By Abhirup Bhunia:
The swig of coffee seems like a breath of warmth cutting from side to side the otherwise chilly conditions in the mountainous Mussoorie. The view from the ridges is extensively cavernous and hollow where the roads and suchlike appear infinitesimal and glibly takes me back to childhood watercolors. With the occasional exception of lakes, streams and a stadium — that I learnt was Mohammad Azharuddin’s cricket academy — the view from top is quiet yet, disquieting, resembling a huge grotto that’s bottomless. The cold winds are ephemeral. Weather conditions strangely enough beats permanence in which every ten minutes of walk greets me with a different climate. The nippiness prompts a shawl ten minutes prior to a descending journey on a rickshaw that brings a steep rise in temperature when the fur becomes redundant. Maybe the playful sun is the culprit — the rickshaw puller says so. The narrow road circling upwards promises topographical delights and interlaces the entire settlement, where on one side of the road repair work is in full swing. Mudslides had ripped through the area some time ago… and the repair seems explainable. But the community feeling here is too full of meaning to be encumbered by disasters like landslides.
Like everywhere else, business is in Mussoorie too. The thin lanes are lined with shops where some are selling beverages for the cold bitten tourist, some are advertising Mussoorie specials that travelers are inclined to buy to keep as mementos, some have put up woolen garments for sale as sightseers horde to purchase economical winter clothes. The place is called Mal Road. The name can be traced to the Hindi word ‘Mal’ which invariably means goods although more frequently among the lowly tongues. Few though have an undisputed idea of the etymology of the place, which is a five minute long walk from a picturesque — although manmade — place called Company Gardens.
The area, an enclosed one and thrown open via a gate, hardly resembles a millionaire’s private bungalow lawn and boasts of a synthetic waterfall but one will not realize unless the scarf-wearing lady in the nursery who’s busy with plantation work enlightens you upon enquiry. Two French nationals respond with glee when I ask them about the place, saying, “Ah! Very nice” Inside the Gardens too, there are restaurants and eateries, as also a modest brook that provides boating service for couples and families. The sporadic rain isn’t a spoiler, its rather beautiful but enduring the chilly climate without an overcoat is a challenge. The drizzle — downpour some will prefer — lasts for a quarter hour and the refectory owner is kind enough to allow a gratis wait inside!
The writer is the Sub-Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz