A quiet holiday that never was
With commanding views, Mussoorie presents a fairyland atmosphere to tourists. Or does it?
PHOTO: ANAV VADEHRA
FASCINATING HILL RESORT?: Glittering views of the Doon Valley and the Shivalik ranges.
THE 32-kilometre drive up from Uttaranchal's capital Dehra Dun, to the hill town Mussoorie was full of anticipation. I was returning there after 15 years. One had heard that the place is not the same anymore, and crowds had taken over the serenity of hills. But, while in Delhi I thought to myself, how affected could the hill station be? It was never an untouched locale after all.
But the days to come were full of shock and despair. It is not that the hill stations in India don't have their share of filth, crowding and noise, but for me this place beat them all. Our first evening out on the Mall Road towards Picture Palace was marred with all that can ruin a hill town like Mussoorie. Walking on the roads was no pleasure, as one had to encounter the "tring trings" of the numerous cycle rickshaws, the loud horns of the couple of private vehicles, and of course lakhs of people. In between all this were the ghoda wallahs, pestering every pedestrian to take a horse ride along the mall road. All along the mall from the Library side to the Picture Palace, hotels and restaurants were oozing out of one's sensibilities.
Long wait at the ropeway
At the end of the day, one was left wondering if all the tourists in India had decided to descend here. Imagine having to wait for two hours to get a chance to go up a ropeway! It seems so ironical, as the taxi driver who drove us up the hills from Dehra Dun said that the tourists have all gone to Kashmir this year!
"Phew!" we said as we reached up to our hotel, tucked away from the hustle bustle. But peace was still not to be. The "Mussoorie Summer Carnival" loudspeakers that we had crossed on our walk back were blaring enough to carry the voice of Bollywood straight upto our rooms. We really did not need this icing on the burnt cake! The summer carnival was sponsored by amongst others, the Dainik Jagran newspaper and AirTel. Surely, they could have thought of a more responsible thing to sponsor than an event which added chaos and broke the cultural ethos of the place for three consecutive days.
Then we thought, let's get out of the main town and that might be better. Company Bagh was a disaster in the form of a mini-mall road of Mussoorie, and Dhanaulti, dilapidated. Mind you these were the recommended destinations. I wonder what a mess the famous Kempty Falls must be like.
There were the old time bakeries and hang out points surely. The famous restaurant called Chick Chocolate, proud of its heritage, and serving amazing fruit cream and other desserts. But hey, why all in plastic cups, even when it is not a take-away? This was not just a problem with Chick Chocolate but all other old or new timers too, be it Clarke's or Whispering Windows. Was this a deliberate disregard to all the junk that would be generated for Mussoorie? This and the endless use of thin plastic bags just added to ruining of the place.
Each experience was ridden with disappointment. Why does tourism have to be like this? What is the State Government doing? As a fellow-passenger said, "The Union Minister for Tourism needs to give more attention to mess such as the one created in Mussoorie than think of night bazaars in cities like Delhi." If things continue like this, places like Mussoorie are not going to be in my list of recommended places, even for an all out commercial holiday.
It is so unfortunate, that for the six days while I was there, I kept searching for the Queen of the Hills called Mussoorie. The lady, I could never find.
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