Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Postcards from Parwanoo

My office's annual offsite just ended and I returned from a long and exhausting trip to Parwanoo, a serene hill-station in Himachal Pradesh. We stayed at the Timber Trail Resort (TTR) for 1 night and then moved further up in the mountains at the Timber Trail Heights (TTH), a 3-star resort nestled around 6,000 ft above sea level. On a clear day you get to see as far as Chandigarh from here. You first go to TTR, that is at 3,000 ft above sea level and then take their cable car atop the opposite mountain to reach TTH. Since the cable was not working the first day we reached, we had no option but to stay at TTR.

The place was good and well-maintained, though knowing the bitter cold at Parwanoo in the winter months, the heating facilties at these hotels were very inadequate. The winters are more severe than the summers. Yet, there were 2 split air-conditioners in my suite, but only one small rickety-rackety heater that would - at best- heat up an area of about 2 square meters! I had to squat around the heater, especially early mornings, when it was chilling, to get some warmth, then go about with my errands in the room, come back after 10 mins in front of the heater to intake some warmth again.

Otherwise, the rooms were large, spacious and well furnished and the service was also good. Food at TTR was oily and greasy, but TTH served better food.

The outing wasn't a holiday though, as we had sessions by experts who came and spoke to us on topics that they excel in. So while Uma Shashikant gave us a lesson in macroeconomics, Partho took us on a journey on work-life balance, Lovaii Navlakhi explained us the essentials of financial planning while aptly criticising Outlook Money's shortcomings - (I agreed and disagreed with him there) and Swami Saran Sharma took us through insurance and taxation. Then, there was also Mohit who took us through his journey from Delhi to his now-famous two homes in the hills and the stocks that he bought and sold along the way.

The lectures were fine and well-explained, but macroeconomics on an afternoon after a heavy lunch and 5-hour travelling and waking up at 5.00 am in the morning, took its toll on me. Given a choice, I would attend a morning session on it, rather than the afternoon. But to Uma's credit, she simplified the complexities and gave it a very realistic touch and explained it in the context of the present global scenario. It's always a pleasure attending Uma's sessions; she's a teacher at heart and really involves the entire class in her lectures. Her explanation is simple and lucid and always very practical. If you are a financial planner or would like to learn about financial services, I strongly recommend her online training module. It's worth the time, effort and money.

Anyways, it was good fun up at the hills. We used to party after the daily sessions, though I personally preferred hitting the Table Tennis courts with Anagh, Ronojoy, Nilotpal, Kaveri & co. Though I am not a teetoteller, I ain't a social drinker either (definitely not a regular one) and I get very bored being in people's company when they are drinking slowly, sip by sip. Being a part of a drinking session when you are the only one not drinking can be the most boring thing in the world.

So it was fun catching up with the gang and gossip. On our last day of the trip, we went off on a day's trip to Kasauli, a hill station further up north (around 5,800 ft above sea level) and laregly an Army cantonment area for a day's excursion. At Kasauli, we went to Monkey Point, a place atop a hill that entails a steep and rigourous climb. Legend has it that Lord Hanuman touched this hill on his way back from the Himalayas to Lanka carrying the Sanjivany booty with him. Hence, on top of this hill, is a Hanuman temple - a most serene place of worship. As it had snowed a couple of days before at Shimla, we saw traces of snow on the higher levels of this hill.

By afternoon we were back in our cars en-route to Kalka to catch the evening Shatabdi back to Delhi, and further to Bombay the next morning.

(Picture #1: View of TTH on the mountain top, as seen from my TTR room)
(Picture #2: Cable car at Timber Trail)
(Picture #3: Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge line)

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