If one recalls literature from when urbanization began to take shape, whether in Europe or even in South Asian countries like India, there runs the theme of strong contrasts between the city life and the country life. Shakespeare’s characters seeking a life of bliss away from the corrupt of court, or Rabindranath Tagore’s affair with the quaint life of villages in Bengal romanticize the country and often criticize the city.
Many ‘digital nomads’ like me have often unconsciously retraced these comparisons made by our ancestors as we try to hoard memories of culture, lands and its people when we travel.
But why is this important?
Well, it is because this is what pulled me back to the embrace of the two cities, Mussoorie and Dehradun: Nostalgia. Not only nostalgia for my days spent at the boarding in Dehradun but also a strong sense of nostalgia for the quaint hill stations.
Dehradun and Mussoorie are hill stations in transit, a notion intrinsic to being human, which is what makes these places fascinating for me. So when I decided on a trip to these towns, many were puzzled at my enthusiasm to visit a crowded, chaotically urbanized city of Dehradun (Mussoorie still holds its ground as a hill station) and while my friend, looked longingly out the car window in hopes to catch hold of hillocks and perhaps cottages, as we left behind the Dehradun railways station, I imagined a hint of betrayal on her face.
We visited a total of seven places within almost two days, having arrived on a Friday afternoon and departing by Sunday evening. Here is a list of our little adventures on a weekend, and did I mention, within a budget of five thousand each? (Also consider: we spent lavishly on our train tickets).
Mall Road, Mussoorie
Having arrived late afternoon at the hills, we chose not to waste much time in our hotel room and left to stroll about at the mall road which is where we were staying. We made a stop outside the Picture Palace, which was an old cinema hall that was renovated and now stands famous for its 5d movies and an entertaining haunted house. After that with no further ado, we took a trolley ride to Gun Hill, in hopes of being on time to watch the setting sun. The sunset point at gun hill is surrounded by numerous shops and food stalls to entertain the tourists, you can enjoy a cup of tea or steaming maggi at a very cheap price. We took a trolley back to mall road and made our way to Kalsang Friend’s Corner to gorge over some Pan-Asian cuisine, which truth be told was mostly average except the chicken momos. After that we went over to Café By the Way, which is literally located by the way as we move ahead on the mall road. Café By the Way, apart from a beautiful ambience also offers great hot chocolate and an array of pastries to choose from. You can while away the time playing scrabble, jenga, ludo or cards, or even look through their collection of art that are on sale as well.
Camelback road cemetery, Mussoorie
I might sound a tad bit sadistic but my favorite place had to be camelback road cemetery. Located amidst the undisturbed forested area of camel back road, the cemetery was established in 1829, after the only cemetery at Landour. The cemetery is the final resting place for many Europeans and the graves are almost covered in mosses and vegetation. The atmosphere at this cemetery is very tranquil and kept us in a trance while we stood there among the trees and the graves.
"I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles" (Walt Whitman) x Camel back road Cemetery, Mussoorie this cemetery was established in 1829, after the only other cemetery at Landour (where Italian prisoners of war of second world war are buried). this cemetery is the final resting place for many europeans, including John Hindmarsh (Crimean war of 1854), Frederick 'Pahari' Wilson and his indian wife, Gulabo, and John Lang, who once represented Rani Laxmibai in a lawsuit with the british. x #graveyard #cemetery #mussoorie #dehradun #uttarakhand #sodoon #india #travel #hills #natgeo #matadoru #waltwhitman
Lal Tibba, Landour
After series of failed attempts at hitchhiking, we rented out a cab along with some other tourists and made our way to Lal Tibba which is the highest point of Mussorie and provides a splendid scenic view. The coffee at the Lal Tibba spot is amazing for those of you caffeine lovers. Interestingly, Landour was the Indian colony racially segregated from the elite houses of British at Lal Tibba (red-roofed houses).
On our drive back we crossed the Char Bazaar (four shops), which if our cab driver is to be trusted, has been restricted to only four shops adjacently aligned since colonized India. We made a stop at St. Paul’s Church, which is an Anglican Church, built in 1839 exclusively for the British Christian officials residing at Landour. The church was recently restored and has beautiful stained glass windows from where the sunlight seeps in the church interiors.
Our drive to cloud end took us about an hour and wasn’t as fulfilling as expected although the sight here was stunning and even better than Lal Tibba. Cloud end is actually a forest resort but it was closed during our visit. The resort leads to a lot of hiking trails if one would like to venture out to nearby locations like the wishing well, the Benog Hill and Bhadraj temple.
Rajpur Road and Ashley Hall
We took a local bus at around 8pm on our very second day at Mussorie back to Dehradun and checked ourselves in an all women hostel that just cost us 200 INR per head! Carry your blankets to be safe although they did lend us some for free. We went over to Rajpur Road for dinner at Black Pepper and fed ourselves well. Then we headed to the Barista at a walking distance that is adjoined to an English Book Depot for bibliophiles to enjoy themselves at.
Guchhupani/ Robber’s cave
The locals call it Gucchupani (waterlogged land), but it was named Robber’s cave by the British officials during colonization because it was home to notorious robbers. It is known for its strange natural occurrence as a stream of water appears from nowhere and disappears underground with steady water trickling from the surrounding rocks. It is a beautiful location but is slowly becoming stained with dirt and garbage as shops grow around the popular tourist area.
The word Clement, meaning merciful, resonates the religious mood of this district located 9 kilometers away from Clock tower, Dehradun. The Great Stupa of Buddha’s Descent from Devaloka, also known as the World Peace Stupa was completed in 2002 and is the main attraction of the city. The structure draws from traditional Tibetan architecture and boasts of beautifully carved sculptures and elaborately designed murals in the interiors. The famous Mindrolling Monastery is located within same vicinity, founded to promote and preserve Tibetan culture in India. This quaint little district is a must visit for those fond of architecture or even in search of spirituality.
We left Clement Town and took a train back to New Delhi after a very quick and satiating weekend getaway. I came back home with quiet contention on having been able to enjoy both the new and the old of the cities and in hopes that certain places I visited remain unaltered reminiscent of the old cities while the rest of it is swallowed by the urbanized cities with burgeoning appetites.