Thinking of moving to the hills?

Thinking of moving to the hills?

Downsizing and moving to the hills happened about three years ago. These 30 months have brought many people into my life. And these people have shared their questions and dreams with me—at the golf course, while I am walking, over tea, over the Net.  Here are some of them…

  • City folks, curious to know how I spend my time/do I miss the malls and the bright lights/what do I DO the whole day…they listen with wonder and amazement writ large on their faces. When I stop talking, they snap out of the trance, proclaim that they can never stay in such a quiet place, compliment me on my decision and move on.


  • Busy career couples with growing kids, want to give their children a place to be with Nature. Long walks, watch the sunrise and sunset, climb trees, look at birds and do all those activities which Nature study is all about. I gently remind them about the Smartphone and the IPad and the Wi-Fi connection which are as essential as the chips and coke. That there will be sulks and questions about why they should be taken to that same BORING town every holiday, when the whole world is waiting to be explored. That staying at different home-stays in different parts of our amazingly diverse country is a much better option than trying to set up a home away from home.


  • Successful people in their autumn years, career highs in place and a desire to slow down and live the relaxed life. A cottage in the hills, a stunning view , peace and quiet—the stairway to heaven on Earth. Plans for a few years more of the career, plans to come over and spend the summers/long weekends in their cottage, and plans to bring over some good friends for memorable evenings around the fire… they are all there, along with the desire to have a good library, music collection and a great kitchen.
  1.    Scout for land, talk to brokers, get an architect, hire a contractor, travel up regularly to check on the progress, find the right tiles for the kitchen, dream of sitting on that balcony and watching the mountains.
  2.   House is ready for furniture, drapes, crockery, cushions, TV and Wi-Fi, bookshelves and all the rest of the dream-retreat requirements. This takes time and energy and repeated trips.
  3.   House-warming ceremony has been completed. Stuff has been installed. The view is lovely, but the house is cold. The sunlight pours into the bathrooms and the kitchen at the back, but the front bedroom and lounge remain cold. Six months of winter are too challenging and cold for visits, though that is the time the mountains are etched in the sky.
  4.   Summer visits are planned to escape the city heat… the mountains vanish into their summer mists, the temperature hits 40 Celsius and there are no air conditioners, the forest fires burn all day and night to give charred landscapes and burning air…and there is very little water and plenty of people in the neighborhood.
  5.  Marriages of children, ill-health of parents, law suits of property, travel plans with city friends, visits abroad to loved ones, recitals and plays which cannot be missed—the city and the community pull is a strong one. Strong enough to leave the retreat cottage locked and lonely. Long enough to make the garden grow and bloom for the eyes of the caretaker. Continuous enough to assign the cottage to eternal loneliness.


  • And then, there are the rare and resolute residents of the hills. Determined to live in the quiet hills, at peace with themselves, passionate about their garden/craft/teaching/writing, wary of social calls and parties, and comfortable with a few days of total solitude.
  1.  Their houses have a lived in feel, with warm throws, heaters and bright cushions aplenty. Their house staff is like a family member who pampers, scolds and reminds them about to-do lists.
  2. They serve water in tiny glasses (to save precious fluid in the summers), food in generous amounts ( local produce, always) and pickles made at home.
  3.  Voracious book readers, passionate crafters and good cooks…all this and more, makes their quiet life so real and rewarding.


That, in a nutshell, is what moving to the hills is all about….a large majority don’t even think of such a step and I am glad that they take a holiday and go back with memories and photographs. I admire the tiny minority of permanent residents. And I wish that the middle muddled folks get a quiet moment to read this blog post!

  1. I actually have a contrarian view. The “middle muddle” as you call them have in reality led to employment generation in the hills, more demand for real estate and consequent wealth creation for locals. So the locals can’t really complaint.
    And if I was full time resident of the hills, I’d actually be thankful that most houses were locked. If all of them got populated by other full time residents, it wouldn’t take long for water to get even scarcer, garbage to get even more abundant and for ranikhet to begin its transition to karol bagh……..
    Lastly, ecological impact – its true that construction impacts ecological balance of hills – but then, thats true for all houses – locked or lived-in.

    1. oh yes, Anurag…there has been the generation of some employment…laborers and masons who migrate from the UP districts and work really hard, guards and gardeners who tend to the locked up house, and maids who clean and cook. but is that all we can give back to this great land called Devbhoomi?!

  2. So I agree that if odd jobs were all that vacation home owners contributed, then this discussion would’ve been immaterial. But they do bring a lot more than than that – their money to build those homes……………and it is a significant chunk of change. All over the world, cities have got built for their tourism and vacation home economies. Take Goa for their locked beach front homes; or haridwar/Rishikesh for the homes owned by devotees. Extend this to US for a moment – Park City, Utah or Aspen, Colorado are known for their ski lodges. Or the entire Florida state that benefits from the migrant Snowbirds from the american Midwest.
    Guess it will be unfair to discount the contributions of vacation home owners in Ranikhet.

    1. hi Anurag, sorry for this delay in replying to you! had been busy with soaking the winter sun! You are right in pointing out the economic benefits brought in by vacation homes and tourists…and its a view from the sky, the big picture which emerges when one looks at every aspect of the situation. I am a little dot in the midst of those empty, locked homes in vacation areas.. and I see the effects on single fields, a small family, a stressed out vacationer and his sulking kids! both views are absolutely correct and relevant in their places. Its a little like plucking out individual eyebrow hairs ( ouch) to ensure a perfect questioning tilt by a beauty!! hee hee….far fetched comparisons are my forte!

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