Since my granddaughter had winter vacations, and my son had also got the week off, we decided to drive up to Mussoorie for the New Year and to spend the last week of the last month of the last year, and the first day of the first month of the new year at our usual place, Padmini Nivas at the Mall, Mussoorie. Then my nephew,Rohit,his wife Sapna and 5 year old son, Sanat, also geared up to come with us to test his new automatic Honda Hybrid for the first cross-country drive. More the merrier for welcoming the New Year!
Mussoorie – The Queen of Hills
Mussoorie is considered as the backyard hill station, being nearest to Delhi, and most of the Janta has, perhaps, visited the place umpteen times and hence Mussoorie may not generate any interest anymore. So this post, if published at all, may not have any value for Ghumakkars who can skip off to Switzerland!
But we make at least two trips to this place on long weekends like Republic Day, or any other holidays. Apart from the fact that it’s the nearest hill, there are other reasons to go off from the daily crush of the city. Being near the nature, the family gets a chance to spend 72 hours together, which hardly happens in the city when everybody is with the “bun and on the run”–rush-rush! Hills de-stress one from the school, coaching classes, office hassles, and nosy neighbors. Even if it is for few days–change of AAB-O=HAWA can do wonders. Try it. Go with positive mind and you will find newness and new beauty every time if you look for it. Well, that’s our reason for skipping away from the hum-drum of towns.
Fresh and Nostalgic
My Approach to this Post and What You can expect to see
For the reasons mentioned, I will not go into the details of the route to destination, and the post will also be short musings divided under various heads, and hopefully some photographs. In fact it could be more pictorial than verbose (will depend on Nandan Jha’s editing).
26th December, Friday, 2008:- We left Gurgaon at 5.03 am and were on the highway at 5.05 AM. With fog coming down and the day break far away, quite dark, it looked like we were driving through a long tunnel, but with hardly any traffic, we hit ISBT, Sarai Kale Khan at 5.30 AM and were over the Yamuna bridge, when the visibility became nil and got into heavy traffic. Because of the heavy fog, no signage, we were driving blindly, and suddenly hit the Toll Booth, which we knew never existed on way to Meerut Bypass. Here we learnt that we were on to Hapur and were told to take a u-turn and turn right at Lal Kuan after 2kms. We missed that too and found ourselves heading back to Delhi. Hardly anybody at that time to guide you, but we finally managed to go through, I think, Ghazipur, and turn right at Hero Honda showroom and got onto Delhi-Meerut Road.
To Keep you interested
Even on the double carriageways we were crawling due to heavy fog and traffic of trucks carrying sugarcane, we reached Khatauli (NH58) at 9.05 AM and Cheetal Grand at 9.15 AM. Stopped for an hour for some heavy breakfast and of course the wash. We left Cheetal at 10.20. When it was still foggy and all headlights and fog lights on. G T Road, Sultanpur, was under repair with traffic jam on both sides.
One needs to keep cool head in this kind of traffic-with bullock carts. Tractors and trucks overloaded with sugarcane and hay etc. At 11.15(196 km) the Sun came and it became quite clear and we could drive at 100kmspeed on a nice smooth road–with Mayawatis billboards on all lamp posts
Except for some portions of road under repair, both at Meerut and Muzaffarnagar by-passes, road right throughout was reasonably in good condition to allow you to speedup. By 11.35 we were at Purkazi, 11.40 we entered Uttaranchal, breeze changed, wide road, mustard fields. Bought some fruit at Mangalore high street, mango grooves area now, we stopped for coke at Vishal Punjabi Dhaba, just 2 km before Roorkee. Doon Road at 12.25 became very sunny. Excellent road for a 100km speed. From Curry Road (?)Every time we drive through the villages, there being no sign boards, one tries to find out where u are by reading the address on the shop signboards. With no luck because you are driving at speed, and, moreover hardly anybody writes the address…though some do.
So. I wouldn’t be able to tell you the names of roads we pass although we have done this rout at least 20 times! But the road which runs next to the dry river, with thicket of trees on both sides is an excellent part to drive fast, but we never do it. Instead we go real slow to enjoy the place, and we call it the “Monkey Road” where you come across families (all together, kids and parents, almost human) of the monkeys together all the way on this road. Notice their behavior, next time you go.
