Himalayan mists – a visit to Mussoorie in February
19 March 2013
Amelia and I made our annual trek back to India this February. Amelia, my 11 year old daughter wasn’t too thrilled about going at first. She’s been every year for the past 8 years, so the novelty has worn a bit thin. It turned out to be a good trip though and she enjoyed herself. My sister, Anita and her husband, David and son, Marcus came all the way from Scotland, and Amelia got to spend time with them.
We spent a few days in Delhi, staying at a nice hotel and enjoying their fabulous breakfast buffets and steaming hot showers (a bit of a luxury in India). I went to the gift fair in Delhi and met with some of my manufacturers. Amelia went off with her Aunt and Cousin for a day at Delhi Zoo. It’s a good zoo they said. The animals have lots of space to wander around, they are not cooped up in cages as I had feared. They went to the Red Ford the next day which was also surprisingly relaxing they said – made possible by the charging of an entry fee and not allowing hawkers and vendors in. At a trip to India Gate we had encountered hawkers so aggressive the women selling henna would sidle up to us and grab our hands!
After a few days we set off for the trip to Saharanpur. It’s only a 160 kilometers from Delhi, that is about 100 miles, but it takes a good 6 hours to traverse. Road building seems to have fallen on the wayside in this part of India and the road is tortuous and bumpy, not to mention full of all kinds of traffic- honking cars, Tata trucks, tractors and lots of lots of scooters. So it’s a long and bumpy trip, and we take 2 cars to hold everyone. The kids all elect to travel with David – the ‘fun’ one. He tirelessly entertains them with an endless supply of jokes and ventures into the field of story telling – spinning off an epic fantasy tale that continues after the trip is over in weekly emailed chapters.
Our house in Saharanpur is an old colonial bungalow, probably built about 100 years ago by the British to house a plant manager for what is still the local big employer – the Imperial Tobacco Company. It’s a big cigarette factory that employes many people in town – all we know of it is that they use a World War II air raid siren to signal shift changes! The eery, foreboding sound has become indelibly associated with being there in that house. It’s a timeless sound that hasn’t changed for decades – oddly reassuring. Our house is a throwback to a colonial era – wide verandah framed with bougainvillea, high ceilings inside with deep set windows to keep out the summer heat. The garden is always blooming with flowers –
After a few days at my dad’s house we head up to the mountains. The hill station of Mussoorie, which resides at about 7500 feet. It’s the town I was born in and I consider it my home town. With passing years that feeling of ‘returning home’ seems to grow stronger and I hope that Amelia also develops an attachment to this town and to our house there called ‘Timoleague’. ‘Timoleague’ is a classic colonial summer house built by the British in the last century as they flocked to the hill stations in the summer to escape the intense heat of the plains.
In February it’s pretty cold – the cold and damp seep into the house and at night even with the heater running and the dead weight of numerous heavy woolen blankets and a thick quilt I cannot get warm. Amelia and I huddle together in bed for warmth, putting on layers of clothing. We are not used to this kind of cold that gets in your bones and doesn’t let go.
We take a walk the next day to the top of the hill, stopping for lunch at Char Dukan – 4 stores – a popular hangout for snacks and bowls of noodles and ‘bun omelettes’. The snow is heavier the further up we go and the beauty of the mists and snowy paths is unexpected. My hometown looks almost alpine in her blanket of snow.
The evenings are spent playing games – Blokus and Scrabble and talking. It’s cold but we are together in a house that holds memories. We are in a small remote corner of the world, high up, with majestic views and deep silences. We are in a good place and I try to hold on to it and appreciate the moment.
- Posted by jleaphart