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PC: Lakshay Verma

There are certain places, certain people who become a part of your journey. You keep coming back to them even when you are on the move. You return to that one place time and again, because you know that no matter how far you go, this is where your heart truly belongs.

And then one day you come to know that it doesn’t exist anymore.

I will never be able to describe my days in McLeodganj without Illiterarti, sitting in the balcony with a hot cup of tea, staring at the mighty Dhauldhar ranges. Days when Fondue would simply sit in your lap pretending he doesn’t give a shit about who you are, evenings when Yannik would play his piano and nights when one could watch moon rising behind the mountains leaving you in awe.

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‘To be honest we have no idea what’s going on here,’ is how the café described itself. The randomness of the place has still not met its match in my book, even years later. The road to Iilliterati itself was an interesting one. While most of the cafes and restaurants boast about their weekend business from the crowd coming from Punjab and Delhi, Illiterati stayed 2 kms away from the crowded market place. Yannik believed in profit through visitors and I never saw someone without a purpose lurking around the place. Even Fondue and Milo, the two dogs that stayed there along with a number of 4 legged visitors would treat the place as their own and visitors as their friends.

One of the most wonderful moments here happened when the Himachali cook married a girl from Odisha. Yannnik, the owner played the role of the bride’s father and performed all the rituals. There were other people from various places, even countries who attended this marriage and gave their blessings to the couple. This was the beauty of place, the randomness that used to amaze and mesmerize me.

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Here I found my peace, my identity, submerged in a number of books and a cup of steaming chai. I had the most meaningful conversations when I had nothing specific to talk about. I saw the mighty eagles flying over the mountains and welcomed the butterflies to Kangra.

Yannik left a few days back, Illiterati is gone. I wish I could have visited it one last time, for those who were there gave it a teary goodbye. Lucky are the travelers who were able to live through this wonderful journey and like everyone else I wish that whoever takes over does great  justice to the legacy and the story that it left behind.

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