Incidentally, the man who surveyed the subcontinent,
George Everest, lived in Mussoorie from 1832 to 1843. He was the Surveyor-General
of India. An interesting story about him tells how he kept a luscious harem
behind his bungalow. Today this Bibi Khans stands in ruins. It is known as
Park Estate and is just a few minutes drive from the centre of town.
Mussoorie today is a bustling town. As one drives up there is evidence of much building activity, multi-storyed buildings and cottages taking shape on precarious hillsides. Every second or third house is either a private hotel or a school. The once wooded hillsides are quite bare. In summer and autumn which are the main tourist seasons, crowds converge on the Mall Road which is the centre of town. Sometimes in the evening there is hardly place to walk. Shops which have no local handicrafts worthy of note except for some fine walking sticks, do brisk business in goods brought up from the plains. An aerial ropeway which starts from near Hackman’s on the Mall will take you up to Gun Hill for an overall view. There are crowds milling around the starting,point waiting to go up.
Gun Hill was so named because in the old days a gun kept there was fired at mid-day to denote the time. Today there is no gun but the hilltop is quite popular.
An boasts of eating houses 46 all types from south Indian cuisine The Kulri Bazaar has 0 caps which offer Indian fare. In keeping with the times a new and rather good pizza parlour is the latest addi,bon on the Mall. It seemed very popular, we tried the food and found it good.
In pre-war summers Mussoorie had the reputation of being a carefree fun-loving hill station. It had no bureaucrats, no visible hierarchial system as Shimla and Nainital, where the governments moved up for the summer. No one wore a social strait jacket. It had a great reputation for being a place for amours and secret laisons. Indeed, in one of the better known hotels, they rang a bell just before dawn, so that the pious may say their prayers and the impious may get back to their own beds!
Hackman’s on the Mall had some luscious cabaret artistes who were reputed to have performed at Monte Carlo. Hackman’s is still a running hotel but nowhere near its former glory. The Savoy was the grandest hotel in Mussoorie. It was a place where every one came to holiday in style. It was built in 1902, even though there was no proper road and no lorries— everything was brought up by bullock-cart. It was in the gay twenties that the Savoy had its heydey—gorgeous balls were held, often in fancy dress, perfumed ladies and tuxedoed gentlemen danced to the music of bands which came all the way from Europe. The famous and the wealthy lived as guests including be jewelled maharajas who occupied whole suites and threw lavish parties. There was a glamorous atmosphere about the place which drew everyone to it. Pandit Nehru used to holiday here. Exiled heads of state like Haile Selassie and the Dalai Lama have also been on the guest list of the Savoy. The splendid days have gone but the Savoy still stands serenely in its setting of ancient deodar trees. If the imagination is extended one can picture something of its former glory.
Mussoorie’s roller skating rinks are very popular with’the younger set of tourists. Others like long walks. For trekkers this town is a convenient base. Roads from here lead to Gangotri and Yamunotri the Black Peak area, Har-ki-Doon and other treks in the Garhwal Himalayas and to nearby Himachal Pradesh.
Two old graveyards, one on Camers Back Road and the other at Landour have some old interesting graves if you like wandering around. There are generals, tommies, authors, children and memsahibs. A good way to spend a lazy afternoon if you want to recapture a sense of the past. A good way to spend the evening if you want to brush shoulders with ghosts! Mussoorie like all hill stations has its fair share of ghost stories, mostly perpetuated by school children.
One can drive down to Kempty Falls, which is about half an hour away on a motorable road. There are plenty of people viewing the water which splits into five distinct falls. When we went a film team from Bombay was there. Everyone was very excited about the film stars!
On some days the water is used for irrigation and the magnificent spectacle is denied to the tourist. Dhanoulti which lies on the Tehri road about 25 kilometres from Mussoorie, is a charming little hamlet set in deodar groves. A nice peaceful spot to picnic in. Here again the Himalayas offer a splendid picture. The air is clear and wildflowers dot the glens and roadsides.
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