Uphill drive) 30km before DDoon)
13.40hours, we entered DDoon, with car showrooms like Toyota, Ford, Chevy, wild life institute…and Arahat Bazaar. One doesn’t mind slow traffic in town, because it gives a chance to see the place, and guess kind & type of people living there. In smaller town one saw only cycle shops, barber on the road side, tractor repair shops which is quite accurate representation of the people of that place. (I wonder how many Ghumakkars think of these things while travelling.)
14.00 hours we were at Ghanta Ghar, turned left uphill. Past Police Kotwalui. Osho Gallery, schools at Rajpura and stopped for few second for natures call. Though it wasn’t cold at all…
15.15 Hours we entered Mussoorie, free entry that day, and we were at our hotel Padmini Nivas at 15.20 hours, and in our rooms 21.22, 23.at@Rs.1200 per night for double room, room service, Vegetarian Guajarati food, but you get eggs at breakfast. Overlooks Doon Valley. If you can rise early and look down, the Doon looks like a starry sky while the sky is clouded up there.
It wasn’t very cold but quite invigorating and bracing on the Mall on the first night. The environment of hills, nippy air, unpolluted air, does some magic to you and you find yourself at peace with the world! (At least we do).
Explore Mussoorie – The building, few of them
Believe that even the most “boring” places can turn out be scintillating if you have a positive attitude. And passion for anything. I, for example, love to walk early morning–even in Mussoorie at 6am out of hotel-and look at the surroundings and anything old, with history, and try to find more details about it.(You will never feel bore again, and in the process you gain wonderful knowledge. So this time in Mussoorie, while on my walks in the morning I discovered quite a few buildings, and tried to find their history, not always successful–but sometime you do.
Maharaja of Kapurthala “Chateau Mussoorie”
Opposite Maharaja Of Kapurthala’s Residence
On my earlier visits, while walking up from the Library Chowk towards Dunsvirk Court Hotel
I always used to stand outside this place and wonder about the life inside but never went in as it was always locked and seemed in a bad condition. But this time we, my son, granddaughter and nephew, found the back gate (entry for servants) wide opened, and walked in all of us, For the first time I saw the front entrance (which is not visible from outside because of long drive-in) and was wonderstruck! I have read quite a lot about the maharajas (one of my passions) and knew about Kapurthala.
The Glorious Past
We just went berserk clicking photographs of gates, with Coat-of -Arms of Kapurthala on the main gates.
Coat of Arms
The Palace of Yore
There are two photos of the “foundation stone” laid for the chateau, by the elder son of the H.H.Maharaja Sir Jagjit Singh, known as Tikka Permjit Singh. The inscription is in Urdu-which was the court language, and it says that stone was laid in 1896, and the opening of the place was done by the Maharaja himself in 1899=–three years to complete, the inscription also gives the names of foreigners who made the map and who undertook the construction.
Inscription in Urdu
Great, there are other pictures of great steps leading up to the actual building (they look more like Palace L, Elysee of the Maharaja at Kapurthala. As everyone knows Kapurthala was a great Francophile. and great friend of Patiala.
The great steps
We were thrown out of the place the moment guards saw us. We were told that Raja Sahib (I think it must be Tikka Shatrujit Singh-the page three personality) has just left and that’s how the gate was not closed. But a great opportunity to go back in history and the Raj.
Hakman’s Grand At Mall
I am sure that every visitor to Mussoorie, strolling on the Mall, must have noticed the hotel signboard, but I wonder how many have gone in to see how it looks? It’s declared as a “Heritage building” and it’s in a bad condition, even though it runs as a hotel and get some residents. I walked in, and the steps lead you down to the present reception, and into the “huge hall with wooden floor which must have been a ball room for great dancing feast. There is a stage for the band to play, and there is a balcony looking down–must be for the VIPS and their ladies. The windows (all blocked and cracking) open to the view of the valley. I was not allowed to take pics, but I got myself framed with the heritage name as the backdrop, believe the hotel is 110 years old and was primarily meant for British soldiers. Later on I tried to find out its history but was not very successful. Even Ruskin Bond didn’t seem to know, when I checked with him later.
