A Trip to Landour (Mussoorie)

I planned the trip, one month in advance, as I wanted everything to be in its place. I needed to explore landour as my main aim was to escape the fast moving life of Cities. We were only two, Munish bhya and I. We booked Mussoorie express (24/03/09) for Dehradun and Shatabadi Express (27/03/09) for return journey. The Mussoorie express was to leave from Old Delhi railway station at 22:30, so we decided to check some delicacies of ‘paranthe wali gali‘ of Chandni Chowk to avoid watching the watch frequently. There is a shop, in Chandni Chowk, called Ghantewala halwai which is about 200 years old ! We decided to taste Sohna Halwa which is their speciality (as they say). It was too heavy for our urban stomachs.

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The train arrived almost on time. We were shocked, thanks to Lalu (the then Railway Minister), to see that the number of side berths were increased from two to three, and we got two side berths. The third side berth belonged to some elderly gentleman named Nanak Chand. He didn’t arrive at the station. As the train crossed subsequent Shahdara station, we become sure that hes not gonna put up now. So we enjoyed the scenes (although it was black) from the window, its the best thing about sleeper class. As the dawn broke, we were almost in Hardwar. Hardwar put up a scenery as divine as its name, the sun was rising, spraying the orange showers all over. There were a lot of whites (they seemed to be Europeans) on board. Most of them got off in Hardwar, they were off to Rishikesh. The Excitement they had for ‘Holy Ganges’ was unmatchable.

The train arrived Dehradun station in an hour or so. I knew the taxi fare from Dehradun to Mussoorie was Rs.450/- ( I checked it on some blog itself). It was a prepaid Taxi booth, so I got a white ambassador to Mussoorie for exactly Rs.450/-. I knew that there’s a Shiva Mandir en route as I visited it on my last visit (that was way back in 2003). I asked the driver to stop there, and he said it will cost some extra money ! I handled him with some typical Indian eloquence. I told him that he’s cheating on the name of God ( and yes, he was God fearing). We had the darshan. The unique thing about this temple was it was written everywhere inside that ‘Paise Chadhaana Manaa Hai

Taxi wallah dropped us at ITBP, Mussoorie (as we were putting up at ITBP guest house, thanks to Mr.Subhash Gupta, my roomie’s uncle). Mr.Subhash greeted us merrily, and accommodated us in a room named ‘Ekant’. It was a beautiful room with a lot of furniture and an ‘army styled’ bath. We had our breakfast at Officer’s Mess. Then we went out to explore some places. We went to Gun Hill by feet as the timber trail (or whatever it’s called) was out of order. The view from Gun hill was breathtaking, one can see the Garhwal hills, and there were so many tiny villages visible. Some Telescope wallahs were showing panoramas of Garhwal hills for Rs.20/-, I tried it and there was one Nag Mandir in Garhwal 42kms away, it was beautiful. I tried to trace it by the 40X zoom of my Sony handycam, and I got it! (You can see it in the video). I called Mr. Ruskin Bond, to arrange a small meeting with him, but he denied coldly. I was heartbroken. We decided to take rest for the rest of the day, as Munish bhya was not feeling well. I wrote a poem for Mr. Bond at night.

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The next day (i.e.25/03/09) started with a splendid breakfast at Officer’s mess. It was a cloudy morning and it started pouring as we approached Mall road. We decided to take a Rickshaw ride on the mall road (and hence move the economy a bit by circulating another Rs.10/-). Then we proceeded towards Landour. There was a protestant church on the way (just when one turn left to get onto the Landour road). We got into it. The priest of the church was very amicable. He told us about the various churches in and around Mussoorie. He also showed us two cottage pianos and gave us the permission to play if we can (Unfortunately, none of us could). Then we moved towards Landour, it was raining mildly. The temperature started shifting towards the colder side. After a good 2 hours stroll, we reached Char Dukan.

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It was as good as it was when I visited it six years ago with a friend! (That was when I was in 11th standard). We sat in the first of the ‘char’ dukans. The sandwiches tasted exactly the same as they did six years back. By now it was too cold to sit outside the shop. I asked the elderly man, who seemed to be the owner, ‘How old this dukaan is?’, ‘Sainkado (hundreds) saal puraani hai’ he replied! After the sandwiches we went inside the St.Paul’s Church which is just adjacent to Char Dukan. It can compete with archaic European churches as far as architectural beauty is concerned. We sat inside for quite a few minutes, it was really soothing. Most of the people around Char Dukan were foreigners who were there to learn Hindi at Landour Language School.

