The summer of 2012 in Delhi was a torturous one. The whole of May and June it did not rain a bit only in July it rained once or twice. As the demand for electricity went up to a record high, the supply became erratic. We felt so troubled that we thought of going to a nearby hills to escape the dry heat in Delhi and Mussoorie came to our mind. For quite some time my wife was toying with the idea of exploring Dehradoon for a place to settle down later on when we retire from active life. So Mussoorie just fell in line with Dehradoon trip.
Over internet I booked at the Garwal Terrace, a TRS managed by GMVN (Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd.) for four days and for Dehradoon wrote to Ramakrishna Ashram on Rajpur road, Dehradoon for 3 days stay. Confirmation came from both places.
We left delhi on 3rd of July early moring in a Meru Cab (booked earlier over internet) and reached in time to catch the Dehradoon Satabi at 6.50 a.m. The journey was very comfortable with tea twice, newspapers, breakfast and juice. At around 12.40 p.m. we reached Dehradoon. It was quite congested outside and with our rucksack hanging from our back we had to look for a taxi. There is a taxi stand very close to the Station and we got one for directly going to Mussoorie. They charged us Rs. 610/- for dropping at Mussoorie. As we ascended the hill, it became quite cool and vegetation on the way kept our eyes and mind engrossed. We could see a lot of lichies being sold on the roadside. The cab driver dropped us near the Library and we had to carry our rucksack going up the steps to Mall road. We took two ricksaws to our hotel 'Garwal Terrace'. We were allotted a beautiful room overlooking the doon valley below. It was drizzling when we arrived in Mussoorie. The weather was so pleasant that we all forgot the oppressive heat of Delhi. After a hot water bath we headed for the Restaurant. It would be about 3 p.m. when we had our lunch. Then it was time to have little rest. Our daughter fiddled with the TV remote surfing channels before she too slept for a while.
In the evening after a cup of tea we went out on the Mall road. It was relatively crowded. Some time some horse rider was passing by, people were engaged in buying articles from the road side shops. We took a leisure walk. Two hotels with heritage property attracted our attention, one is Hotel Padmini and the other one is Hotel Casandra. While for Hotel Padmini one has to take a path down and for Hotel Casandra it is all going up the hill. From the Mall Road itself we could see the Padmini hotel little below so we decided to see its facilities. I liked its ambience instantaneously. One can visit its website at http://www.hotelpadmininivas.com/ The spacious Verandah where you can sit down order a cup of coffee and read a book. You will be assisted in your endeavor by the silent nature, beautiful fragrant flowers around and a spectacular view that merges into the sky. When I was there with my family it was drizzling and the clouds were hovering all around. We enquired about the charges and availability of rooms. There were two doggies that followed us almost up to our guest house on the Mall road. At night we had light refreshment and went to bed by 10 p.m.
Next day on 4th of July we headed for Kempty falls after heavy breakfast. We boarded the bus near the Library and it took about half an hour to reach the Kempty fall. This fall is very famous because of its long stretch about down below. The natural flow has been tamed by building dividers at every step. The name Kempty is derived from 'Camp-tea', as the British people would organize their tea parties here. There was a lot of crowd and vehicles almost clogging the road and one finds it difficult even to walk around. My suggestion is there should be a bypass road avoiding the Kempty fall for going to Dehradoon. All vehicles should be stopped about half a kilometer away from the fall. This will ensure free movement of the tourists and enjoy the natural surrounding of the place. The number of shops providing essential services like drinking water, tea and snacks, first aid and emergency disaster management cell to be only in place no other shops be allowed. My suggestion is that local volunteers be employed to keep the place clean and free of clutter. Tourists may be charged Rs. 100 per head to maintain the cleanliness and toilet services.
