Monsoon in Mussoorie

Outside the car window, the clouds seem to be floating along with us. Dodging the mountains, drifting through the green valley and hanging low on the road, the soft wisps of water, bring a smile to my face. I am approaching Mussoorie, the queen of hill-stations, as it is often described. A drizzle greets me, as the car winds up the last mountain bend and arrives at the popular holiday destination, known not just for its scenic views but for being home to the most celebrated authors, poets and artists. A resident of the town and celebrated author Ganesh Saili had once said, “the stretch from Mussoorie to its twin Landour has the most number of creative brains”. The clouds clear for a minute and the stunning views of the green Doon Valley and the distant snow-capped Himalayan peaks mesmerise me. As I step out of the car, breathing in the fresh air and looking around the quaint and vibrant town, I think maybe its salubrious climate will make a poet out of me as well! It is my first and solo trip to this paradise and I have not drawn-up a list of things to do for the one-day trip. I want to explore Mussoorie without a plan. I am hungry by the time I check into my hotel near the legendary Mall Road and it's way past my breakfast time. I start walking around the busy road, peeping at restaurant signages, looking for a place to have my morning coffee. The area has several cosy cafes, and I step into a one that catches my eye. The cafe- cum-restaurant is serving pancakes, chocolate cakes, shakes and of course homemade chocolates! I realise homemade chocolates is an art here, maybe a legacy of its colonial days, when Mussoorie and Landour served as the summer hideaway for British officers. Another legacy from that era is Mussoorie's long tradition of brewing. India’s first brewing house ‘The Old Brewery’ was started by Sir Henry Bohle in Mussoorie. The romance of that time also lingers in the churches, libraries, hotels and bungalows strewn around the town. I enjoy my cup of coffee with a homemade chocolate brownie and settle in with a book. The sunlight is warm and the rain-washed city glistens in it. A creamy sandwich later, I step out in the afternoon sun. The rain starts again, quiet unpredictable in the hills, and I duck into a bookstore for shelter. The owner, a septuagenarian, starts a conversation with me on books and mountains. He tells me of another store nearby that I should visit: the Cambridge Book Shop near Kulri Bazaar. It is the shop where the famous writer and my personal favourite Ruskin Bond comes every Saturday afternoon to sign books and meet his fans. Since it's a Saturday, I almost run to the old store hoping for a glimpse of the grand old storyteller. But I am not in luck as the bad weather has forced the writer to stay indoors. I skim through a few books and buy a few more to remind me of my visit. Mussoorie maybe known for its cool weather but its people are warm. Wherever I go, residents are friendly, guiding me with eager smiles and nods. From midway along the Mall, I spot a signage that says “way to Gun Hill Cable car” and I follow it. A ropeway runs up to Gun Hill, a viewing point at an altitude of 2,530 m. The cable car flies me over the cloud-covered town but on a clear day I can only image the superb views it would offer. At the top, the cloud is thinner and several white-tipped Himalayan peaks are visible. It's time for sunset and a crows gathers. The setting ball of fire sets the sky ablaze, the evening shadows darkening the hills. I am stunned by nature's drama and as I step back into the cable car for my ride back, I know I have made a memory of a lifetime in Mussoorie. --Namita Kumar