Anuradha Roy, the internationally bestselling author of An Atlas of Impossible Longing and The Folded Earth, has written a wonderful article about her home in remote mountainous Ranikhet for the inaugural issue of the National Geographic Traveler magazine. Ranikhet is the setting for Roy’s second novel, The Folded Earth, and as you can see it has provided a rich seam of inspiration . . .
For three days it had rained as if the sky had turned into a giant shower. It was my third trip to Ranikhet and yet again I was leaving without a glimpse of the high peaks. It didn’t matter. The sound of rain on a tin roof, the dry spells when the hills were honey-coloured in the newly-washed air: who needs more?
Then someone said, “Look”.
I looked higher, to where the sun or moon should have been. And there — inexplicably — they were, replacing flat old sky. They were blue and white on a cotton-puff of clouds, as in postcards. But no postcard peaks look like that. These floated. Five times
bigger than the hills at their feet, yet ethereal. A rooster crowed just then. It should have been the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth.
Leeches clung to us as we ran down a muddy slope through the trees blocking our view. We noticed the blood on our jeans only later. We needed a vantage point and there was such a hurry. The clouds might wipe everything away again.
At the tip of the slope stood a derelict cottage. We found a place to stand against its crumbling walls and stared at the shapes before us, the jagged, massive ice pyramids whose names we still didn’t know. They blazed in the light of the new sun.
We had to stand tip-toe because the place was a soggy mess of plastic bags, warped shoes, dented tins and bottles. The cottage had broken windows blinded with sheets of newspaper browned with age. Inside, the floor was a mound of dank mud. Rotted sacking hung from a ruined false ceiling. Beams of wood sagged from it.
And in one corner, stood a dog. Its eyes shone in its sooty face. Its peaked ears were the colour of copper. Its fringed tail waved slowly side to side, like a banner.
Only a few things in life can be pinned to particular moments. This was one: we knew immediately, my husband and I, that we would live there, in that cottage, on that hill.
The Folded Earth and An Atlas of Impossible Longing are available in paperback.