Thats me and Hakman
“Dil Aaram” Estate of Chaudhary Hyder Husein of Lucknow
Nawab Hyder Husein Saheb
There are quite a few old estates of which I have not been able to find, but one can imagine the kind of Nawabs, or High Indians life style in those days, with Rolls Royces and patronizing poets and singers, and mujras, unlike the present rajas. Some of the names given to these estates, perhaps reveal the personality of the owners, like the Kapurthala’s Chateau, (desire to be seen as a Francophile), Ch. Hyder husans “DIL ARAM”(written in Urdu at the gate. reveals the man looking for peace and Happiness and comfort. (See the pic).
Kamla “Castle” of JK Sanghanias, or “Kajriwal Kunj”
There is another big estate on Happy Valley Road on way to Lal Bahadur Shastri National Admin Academy (LBSNAA). The name on the gate, with long drive- in says Ranjit Singh,O.B.E. the place is now known as Carlton Hotel, which has a small board hanging on the door selling its wares “Worlds Best Fish Fries” I wasn’t tempted to go in, but felt that the original owner ,perhaps couldn’t afford to live like a British titled person. It’s like one of my very dear and old friend in Mumbai, Perwaize Waris, runs an advt. agency, and got as family estate in Mussoorie called “Glenville Hotel” on Mall. An old estate, like many, almost breaking down, and he is trying hard to get rid of it. There are quite a few more which, some of you can try to discover by walking around.
Explore Mussoorie – The Walks
People who say what’s there to do in Mussoorie, perhaps, are not nature-loving and are not looking for”SAKOON”.; but there are quite a few walks for one to enjoy the nature’s bounty, and at the same time, invigorate oneself. Of course, Mussoorie doesn’t have walks like Dalhousie, but I discovered few, during my morning walks (I do get out by 6.15, even in winter)
1. Camel Back is, of-course, known to everyone, but it’s still a delightful morning fare, and especially now, it has been cleaned, resting places (gazebos) have got new benches and painted. When the sun comes out from the east and its rays strike the hill, you can see the snow peaks (Take a deep breath and inhale, and experience the sheer happiness)
Take a deep breath
Here’s a short video
2. Happy Valley. is the road which goes up to the LBSNAA, going up left from the Kempty Fall Road. You can walk right up to the Academy’s Parking Place, and from there go down to the village. Or go down on the Kempty Fall Road as far as Uyoulike. It’s all downhill. So you will have to climb up back! Incidentally, you can see the Carlton Hotel on way to the Academy and try world best fish fries.)
3. This is my favorite. Go from Ghoda stand, (Library Chowk) to the road going down on the left towards old Savoy Hotel (now sold) and Mid-way Restaurant right up to the National Academy, the take the road on the left, going upward towards the Guru Nanak Fifth Century School–the road is called Harnam Singh Road, and “Harnamz” have a bungalow up there along with other bungalows. It’s an upward climb, very secluded, and beautiful walk with view of snow peaked Himalaya. Walk up to Waverly Gate (Church), turn right to walk down to the Ghoda Stand (from where you started, It’s a walk round the full mountain.
Instead of coming down to Ghoda stand via the Kapurthala Palace, you walk up beyond Dalmias Resort right up to Dunsvirk Court Hotel, the highest hotel in Mussoorie, and take a breather. THEN, LOOK TO THE RIGHT. What you see is the panoramic view of the Himalaya–all snow peak range and think of Allama Iqbals earliest great work”HIMALA” from BANGE DARA.
Mussoorie From the other end
They seem so near, you can touch them. (That a place where the TV personality of NDA-DUA has his place Its next to the place my wife’s aunt lives–some photos are there from that terrace, of the snow peaks.
Incidently,when you come down via Kapurthalas, ,have a hot glass of tea and toasts from the DRIVERS DHABA on the left–just before the Ghoda Stand.
