Thursday, Aug 11, 2022
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Dev Bhumi And All Its Angels

MY first visit to Mussoorie was in 1960 after I had been turned back from the suspension bridge at Rudraprayag for lacking an inner line permit. (Jim Corbett's man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag regularly crossed this bridge.) If I had been able to speak Hindi I could have got past the guard. So I went to Mussoorie to learn Hindi. My first lesson took place at Dehra Dun where the hill bus announced its destination in Hindi. Laboriously I spelt out "Ma-soo-ri", inside bilingualism eased the problem—"front seat par sona mana hai." In the West I had been accustomed to notices that told me not to stick my head out of the window. Here, more luxuriously, I was advised not to stick my feet out. Apart from the increased bus fare, things haven't changed all that much in Mussoorie. The Landour language school still teaches Hindi and though the bazaar shops now boast fans and fridges, the shopkeepers never seem to change. Even revolution is taken in its stride, as was apparent during the Emergency when some pliant administrator came up with the bright idea that the three bazaars in town—Library, Kulri and Landaur—should be painted orange, green and white respectively, after the national flag. What we got was pink, blue and yellow, the only three colours the PWD seems to be aware of. Mercifully, this hastily slapped on paint washed off during the first monsoon downpour.

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