Doon & Don't

Not just a handy book to carry up to the hills, but useful for armchair travellers too.-- traces the history and social life of Doon over nearly two centurie
The Doon Valley Across The Years
By Edited By Ganesh Saili
Rupa Pages: 192; Rs. 295
All hill stations have their share of ghost stories, rose-covered English cottages, their Mall legends and Scandal Points. But the Doon must be the only spot that can boast of so many writers, living and dead, who have turned their home into their muse. The Doon Valley is the latest in the deluge of books on this now crowded perch in the Himalayas.

The anthology traces the history and social life of Doon over nearly two centuries, beginning with its sale by an indigent Raja to an Anglo-Indian mercenary, Capt Hyder Young Hearsey. But when the British drove out the Gorkhas, they appropriated the Doon, ignoring Hearsey’s claim for compensation. With the opening of the Haridwar-Dehradun Railway in 1900, Mussourie soon grew into a popular summer destination, attracting bored English housewives, native princes, soldiers on sick leave, gamblers and other idlers. Expectedly, it soon acquired a reputation for fun and good times, unlike stiff cousins Simla and Nainital where "you always had the feeling the Viceroy was looking over your shoulder".

Australian-born writer John Lang, now something of a local icon for having defended the Rani of Jhansi in court, has left a delightfully gossipy portrait of this erstwhile pleasure capital: its masquerade parties, drinking at the clubhouse, the season’s duels and elopements. The Doon Valley is not only a handy book to carry up to the hills, but is for armchair travellers too.

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