Landour Part III

There’s something weirdly endearing about rain in the hills. For one, it isn’t as boring as in the plains. The clouds creep up slowly and ultimately engulf you. They caress the skin with a cool softness that just cannot be compared to anything. You know that its going to rain when you can’t see two feet ahead of you. The ghostly whiteness closes around you till you feel as if you are walking through water. And then, without warning, it starts pouring, and if you’re walking alone on a mountain road, then it seems as if you’re adrift in a vaccuum with just the sound of the driving rain splashing on the rocks for company. You cover up the best you can and plod along, looking for a rocky overhang to take shelter under. As the cloud passes by, it thins and bits of vastness start peeking at you. A glimse of a valley here, a hilltop cottage there. At last it clears and you look around. It seems as if the mountains are steaming, the way they trail wisps of clouds.
This is exactly what happenned to us countless times in our jaunts…the heaviest being during a lonely walk doen the aptly named Camel’s Back Road which bypasses Mussoorie town and out to Tehri Garhwal proper. And yes, we did find the rocky overhang. Strangely enough, I occupied myself during this cloudburst telling my friend the story of Oedipus. Don’t ask. Stumbled upon a smoky old cemetery established in 1829 by vacationing Brits. The neighbour to this sight out of an Edgar Allen Poe story was a tea stall boasting pictures of India’s very own vacationing stars. Like any other Garhwali, the nice men manning the stall offered us hot cups of sweet tea to help with the rain induced chills. They were hilariously discussing the pains of directing demanding, scowling tourists to this or that hillside temple. The question seemed to be, if it was a Shiv temple and also a Parvati temple and also a Hanuman temple, then what should it be known for? At least Gurdwaras are easy. Carried about like this. Braved the horrors of the Mall-rain and clouds seemed to have dampened the spirits of the Mallers not one bit- and searched for the Mussoorie Freemason lodge. Situated just above the Picture Palace bus stand, it’s barred Gothic gates looked mysterious enough. Wondered if there was an initiatin in progress. Took up Ruskin Bond’s casual invitation and forced ourselves on the old man. Was rewarded with great conversation- mostly about the art of writing essays and thoughts on his forthcoming memoirs. Frankly, I’ve never read much by him, but I was still awed. He’s one of the greats after all. Wonder if he’s a Freemason. Maybe not. His room is the cosiest little thing I’ve seen. Facing the Southeast on the road to Lal Tibba and painted a soothing burnt yellow to catch the morning sunlight, it consists of his writing desk- where he writes by hand- a schoolboy bunk with old trunks underneath and the odd potted plant. Full of pictures and cuttings, can’t think of a better room for writing. His living room is full of books- mostly eminent Victorians. Found out that he’s a great fan of Somerset Maugham. Not surprised then, when he called himself an essayist. He also confided that all his ghost stories were made up. Has a schoolboy’s handwriting. I felt honoured to go through some of the rough drafts of his memoirs. The bit I read is about all the female nurses that he has ever encountered. Some were apparently blindingly beautiful. There’s something about him which reminds me strongly of Gerald Durrell.
The long hike back from his place in the night, through the sepia tinted lights- because of the heavy fog- of Landour and Mussoorie and then to the eerie desolation of the road to our hotel has to be one of the highpoints. Could’ve dreamt up a hundred ghost stories just by walking by the ancient rockfaces and twisted trees with strange shapes. The night was a glimmer of ghostly grey and the hills seemed to be hiding a dozen phantoms behind every rock.

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One thought on “Landour Part III”

  1. Who cares about the beastly scenery? You, perverted, shameless Philistine that you are, forced your beastly presence on The Man.That does it, now I have to meet Macca.

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