When you are in Mussoorie, it's imperative to be susceptive and alert, lest you miss the hidden gems and beauties of the magical place.
Sabri Bought & Sold
Ayub Sabri has been running his family store ever since his twenties. He's in his fifties now and manages his father's rare and used books and antiquities shop. A drawer overflowing with old, precious stamps, an ornate bronze hourglass filled with purple sand, lithographs and painted crockeries from London are some things you will spot at the tables if you could shift your gaze from the stacks of used and rare books that fill up the shop. "Our shop was established in the sixties by my father, Mohammad Yousuf, and it has been family-run ever since. A lot of the items you see were left by the British as this was an Anglo-Indian building before," said Sabri.
Quiet Corner: Situated in the quieter part of the road leading up to Landour, it's a missable treasure trove of curios you need to see to know.
The Name: Interestingly, it was the beloved writer and famous resident of the hill town, Ruskin Bond, who gave the shop its name. "He just stopped by one day, and I asked him to give the shop a name, and he wrote 'Sabri Bought & Sold'. That was it." Tattered covers but intact pages, the older the books, the more expensive they are. "This one is for Rs 10,000," he points at one donated by the Woodstock School library. He has a son studying at Delhi University, and when asked if he wished for his son to continue the business, Sabri shook his head, saying he knows his shop will shut down after he's gone.
Hours: 8:30 AM to 9 PM
Address: Shop no 11, Landour Cantt, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand 248179
What To Buy: Used books start at INR 100, which you can check. The stamps, old clocks, old cameras and ornate binoculars are some of the expensive collector's items to consider.
View this post on Instagram
Mussoorie Heritage Centre
Surbhi Agarwal sits at the head of the table, half-hidden beneath a tower of prints. "This one is an Amrita Shergill. It would look great in your room," she said as I told her why I might need this. The ever-helpful host Agarwal has been acting as a store owner and personal shopper cum guide, explaining and answering any questions customers might have for any of the items sold there.
The Collection: Vintage Indian and western advertisement posters, racks and racks of paintings, pocket watches, clocks, and so many amber glowing vintage lamps and lighting fixtures make up the shop. It's a portal through an era gone by, preserved through objects and sheer dedication.
Initiatives: Among many heritage walks, lectures and book talks, the Mussoorie Heritage Centre also partners with several NGO projects of the town to fund the schooling of underprivileged children through the sale of their items.
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM, all days
Address: F34P+4J8, Clock Tower, opposite Goyal Hardware, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand 248179
What To Buy: They have original advertisements in metal sheets from the 1940s, (a 'Lux Toilet Soap' ad featuring Saira Bano's mother is one of the most fascinating things I saw there) and beautiful prints from Amrita Shergill, Gopal Ghosh and other Indian artists.
Chaudhary Shoe Makers
They have been there for a very long time. "For over a century now! Lucky Ali came here and loved our shoes a lot. We get many celebrities here, but not a lot of people know about us," said Bhagatram, the owner of the shop.
Hand In Leather: A little ways up the climb to Landour, this tiny shoe shop making customised handmade shoes has an enviable collection worth rivalling big brands in big cities.
Celeb's Haunt: "Arshad Warsi came here for three consecutive years," said Bhagatram. "We also courier our customers' orders; that's what we did for Lucky Ali once he came and told us what he wanted."
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM
Address: Shop no 4 mansaram kircket, landour Cantt, Tehri Rd, Luxmanpuri, Rajmandi, Landour, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand 248179
What To Buy: They make and repair authentic leather shoes and boots for both men and women.