Exploring Mussoorie – Snow Peaks and Hills
There is nothing to talk but show you the pictures. By the way, if you want to meet the photographer whose pictures of peaks are on the P_POST CARDs and in the Tourist Office, Mr. Bhardwaj, you can meet him on the camel back .He lives there and runs a small tea shop (free telescope) on the first resting place-cum view point. It has a wide picture of all snow peaks. You can see the snow peaks range, a panoramic view from the vintage point of Dunsvirk Court Hotel: = peaks Gangotri, Srikanta, Jaonli, Kedarnathand few more. We shot quite a few pictures from there and other points.
ए हिमालय …
The view of Himalaya reminds one of the first famous poems of Allama Iqbal”
ए हिमालय ए फ़ज़ील-ए-किशवर-ए-हिंदोस्ताँ
झुक कर चूमता है तेरी पेचानी को आसमाँ
Exploring Mussoorie – The Mall Scene
There is nothing much to talk about this subject also, except show some pictures that tell the story. Colourful caps. Long (Oxford Dons) scarves and tight, hip-hugging jeans–and a very young and pretty looking crowd. One of the pictures you will see us on the cycle rick (my son, my wife and I – no guilt feeling for riding). Incidentally, there is an old Antique shop at the Landour Bazar, if you are a collector. A rupee coin of 1918 will cost you Rs250/-.Next to that shop is Sardarji shop, who was one best walking stick maker in the country, but now stopped the business as the “good wood is no -longer available”. Walk around and enjoy the pretty young crowd!
There is a restaurant, Chic-Chocolate at the end of Mall (kulri) just after the trolley. He has all walls covered with posters of old movies-both English and hindi.Good food also. Do visit, if you have not already.
Old World Feel with Good Food
Exploring Mussoorie – Money’ Can’t Buy You Love
This, in fact, is the part of Mussoorie Scenes, but I am listing it exclusively, because the pictures show you what I mean by “Money has nothing to do with happiness”. My granddaughter shot the pictures of these kids on the Mall–perhaps children’s of Cycle rickshaw pullers or pram pushers (used by young tourist for their babies to be pushed uphill).
Money Can’t Buy Me Love
The sheer innocence, the bright smiling eyes, the divinely happy faces are, I believe, something no amount of money can give you. Right from the depth of their hearts–they just looked when they saw being photographed. I hope you would agree!
Now stop smiling and continue reading
Exploring Mussorrie – Ruskin Bond and The Ghumakkar
Ruskin Bond is a well-known personality of Mussoorie and a famous author and story teller, and is loved by children and adults like me. On the 31st December 2008, he was due to appear at the Cambridge Book Depot,Kulri,The Mall, at 3.30 to sign books for public, which was a great news. As I had missed him last, I made sure to meet him this time, excited like a kid, and I was the first in long line of young kids& adults waiting for him. He came walking down from Landour (his residence) as his car had got stuck in the incoming traffic for the new year(stickler for time).
Ghumakkar, Bond and I
I had worn the Ghumakkar shirt(in the winter)given as freebie to me by Nandan Jha, to give a push to the site(HA!). Ruskin signed three books for me viz. Delhi is not far, Scenes from a writer’s life and Book of Humour. I talked to him about Ghumakkar and asked him to write something different for the site, and he said he will do. Let’s hope!
Way back to Gurgaon
On the 31st night the Hotel Padmini Nivas had a bonfire and a special open buffet and music for the resident till midnight to welcome the New Year-2009.
Thats the Gang and the Padmini Niwas
On the morning of 1st January, 2009, we packed up and left the hotel at 11.45am and reached Gurgaon at 10 pm. This time we lost time because two points. ONE:- there is a small tunnel on the way)I don’t recall the name) and it has temples on both sides, which were having some special festival celebrations and the place was jammed by hundreds of cars, bikes and busses parked right in the middle of the road, Dead stop! Until two gentlemen, stuck like us, started to get the traffic moving–begging people to reverse, or move aside. After one hour we got out of that jam. Then again, no signage, we missed the Meerut Bypass and went through the big city (cost us at least an hour), and even entering Delhi was a little messy, and we had to ask for the way–this happens to us every time we come back late at night. All-in-all a good memorable trip, even if it is to a backyard hill stations–it is still queen of hills.
Hope you enjoyed the ride with me.