Hill stations have always held my fancy, and I have always been ready for a trip to them. I loved Ooty and Lonavala, and I’ve been craving to visit the other hill stations all over India – including Mussoorie. I didn’t know much about Mussoorie before reading this book – just that it is very, very pretty and that you fall in love instantly. However, whatever I had heard about Mussoorie has been enough to pique my curiousity about the place. I felt the place has a mysterious-sounding ring to it, and always wanted to visit it. After reading this book, I now know I would love to visit this place. It didn’t take much to persuade myself about picking up Ruskin Bond’s Roads To Mussoorie and read it ASAP.
I am happy to tell you that the book was absolutely lovely. It is not a piece of great literature or some must-read book – just full of delightful descriptions of Mussoorie and the roads leading up to it. Talking about a place called Chutmalpur on the way to Mussoorie, Ruskin Bond says: Chutmalpur is not the sort of place you’d choose to retire in. But it has its charms, not the least of which is its Sunday Market, when the varied producer of the rural interior finds its way on to the dusty pavements, and the air vibrates with noise, colour and odours. Carpets of red chillies, seasonal fruits, stacks of grain and vegetables, cheap toys for the children, bangles of lac, wooden artifacts, colourful underwear, sweets of every description, churan to go with them… This and more such descriptions made me yearn to visit the place, and I am so glad I read this book.
Ruskin Bond talks about life in Mussoorie, right down to the mundane details like breakfast places and cinema halls and neighbours and house parties. None of this seems unnecessary, though, and shines with the love that the author apparently has for the place. Take this for instance: When I open the window at night, there is almost always something to listen to: the mellow whistle of a pygmy owlet, or the sharp cry of a barking deer. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I will see the moon coming up over the next mountain, and two distant deodars in perfect silhouette. Here, Ruskin is talking about the view from his room at Mussoorie. If that isn’t enchanting, what is?
The author also talks about the various drivers who have taken him around Mussoorie, as well as the people he has met at the place, including some very nosy ones. Almost all incidents narrated by Ruskin in this book are straight from the heart, and have a dash of humour, making you smile throughout.
When we are talking of hill stations, how can ghosts be left behind? Ruskin Bond talks about Mussoorie’s phantom lady in white in this book thus: Shimla has its phantom rickshaw and Landsowne has its headless horseman. Mussoorie has its woman in white. Late at night, she can be seen sitting on the parapet wall on the winding road up to the hill station. Don’t stop to offer her a lift. She will fix you with her evil eye and ruin your holiday.
The only grouse I had about The Roads To Mussoorie is that I wish the book had gotten a better cover – something that would have given me a feel of the place, of the wonderful picture that Ruskin has painted of Mussoorie in the pages of the book. The Roads To Mussoorie has created a sketch of Mussoorie in my mind, and has filled in the missing details in my memory. Ghosts or no ghosts, I can’t wait to make a trip to the wonderful-sounding Mussoorie.