Loafing in Landour!
Kakul Hai makes it to Mussoorie to beat the heat in Lucknow but also to experience Nature
Watching the clouds traverse the mountainous expanse is an amazing sight. Once moisture-laden clouds find their way to you, the urge is to close the eyes and open the mouth to taste them. The rewarded is a pleasant feeling accompanied with goose bumps. Enveloped by clouds, there is no better way to experience intimacy with nature.
People go to the mountains to escape the heat of the plains. Very few come here to experience the mountains. Having a life of their own, these mountains have stories to tell. The plains have similar stories to tell, I’m sure, but the mountains present living history. Mountains seem like living creatures, teeming with their family of the silver oak and deodar trees, the colorful butterflies, chirping crickets, and languishing langoors feasting on flowerbeds.Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Mussoorie is called the Queen of Hills. It is a popular summer destination spot for people from all over. I even saw a car with a license plate from West Bengal. Although Mussoorie never had a Viceroy like Shimla, or a Governor like Nainital, it is no less regal for its aura of romance, intrigue and affairs of the heart, as Ruskin Bond, famed author and permanent resident describes it.
Situated at around 7,000 feet above sea level, Mussoorie is home to the idyllic and rather unexplored neighbourhood of Landour which is an area as yet untouched by the tentacles of a bulging, disoriented octopus of a hill station, continues Bond. Landour draws its name from Llanddowror, a village in Carmarthenshire in southwest Wales, United Kingdom.
In the days of the British Raj, Landour was a cantonment and a convalescent town for the British soldiers suffering from malaria and other tropical diseases. At the beginning of the 20th century, a British Military Hospital was built at Landour, which functioned until 1947. Now, it houses the Defense Ministry’s Institute of Technology Management. Initially, the two stations of Mussoorie and Landour were separate. The convalescent depot was kept at the top of Landour Hill, while Mussoorie was on the Western end. Mussoorie and Landour have since become one territory.
Top of Landour Hill is Sisters’ Bazaar, named after the residence of nurses called sisters who attended to the convalescing British soldiers in the Landour cantonment. The main fixture of the bazaar is Prakash’s store, a place everyone ought to stop by for a visit. Established in 1910, the store is famous for its house-made jams, chutneys, and peanut butter, and various bakery items. Prakash’s store epitomizes the remnants of the influence as it serves cinnamon bread and basil pesto pasta sauce, amongst others things to the delight of foreign residents and makes them feel at home.Foreigners
There are many people of foreign descend seen here conversing with each other or with the locals in fluent Hindi and Urdu. These are students at the Landour language school, missionaries working in the local hospital or students and teachers at the famous Woodstock School.
Prakash’s store is also a hub of hectic social activity where the diverse residents of Landour meet. With his warm and inviting nature, Mr. Prakash always invites everyone to stay back for a cup of coffee or chai, and regales visitors with stories of the hills.
For people who love to walk, especially in the midst of quietness and serenity of verdant nature, Sisters’ Bazaar is the starting point of the famous chakkars or circles of an old bridal trail that was made motorable in the 1950s. Circling the three summits of the Landour ridge, the chakkar is divided into the small chakkar, starting from Sisters’ Bazaar and curving at Kellogg’s Church; and the big chakkar, starting at Kellogg’s Church, rounding at Lal Tibba, a tourist point offering a full-view of the Mussoorie mountainside, and ending at Char Dukaan, which used to be the old cantonment parade ground.
As the name suggests, Char Dukaan (Four Shops) hosts a series of four small shops-cum-cafés dating back to 1910. It is a favorite stop of the residents of Landour, constantly teeming with people who can be found gorging on mountain favorites, such as pancakes, waffles, bun omelette, paranthas, pakoras, and Maggi noodles. Located at Char Dukaan is the beautiful St. Paul’s Church, built in 1840 and the original Landour Cantonment Post Office.
On the small chakkar, between Kelloggs Church and St. Paul’s Church, is the Rokeby Manor. Built in 1840, this house and two- acre estate has since been converted into a hotel, and houses a café for coffee lovers, and a quaint store, called the Corner Store, selling jewelry and clothes. One of the distinctive features of the Landour houses is their name, derived from various literary writings in English. Rokeby Manor is named after the writings of Sir Walter Scott, a very popular writer for in-exile British. Other houses named after his novels and romances are Kenilworth, Ivanhoe, Waverly, and Woodstock, now a well-known school.
Any place is made remarkable by the people who inhabit or regularly visit it. Landour too has its share of talented and acclaimed personalities who are either residents or regular visitors. This town is a preferred getaway for artists, writers, and nature lovers. On Sisters’ Bazaar is the residence of Prannoy Roy, head honcho of NDTV. Walking along the small chakkar is the house of hotelier Sanjay Narang, where Sachin Tendulkar is a regular guest. Just below Char Dukaan is the residence of famed writer Ruskin Bond, an avid nature lover who has been living in the area for more than 25 years. Known as a recluse, Bond can be found at the Cambridge Book Store in Kulfri Bazaar in Mussoorie on Saturday afternoons, obliging visitors with autographs and photographs.
On the Eyebrow, a trekking route narrowly traversing along the rugged mountainside is the Oakville Estate, home to the Alter family. The boys of the family, Stephen Alter, acclaimed author and Tom Alter, veteran actor, are Woodstock alumni, and spend as much of their free time in their Landour home as possible.
Victor Banerjee, acclaimed film actor of Bengali cinema, also resides here.
So it is not clouds and raindrops that greet in Mussoorie but also great minds like Ruskin Bond or Stephen Alter!