The ‘Morni Diaries’ are travel accounts of the people of the Tikkar cottage as they go about romancing the picturesque hills of Morni and the thick scrub forests that clothe them. The diaries are in the spirit of an open-ended travelogue that is best described by the catchy title of a 19th century book, ‘Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque!’ The ‘Tikkar Cottage’ is an idyllic forest retreat that clings bravely to a steep hill side, with a breath-taking view of the Tikkar tal lakes (hence the name) and the sprawling plains that lie beyond. The ‘People of the Tikkar Cottage’ are an unusual, idiosyncratic bunch who are occasionally driven to seek adventure and taste the unknown.
The Mornee Tramp: A forty something wannabe naturalist who goes around armed with a newfangled big-zoom camera, sporting a trendy jungle hat to get the authentic ‘Nat Geo’ experience. A modern day explorer on the journey to unravel the mysteries of a ‘Lost World’- Morni! You can spot him scouring the dense Morni scrub forest in his unending search for the elusive big cat. The shutterbug will click anything and everything that can be tom-tommed as a ‘find’. Not that he is a phony. The love for these hills is real as is the awe that one would ordinarily reserve for an enchanted Black Forest. But then these are not just any other hills. These are ‘his’ hills! Shimla was claimed long back by Kipling, Mussoorie fell to Ruskin and Kasauli has always had its Khushwant Singh. Morni was free to be taken and he got there first! He now happily treads the path of dogged discovery of his beloved hills, undeterred by the scepticism of the disbelievers who wriggle out of his nature photography expeditions or his earnest invitations for a ride on the ‘Thunderbird’!
The Scribe: This man thrives on intelligent discourse. The issue can be any, if you want to debate it threadbare, rip it apart layer-by-intellectual layer, to its most basic detail, the Scribe is the man for you. And he can argue it any which way. It does not bother him whether he fights on the side of the Trojans who stole the beautiful Helen or that of the vengeful Greeks, he’ll love the battle all the same so long as it was well fought! And greater the intellectual odds of a position, the better he ll love defending it. Nothing like an intelligent, well-contested debate for this man!A shockingly well informed man for the little reading he has ever attempted. It actually works the better for him, for his thoughts and ideas are his own, completely unadulterated by the words in the printed realm. That’s what makes his arguments fresh and inspired only by hard logic.The man is full of contradictions. He is paid to write, opine and publish yet he hates to read. He ll out talk everybody and anybody in the heat of that successful charge on the ‘enemy’ position on the issue under debate, riding high on beastly logic. Yet he will clam up completely in company that he perceives as loud or banal. Nothing unnerves him more than situations that require small-talk . A secular man who ll occasionally kid himself about his so-called peasant roots. Unconventional in thought, he can end up making the seemingly most shocking statement in the course of an argument, completely unmindful of social sensibilities or niceties so long as what he has to say is honest and logical. Yet, on occasions he’ll be most conventional and painfully disciplined. He can’t be late for a dinner as it’s rude to the host. Will instinctively keep his drink away when your mom enters the room. Will park with extreme care so as to not obstruct the common passage. Will turn down your music for you as its rude to disturb your aged- neighbours.And one must not mistake his intellectual flexibility for lack of substance. The man is a gentleman like they don’t make it no more. An extremely sensitive man who can’t bear injustice to the meek . An honest man who shall not tell that ‘harmless’ lie as there is no honour in it.He has a way with animals. Perhaps they can sense his warmth and gentleness. Or may be its the years spent in ‘Mowgli-land’ in the east during his fauji childhood. He loves narrating his childhood adventures amidst the charging rhinos and the thieving elephants that raided the banana trees in his backyard!
- Musafir: The man is on a journey, heading no place in particular and he is loving it! A journey that has taken him from the mucky streets of the fading Manchester of the East to the picturesque lakeside Swiss chalets. Through the untrodden paths of tribal India to the festive beaches of Rio. From the bare idealism of years with NGOs to the glitzy world of the Indian corporate. But don’t let the finesse of his khadi Fabindia kurtas fool you. He is still quite much the same cheerful lad who started the journey in magenta bell bottoms with nothing but a happy confidence in his own judgment and a faith in his good fortune. A self-made man who exudes positivism. A man who is always ready to share a happy, hearty laugh. To spread good cheer. A man you shall naturally rely upon. A social scientist who loves to observe human behaviour in his curious non-judgmental way. Humans are his hobby and his vocation. His understanding of humans has evolved from his own journey of life and is not borrowed from the books he never read. His thought is simple, yet mature, uncluttered by the jargon of his professional world. He will offer advice only if you seek it. Good advice. While his thought is cosmopolitan, yet his heart ties him to his roots. The unabashed adulation for ‘Bachan saheb’ is matched by his love for thumri and ghazal that transport him to the era of the sham-e-awadh. You will always find him game for adventure, the unexplored. Kutchh na hoga toh tujurba toh hoga! That and his new found love for photography make him occasionally to partake in the aimless wanders of the Mornee Tramp.
Lion-heart: Life hit him with a sledgehammer, with all the senseless cruelty that Mother Nature could have mustered. Left for dead, this wounded lion beat the hopeless odds and clawed his way out of the terrible dark pit to which he had been cast. That frightful road accident struck a crippling blow to the body, but failed to touch his spirit. As he goes about the business of living, however, it’s not his courage but that winsome smile that bowls you over. A software entrepreneur, he has the distinction of having taught ‘IT-ka-kalma’ to world’s toughest pupils, the cops! The indomitable spirit of this real life ‘Muqadar-ka-Siqandar’ has carried him all over the globe to garner support for the many causes that he espouses, be it safer roads, ramp access for wheel chairs or saving the neighbourhood parrot habitat!
And before you let yourself wonder about the source of this amazing will power, you are well advised to take a closer look at that cheerful, unassuming, white-bearded Khalsa, who is like a shadow to the Lion-heart. This lovable quintessential ‘Sardar Saheb’, represents all that is the finest in the Spirit-of-Punjab. The courage, the straightforwardness, the enterprise, the humility, the patience and most of all, the good cheer. The father is as remarkable as the son! His calm acceptance of all that life has to offer and his mirthful yet combative temperament has quite clearly found its way into the DNA of the son. Between the two of them, this irrepressible father-son duo, are an unbeatable team!