May 25, 2020
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Hole In The Bucket

Hole In The Bucket
THE Red Fort pronouncement by the Prime Minister that Uttarakhand would become a reality was met in Mussoorie with relief and caution. While the interior invites sentimental regard as Dev Bhumi, hill stations thrive on harder-nosed diets. When Morarjibhai enforced prohibition in Uttar Pradesh, property prices in the town slumped, pickings at the thana were never better and in the village inventive distillation extended to exploring the alcoholic potential of plastic chappals. With its cosmopolitan culture, one suspects that no matter how stringent the prohibition policy of any new order, Mussoorie will cling to its 'Vatican' status (i.e. continue to pleasure the contents of vats and cans).

What I love about Mussoorie is the cheerfulness of local mechanics. I put Mary Poppins, my old motorbike, in mothballs for several months at a time and, when I return, need to have the tank air-blown. Luckily I live on a hill and can freewheel down to Hasan's workshop where one of his four sons does the job in minutes. Hasan is originally a Balti from Kargil and I am like his fifth son as I bought the bike from him. For some reason, Bal-tis make good mechanics (though they are rated the lousiest porters in mountaineering lore).

They also make good cooks. Look around Britain and every second Bangladeshi-run 'Indian' restaurant will be subtitled 'Balti Takeaway'. However, scorn not the Balti and let not the hand that rocked the cradle kick the bucket. Lord Swraj Paul's family business in Amritsar (before going West) was the manufacture of baltis. This puts him in the league of pink pantheress Barbara Cartland whose Buckingham Palace connections do not alter the fact that her family fortune derived from the baser metals of hardware—buckets made in Birmingham.

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