Landour’s encounters with the mist | Mussoorie

It was a quiet and a misty morning as I stepped out of my hotel in Mussoorie. Just across the narrow lane stood the old Landour clock tower in solitary splendour. The growing mist was thrusting itself into the light coral coloured tower, trying to engulf it or so it seemed. And then, as the clock struck 6, a deep high-pitched sound emitted out and carried itself to the far hills.

Landour Clock tower has withstood the agonies of time ever since it was first built in the year 1938-39. It has been a witness to the town’s happenings and its 3600 transformation in all these years.

As I plodded my way through the Landour Bazar, the deafening silence struck me. The road was deserted barring a few stray dogs. The mist in its white transparent texture was swaying from one side to the other at intervals. In the thick of Oak trees that stood alongside the street, birds were beginning their daily chores and their chirps was all that attempted to break the dominance of silence. I wondered how Landour would have been when it was first discovered in the year 1823 by Captain Frederick Young, tranquil and magnificent like this day? Later, in the year 1825, Captain Young built a house for himself (the 1st permanent structure of Mussoorie) and named it ‘Mullingar’, coined after a town by the same name in his native Ireland. Mullingar complex still exists, reminding us of those times in the past.

Discovery of Mussoorie brought in increasing interest from the British Raj. Ratification of treaty of Sagauli (April 1816) led to Dehradun and adjacent areas being annexed into the district of Saharanpur by the East India Company. Later in 1822-23, Mr. Frederick John Shore, a Joint Magistrate was posted in Dehradun. Infrastructure and other development initiatives saw a rapid rise afterwards.

Landour’s pristine climate resonated with the English weather and soon (in 1827) a sanatorium (convalescent depot) was built to serve the British soldiers. Landour was getting noticed and soon it saw an influx of people from all over. Many interesting structures came up afterwards.

As I treaded along the quaint alley in the thick of mist, I came across these old structures nestled in different parts of the upper Landour area (close to the erstwhile Sanatorium). These included St. Paul’s Church (built in 1839), Rokeby Manor (a luxury hotel that was built in 1840), Kellogg’s Church (built in 1903), the adjoining Landour School of Languages (built in 1903) and the Sister’s bazar (in 1830s), perfectly dotted by numerous trees such as Oak, Deodar, Chestnut, and many other varieties of Conifer. Ferns in rich green texture had sprung out from the barks of these trees, a phenomenon seen during the monsoons. There was an unusual quietness here, only disturbed by the honking of the vehicles that occasionally passed-by.

Sister’s Bazar is one of my favourite areas in Landour

It got its name from the nurses (also called sisters) who lived in the barracks here while working in the sanatorium, which is just a stone’s throw away.   

As I walked through the tiny quaint bazar, a heavy mist came splashing down. It was about 8 in the morning, yet no signs of any human activity could be seen. I saw a street dog stretched forward oblivious to the surrounding as well as to my presence. Close-by, on a tin roof-top, I saw a group of monkeys, but they too were calm and rather obedient for a change. To me it appeared that time had stopped here at Sister’s Bazar, and that the residents were in no mood to break their slumber or be worried about the everyday chaos that was unfolding in the Landour Bazar below or elsewhere in the world.

Landour Bakehouse, a café at one corner of the Sister’s Bazar, looked like a small hill cabin with white mud walls and beautiful crafts dotting all around. Sitting inside and enjoying a croissant – I reflected in time when the famous Landour Cookbook was brough out in the 1920s by Mrs. Lucas, wife of the pastor of Kellogg Church and Mrs. Irene Parker, wife of Allen Parker, Principal of Woodstock School. It was an effort to document the local recipes of soups and salads, main dishes and desserts, pickles, etc. It described how the western dishes were prepared by the residents of Landour using the locally available ingredients.

Later, another version of the book ‘The Landour Cookbook — Over Hundred Years of Hillside Cooking’ was released by the two well-known resident writers of Landour – Ruskin Bond and Ganesh Saili.

As I snaked down the hill from Landour Bazar towards Mussoorie, I gave another glance to the Mullingar complex that was still shrouded under a blanket of mist. Landour is full of interesting stories (some of them ghostly) and one of those is of Captain Frederick Young. It is said that on moonless nights a rider astride a white stallion visits Mullingar to inspect a parade of the redcoats. 

Well, if you happen to visit Mullingar on a moonless night, maybe you have a chance encounter with the captain. And then who knows you may even get to enjoy a plate of Colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes) with him. If this happens, do thank him for introducing potatoes to this region.

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