In the shade of a mountain, along a slope, astride a little table-top lies the village of Kalga. It is hidden amidst the dense pines and firs. Under the spiky needles, playing with shade and sunshine, it slumbers. It is mid-afternoon, the people post-lunch are doing their little chores; doing the dishes, hanging the laundry, beating the mattresses, playing cards in the veil of a tree.
As I walk by, one of the card players smiles at me and motions me to join them at the game. I offer them greetings and take a chair. Thakur ji, who owns the necessities shop behind us, explains how the game of ‘29’ is played. Jacks are the highest cards with 3 points each, did you know?!
While I hesitantly try my hand at the game, the man with the most simple and heartfelt smile I’ve seen in days asks me where I’m from and how I’m doing. The conversation flows easy and a few laughs are shared at the whims of the cards. The smiling man zips away for a few and brings us back tea from the leaves of his garden.
Tea isn’t the primary crop of this place; it’s apples. Apples and peaches, pears and plums, apricots here and there. The village beneath the pine is dense with fruit trees. They wind through the porches, along the pathways, up the slope, around the houses and above your bed.
Kalga is green!