Let me begin by confessing that I have an inherent bias towards holidifying in the hills, and on any given day I would prefer the mountains over the sea. I am unaware of the reasons why my heart melts for the luscious mountains, but maybe the cool weather of the hills coupled with breathtaking and picturesque views which keep changing at every serpentine bend of the road, makes it so much more appealing to me. I mean, I have nothing against sun-sea-sand, but sipping a hot cup of coffee while the clouds float wistfully in front of you and the cool winds brush against you, win the deal for me. Okay, enough of prologue, let’s start with my most recent holiday in the beautiful place Dehradun-Mussorie.
I was thoroughly exasperated with the taxing Hyderabad heat and scared at the thought that this might just be the first flush, I was desperately looking for a cooler haven. So when a long weekend arrived, I did not spare a second thought before booking tickets and flying across the country to the naturally endowed state of Uttarakhand. I had visited Uttarakhand earlier and always wanted to come back for more, and now was my time to again experience the amazing flora and fauna this state has to offer. Since I had lesser number of days on my side, I just picked Dehradun and Mussorie, and let me tell you, it was a great choice.
I started the trip by arriving at the Dehradun airport on a Friday afternoon and immediately started my journey to Mussorie. This place has an uncanny similarity with Siliguri, a small town located in Northern fringes of West Bengal, a place I have visited a lot in my childhood. Just like Siliguri, there is a dense forest cover on the outskirts, there is a fascinating backdrop of mountains, every now and then you come across streams of clean gushing water and a town which is trying hard to let go off its laid back attitude and catchup fast with the new tide of infrastructural development. As I left Dehradun and started ascending to Mussorie, the landscape started to change rapidly. The mercury started dipping gradually as we took one turn after another and sights that the human eye yearn to see started mesmerizing the city dweller in me. It’s during times like these that feel that our exciting city lives are so mundane and you realize it would have been so much better if we could get a chance to settle in a place so idyllic.
During this drive I came across this nostalgic visual of school kids romancing while returning from their schools. I am sure we all could relate to this, just that these pupils are so lucky that they could romance in such serene settings. I was also a little jealous of the fact that neither I have the age now, nor did I have the luxury of such pristine surroundings during my time to convey my love. Yet, it teleported me back to those days when I could spend an entire day roaming around and talking about absolutely irrelevant and random things. Loitering in streets with your buddies without any purpose whatsoever has such an old school charm to it, it just couldn’t be denied after all these years. Life is best enjoyed, when it is kept simple.
Anyways, it was approximately a two and half hour ride from the airport to Mussorie and even with a hearty breakfast, I started having hunger pangs. So after checking into our hotel, straightway I ordered some food. There is absolutely no surprise in what I ordered. Places in North make these meanest of Parathas which are nothing but stuffed breads glazed by extra helpings of butter. Our hotel was located a little away from the mall and hence was peaceful. Overlooking the valley, it had a nice little balcony, where one could sit down and watch time pass by. The transformation of colors as the day grows old is surely a spectacle worth watching. We did not have the luxury of time and hence we thought of visiting the mall road, one of the nicest places in Mussorie. It is a long stretch of road with shops on both sides vending an amazing array of goodies starting from woolens, clothes, foods, handicrafts etc. Catch a glorious sunset from a place called Gun Hill, which could be reached in a cable car and then as evening approaches, you can start to take that walk. Just stop by the shops, watch the simple lives of people and appreciate the hardship these people have to undergo for arranging the basic amenities of life. I believe that people staying in such challenging topographies, always appreciate life more than we do and there is so much to learn from them. However, that long walk will surely make you hungry and you have so many options out there to satisfy your craving. We picked up hot chicken soup, which was perfect considering that there was a reasonable bite in the wind and followed it up with a Blueberry cheese cake. In the night, do not miss out the panoramic view of Dehradun town which lights up brilliantly, it is such a delight to watch. After all that walking, hiking and travel, we were extremely tired and took to deep sleep as soon as we hit the bed.
