharp, ruthless rocks. To add to the theatrics, the bus made its way into one of the longest tunnels (3 km) in the country located on NH 21. It was like entering inside a demon’s mouth. For a moment, it felt as if we were taking one of those eerie ghost rides in an amusement park. But just like the wise men say, we could finally see light at the end of the tunnel (literally!). It was quite a relief. The rain had stopped and cool winds gushed as we were reaching close to our destination. Our paths were decorated with apple and plum trees; the fruits looked like precious gems hanging on the trees.
The 12 long hours in the bus came to a happy end when we entered the pristine village of Chalaal. This sleepy little village is a hidden piece of jewel in the Parvathi Valley located in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. We debarked our bus and started descending down the valley. The valley was full of towering pine trees. We could hear the River Beas lashing its way through it at a distance. While hiking our way to the banks of the river, we also saw local villagers gathering fresh plums for selling them in the local markets. It felt as if the time had stopped and things were happening at their leisurely pace. We all gathered at the river shore for a group picture. We all were divided into the groups of six so that we could get to know each other better. After walking a few steps, we reached a point where we were required to cross a rickety, narrow wooden bridge to reach the other side of the shore. Only one person was allowed to cross the bridge at a time. With every step on the bridge, it creaked! It was a very funny yet nerve wracking experience.
The village has couple of wooden traditional houses with greenery all around them. After walking for about a kilometre, we reached a vividly coloured house that was our place of stay. This house was owned by Moola bhai, a pleasant local and his family. He was such a great host throughout our stay. His wife had cooked delicious rajma chawal and paneer roti for all of us. We feasted at this delicious spread in his open veranda, soaking in all the natural beauty in the form of majestic mountains, white frothy River Beas, clean air and endless trees. The view was just fantastic!
After the lunch, we all were allotted our rooms. Everyone freshened up and started getting ready for the evening event. Everyone gathered everyone in the veranda for an interactive session where the most common question of the Gen Y was taken up, ‘Are you what you do? Does what you do make you feel happy/satisfied?’ Most of the hands went up in the support of ‘nays’ to the above two questions. This was not surprising, but it was difficult to understand that missing factor of their happiness. FinSocial is, somehow, at attempt to bridge that missing factor. It is an attempt to build a social community where people can live their interests and be more than just what they are in their professional life.
Since it was more of an open house, many valuable suggestions were also given by the audience present there, regarding what FinSocial can do for the finance community. The interactive session ended with an entertaining performance given by ‘The Kasolists’ (none other than the founders of the FinSocial itself! Multitaskers, I must say!) We also had few singers from the audience like Tulika Jain, Harbinder Singh and Sadhna Singh who enthralled everyone by their beautiful voices.
Then, DJ Arjun Sobti got to business and played such happening dance tracks that brought everyone to the dance floor to showcase their moves. Moola bhai had put up disco lights all around the house, which just added the right flavour to the party. Also, his wife, who’s blessed with such great culinary skills, prepared a wonderful feast for all of us. The party went on till wee hours of the morning.
Next morning, after breakfast, our trip organiser, Disha Verma, had special activities planned for all of us. Before the activity, we were asked to take up any item- spoon, water bottles, table- and play the music together. That few minutes of music, pumped all of us for the activity to follow. For the activity, all of us sat down in a huge circle. 32 coloured sheets, where each sheet contained the name of one participant, were circulated to us. We were required to write compliments for the person whose name was appearing on the sheet. The idea behind this activity was to spread positivity and goodness by complimenting everyone in the group.
Once the activities were over, all of us were eager to check what compliments they had received. However, there was a twist in the tale and everyone was asked to first complete the trek successfully before getting to view their compliment sheet. Such bait it was to motivate everyone for trekking.
We packed our stuff, bade farewell to ever smiling Moola bhai and his family (such generous hosts!) and set on a hiking spree to the town of Kasol. It was such a beautiful trekking trail. The tranquillity of the path revitalises your body and mind in such a magnificent way. God Indra obliged us with slight drizzle and cool breeze during the hike. The mighty Beas River attracted us like a moth to the flame. All of it was like poetry in motion.
Once we reached Kasol, it was time to explore some famous cafes there. We gathered at the Falafel King for lunch, wherein we filled our tummies with the yummy Lebanese cuisine. We also satiated our sweet tooth at the German Bakery-its tiramisu and warm chocolate waffles are to die for!
The bus journey back to Delhi was equally interesting. We played the witty card game of ‘bluff’. Do you know how difficult it is to play bluff in a moving bus? Our creative minds came up with an innovative solution to address this problem. We tied the four corners of a stole to the armrests of four seats. This acted as a means of putting the cards while playing. The game of bluff revealed the diabolic sides of our friends-they were here to win the game, either by hook or crook (mostly crook! :p). During the journey, the compliment sheets of the activity were distributed. It’s such a warm and fuzzy feeling to read pleasant stuff about yourself. It was like being honoured with a certificate of appreciation.
All good things come to an end and so did our stay in the hills. As the morning broke, we entered Delhi with heavy hearts. The transition from the peaceful time spent in the lap of nature to the fast paced city life was too quick for all of us to digest. Nevertheless, we had these awesome memories to wash away the Monday blues that we all were facing. Our lungs were thankful to us for letting the fresh air in them, our eyes were thankful to us for the gorgeous views and our minds were thankful to us for taking this much needed break from our mundane lives. Together, they all were grateful to FinSocial and Kutumb for organising this amazing retreat that we will cherish till eternity.