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Then, we headed towards Lal Tibba. It was getting colder and colder. Never in my life, I sought for sun that much ( I am a winter lover). The view around Lal Tibba was enchanting. The Aunty, who gives the ticket to go upstairs (on Lal Tibba) to watch through the big telescope, said ‘Taste our Coffee, its better then Barista’s, people from far across the world comes to have it’. I couldn’t stop myself more (although Munish Bhya did). I got a cup of coffee for Rs.20! And I have to drain it after two sips! We decided to go beyond the Lal Tibba as I heard that there’s a Cemetery over there. There were a few stupendous bungalows en route. There was one painting made on a rock (one can call it a mural), it was really beautiful. After taking a glimpse of the cemetery, we decided to return. I got the poem, which I wrote last night printed from a local shop in Landour Bazaar and got it laminated from yet another local shop. We dined at Sagar Ratna and saw the adjacent aquarium. Fishes were as colourful as the hills. Finally we returned to our room ‘Ekant’.

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It was raining heavily in the morning (26/03/09), it stormed hails in the early hours of the morning (or late hours of the night). We had our breakfast, and the rain abated. Today, we decided to hire a taxi for Landour. But, somehow, we had to go till Library Taxi stand by feet. We saw the heaps of icy balls (from the hailstorm) on our way. I wondered why the law of melting point is not taking its toll on them. We struck a deal with a Taxi driver for Rs.180 for Char Dukan. I also bought an envelope en route to put in my poem and a chit with a note and my address. We again had the sandwiches at Anil’s cafe. Munish bhya also had chai (tea). It was not as colder as yesterday; in fact, Sun started shining in all its glory and the hills basked merrily in its warmth.

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We again went on the same stretch towards Lal Tibba and beyond save we didn’t return back. It was a circular stretch, so we reached back to Char Dukan via Sister Bazaar (I bought Peanut butter from Sister Bazaar, they say its world famous). Then I asked someone the way to Mr. Bond’s home. We went on the told way. I saw a building named Ivy Bank which beckoned that Ivy Cottage (Mr. Ruskin Bond’s home) is not far. I asked a boy about Mr. Bond’s home. He signalled us to follow him. He took us upstairs on some archaic ladders and he himself knocked the door. And here he was, Mr. Ruskin Bond, standing in front of me. I told him that I called him a day before yesterday. That I don’t want to waste any of his time and just want to hand him an envelope. He said Thanks smilingly. I was so excited that on the way back, we climbed the Gun hill again!

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We couldn’t sense, how last few days passed. A light drizzle welcomed this morning. All the beautiful scenes, glorifying experiences, chilling sensations weaved themselves as leaves of a tree, a tree standing on the highway of life. We decided to shop a little in the morning. We both were very bad on shopping. So, we bought a cap and a pendant and called it quit. There was one very bonny puppy shivering at Library Bus Stand. I fed him with some bread chunks but he refused to eat them. We went back to our room at about 12 noon and packed up. We bade adieu to our room Ekant and also thanked the ITBP personnel for such warm hospitality. The return taxi cost us Rs.300/- only.

As the taxi started rolling downhill, the rain started intensifying. I wiped the glass pane of the taxi to watch the beauteous view of the green hills, for one more time. We reached Dehradun about two hours early.

Here’s a 10 odd minute video capturing most of the trip.

I hope you enjoyed the hills with me.

19 Comments

  • Nandan jha says:

    welcome aboard vikas.
    Very engaging read and the part about meeting mr bond was really the cherry of the pie.

    Incidentally we were able to meet mr bond for a few moments since he was visiting a book shop there.

    By the way what is a ‘army bath’

  • Mahes Semwal says:

    I was also about to asked the same question wht. Nandan asked “Wht. is Army Styled bath. My Father retired from Army only but never heard this word.

    Its true that in Shiv Ratan Kender (Shivji’s temple) on the way to Mussoorie , they don’t allow any donations (Paise Chadhaana Manaa Hai)

    In that temple you can get stones in a very economical rates , but if you have some knowledge of stones.

    They maintain the temple by the profit earned thru that shop.

  • George says:

    What was in the envelope for Ruskin Bond ???

  • vikas.kapil35 says:

    As for ‘Army Bath’, I meant a very simple but a very tidy bathroom. In the envelope for Ruskin Bond, there was a poem, I wrote for Mr.Bond. If anybody is interested in the poem, I will be happy to post it as well.