Our second day started a little late, much to our dislike as we missed waking up to the sunrise. We cursed our lazy lifestyle, promised to hit the gym and then quickly dismissing all those fitness thoughts, started our breakfast with Aloo & Gobi parathas. I mean, it is an absolute sin, if you come here and not eat them; health regimes can wait, parathas shouldn’t. After checking out from our hotel and saying thanks to their friendly staff, we headed to Kempty Falls, the most sought after places-to-visit in and around Mussorie. And, what a disappointment, it was!! The journey was again spectacular to say the least, but the destination failed to impress. There is again a cable car ride which takes you to the waterfall. Commercialization has taken a toll on the natural setting of this waterfall and it has been converted into a swimming pool of sorts with shops all around it. I fail to see beauty in half naked men taking a dip and thereby the place failed to score any point. We quickly moved on and our next stop was a place called company garden. Infested with photographers willing and pleading you to take that ‘perfect’ picture of you, this place is no different from the other touristy places of India. The garden was definitely beautiful with multiple varieties of flowers, small water body and all. The place also has a wax museum, which we gave a comfortable miss. Outside the garden, there are these small eateries serving comfort food. We had a bowl of piping hot rajma and a bowl of magi, the quintessential food in mountains. Rajma is nothing but a lentil soup which was spicy and really flavorful, perfect for lunch. After that we visited the Mussorie Lake, which again did not fancy us. Finally we decided that we had enough of Mussorie and its time we initiate the second leg of our journey, Dehradun.
Fortunately, I have a friend who is currently based out of the Indian Military Academy and he was very kind to make arrangements for our stay inside the prestigious campus. It really gave me Goosebumps as the large iron gates open and we made our way into one of India’s most respected academy. Just as you enter, you see this Chetwode Hall to your right, a huge building with typical British architecture. Our rich colonial influence can be seen everywhere in all the blocks of the campus. What strikes you more as you keep walking around is the discipline and the huge effort which goes in keeping the place so meticulously clean and well organized. You immediately feel safe that this is the breeding ground of the best army officers of our country, entrusted with the duty of saving our territorial boundaries and also us, the people of our country. You see this young energetic men sweating it out and doing rigorous drills in the ground and you immediately appreciate the passion and determination required to uphold the position that this guys are going to attend. We spent our evening in the campus only followed by an amazing dinner at my friend’s place. Of other things as well, hospitality is something that we civilians need to learn from these men in uniform.
Our last day of the vacation started with a gorgeous morning with chirping birds all around. After the usual morning routines are over, we embarked on our journey to witness Dehradun, up-close and personal. As we left IMA, we entered another beautiful campus, this time it belonged to FRI or Forest Research Institute. Once again, their main college building is a sight to watch out for. Huge monolithic block in a lush green ground with trees all around, a sight to behold! After that, we went to a place called Guchupani or Robber’s cave in Dehradun. It is cave like structure with a spring at the end of the tunnel. The water was refreshingly cold and walking barefoot on a stream bed was divinely comforting. In the end, with wet trousers and happy heart we left for our next and final destination, PaltanBazaar. Shopping has always been an integral part of our vacations and I also had to give away to similar demands. PaltanBazaar has historically been the place where army platoons used to come for their errands. Now this has become a shopping street with innumerable shops and temporary vendors selling all things known to mankind. The absolute mindboggling cacophony, the frenzy of buying-selling adds an amazing character to it, which is so typical of the markets all around the world. It is not the transactions which are happening at every second, the soul of the place lies in the mix of people and the varied emotions at disposition. Our last halt seemed so perfect to conclude such an amazing trip.
With a heavy heart and tired legs, we had to say goodbye to the cutest airport I have seen in life. The name of the airport has jolly in it; I mean how it can go any wrong? As the flight took off and we caught the last glimpse of the Himalayas, we witnessed a myriad emotions playing out. Mostly you feel sad, but then you also feel content and happy that you have got enough memories to survive for another couple of months, before you again go out. There are not many places with whom you instantly fall in love, but this trip surely will give all of you ample chance to romance with nature. It is a rendezvous worth remembering and revisiting.