Blue skies are rare in Delhi; usually the sky is glaringly white, or raincloud gray.
Here in Ranikhet, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas, I am sitting on a swing on a balcony overlookinwg manga cartoon-green hills and valleys, under a beautiful blue sky.
It is paradisical. Butterflies keep fluttering past, occasionally joined by a dragonfly or three. There's a gentle breeze. Out in the distance, fluffy low-lying clouds hug the tops of distant mountains. The air is scented with pinecones and deodar. The only sounds are of birdsong and rustling leaves (discounting the tinny Bollywood muzak wafting from the restaurant).
And it's all so, so clean.
I'm here, in this garrison army town in the state of Uttatranchal, on an icebreaker long weekend with a class I'll be teaching. For many of the kids (although they're postgrad, in their early 20s) it's their first trip to the hills. Some have rarely ventured outside Delhi. They keep calling me ma'am, like my maid. I now tell them, "Please don't call me ma'am, call me by my first name." They say, "Yes, of course, ma'am."
It is, without doubt, the loveliest place I've visited in the Himalayas so far, and quite probably the best in India. The hotel we're staying - Woodsvilla Resort - is a bit out of town so is fairly quiet and isolated, although there's a cafe serving filter coffee about a 10-minute walk away.
You have to understand, finding a well-dressed cafe serving half-decent coffee in a small, rather remote place like this is like finding a clean toilet at a dhaba, or an anti-corruption agitator on the Commonwealth Games organising committee.