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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.