  • HaRMaN says:

    ..like a roamer :)
    KiP Flying Dude!

  • Rajinder says:

    hmm..

    i liked the way u expressed ur visit.

    i wish if i could visit the same places.

    anway it seems u njoyed alot, wish u all the best for future journeys/adventures.

  • Vivek Aggarwal says:

    dude, some nice photographs you have there.

  • Abhishek Tiwari says:

    That’s really a wondreful blog. Pictures are awesome. I have been to Dehradun some 5-7 times for my grand parents lived in Haridwar.

    I am a great great fan of Ruskin Bond and wish to congratulate you for you are really a lucky one.

    You can do really good in advanture writing. Try it. :)

  • Vikas Kapil says:

    Thanks a lot Abhishek for the encouraging words.

  • Vikram says:

    hi Vikas,

    thank you for sharing your insights about this splendid trip. I am planning to visit Mussoorie this weekend.

    it would be great if you could send me the address of the ITBP guest house in Mussoorie?

    looking forward to your reply soon,

    warm regards!
    Vikram

  • ChatpataDun says:

    A very well written. Just to add what is mentioned above, there is famous Shiv Ratan Kendra (temple) on the way between DehraDun and Mussoorie. They serve free hot prasad (daal chawal/ chai). Good taste, especially if you visit during cold :-)

  • Shantanu says:

    Vikas,
    thanks for the lovely photographs of Landour. Once a regular visitor, it has been six years I have not been able to visit landour. How much I miss the morning cup of tea with ‘Gobhi Ka Paroths” at Anil’s shop at Char Dukan. Man that was bliss. God willing will visit soon.

  • Pooja says:

    Hi Vikas,

    I would love to read the poem you wrote for Mr. Bond. Please share it, if possible.I’m a big big fan of him.Did you get a chance to get a pic of his house or with him?

  • Sharmila says:

    You have described your travel in a neat and nice way. Thanks for writing on Landour. I am planning to travel Landour (from Mumbai) this year. I wish to stay there for few days.
    Which is the best month to travel? I don’t want to visit when there are too many tourists crowding the town. Is it safe in Landour to stay alone? What are the good hotels there? Also I want to meet Mr.Bond while I am there. Is it necessary to take a prior appointment? Or is there any specific time when he meets his reader fans? I do not have his contact number to take prior appointment.
    Thanks again for this writeup.

    • Vikas Kapil says:

      Thanks Sharmila.
      The best time to visit Landour is around summer, but if you want to avoid the vacation rush, then make it in July-Aug if you like rain, or Dec-Jan if you like snow. I feel that its entirely safe to stay in Landour; after all it’s Landour Cantonment. You won’t find any high end hotels in Landour, but there are many budget hotels in Landour Bazaar. And about Mr.Bond, he comes down to Cambridge Book Store (Mall Road) every Saturday, to meet his fans. He doesn’t like to see many guests at home, I can say this with a high degree of confidence.
      Best of Luck for your trip..

      • Akrit Michael says:

        Dear Vikas
        Thank you for providing such vital information about meaning Mr. Bond.
        However there is just one pettty doubt that still lingers in my mind. You mentioned that he comes every saturday at the cambridge book store on “THE MALL”.
        It would be very conveniant if you could also supply the infomation on the timing of his attendances on the book store.
        Do reply soon as i have to visit mssoorie on the 16th of june, ie. a sturday which is the only saturday in my tour.
        Warm Regards
        Akrit. :)

        • Vikas Kapil says:

          Hi Akrit,
          I am not sure about the timings but I suppose it is around 4 in the evening. Alternatively you can call Cambridge Book Shop and ask; the owner of the shop is a gentle person. The number is – +911352632224, +919837258801

          • akrit michael says:

            Thank you so much vikas!
            It was only because of you that I could meet Mr. BOND!
            He even signed a novel for me and incidentally, even I have him a self composed poem!
            I am writing this reply very late as there have been about 2 and a half years simce I’ve met Mr.Bond.
            It was great meeting him!
            I even asked him if he said it with arsenic was a real story, which he good humoredly declined!
            He also told me uncle Ken’s stories were real!
            I have a photo and a short video with him,
            It would be an honour to befriend you on facebook!

            Regards
            ~Akrit

  • sunil kumr says:

    Nice information with excellent photographs.

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