We came back to Mussoorie after about two hours and had lunch at Hotel Padmini Niwas. The food was spicy and hot and definitely is not in keeping with its heritage site. We walked down to our hotel and rested for the day. In the evening I found a cyber cafe and did some professional work
For me, I really could not enjoy much due to over crowing of the place and vehicles passing both ways. Tourists places are turning into city like defeating its very naturalness. We must remember that to live in for a few days in natural surroundings that tourists flock in the hill stations not to buy goods. However, the worth depends on how much nature is kept alive amidst essential demands.
5th July, 2012, After a bath and breakfast we were desperate to find a good place for quality food. On the way we saw a welcome group hotel, Kashmanda and a restaurant named, Magnolia. We were sure there would be a few Magnolia trees on the campus of this hotel and we were proved right. We enjoyed going round the hotel and found a few of magnolia flowers blooming. It is being maintained nicely and the view from this hotel of the Doon valley is spectacular. For lunch we went to the Restaurant and ordered some non-veg dishes. The food was tasty and preparation was very good. We were very much satisfied with the food except that it created a big hole in our pocket. I would suggest connoisseur of food to have a test of delicacy at Magnolia Restaurant.
After lunch we strolled around the area and could see a panoramic view of Mussoorie. There were at least a thousand white Lily flowers bloomed almost in every corner. The clouds were hovering around us sometimes we could not see each other although standing at a little distance away.
We went back to our guest house and had little rest. In the meantime, the sky became so clear and we could see clearly the Doon valley.
In the evening I went to a cyber cafe, at the extreme corner of the Mall road, to catch up with my professional work. Night became very cold and we had dinner at the Udipi restaurant adjacent to our Guest House. Food was all right. After watching our favorite TV serials we when to bed.
6th July, 2012. After morning breakfast at our guest house we went to buy some gifts for friends. It took about 2 hours to find our choice able gifts. After this we took a long walk along the Mall road and went the Mussoorie library, a very old remnants of British legacy. We also bought some fresh lichy being sold on the pavement. Such fresh fruit we hardly come by in Delhi. At about 1 O'clock we headed for the Padmini Niwas for their famous Rajasthani and Gujrati Thali. Today we did direct them to make the food less hot and simple. It was good. I would suggest future tourists to pay a visit to this hotel having a old royal touch and enjoy its location, food and hospitality.
We also enquired about the taxi /bus service for going to Dehradoon next day. It was drizzling so we went back to our guest house.
After midday rest we took a short walk and had dinner at the Udipi Restaurant. On return to the guest house, we packed our rucksacks for the next day's journey to Dehradoon. The night skyline through the window to Doon valley was favulous and we watched it for a while before switching on the TV. By 10.30 we went to sleep to wake up stronger in the morning.
7th July, 2012: In the morning itself we finished our daily scores and our bath in hot water (imagine Delhi temperature at that time was around 46.5 degree Celsius) The day was cold and cloudy and it created a depression in my mind. However, we cleared all dues with Guest house and took two ricksaws upto the bus stand crossing. We preferred to hire a taxi with a fee of Rs. 600/ up to Dehradoon, Ramakrishna Ashram. On the way it rained so heavily that it cheered up my mind. The rain which we had been awaited in Delhi finally met us in the hills. We were all so happy thinking that sooner or later Delhi will also be showered with rains.
Ramakrishna Ashram, Dehradoon is on the Rajpura Road (alternatively called Mossoourie road). On this route there was Sri Aurobindo Society, Mata Ananda Mayee Ashram etc. The area is so green with mango, jackfruit, liche and other trees that it looks like a forest area. After going through the rain when we reached Ramakrishna Ashram at 11.45 a.m. there was not a drop of rain there. In any case the weather was very pleasant. We met the Swami ji at the Reception and handed over the acknowledgement letter confirming our accommodation there. Swami ji called a Brahmachari to take us to the guest room. However, he was delaying to allot us a room, reason best known to him. He requested us to have our lunch first and then we could go to our guest room. We accepted his suggestion.
As soon as the bell went for the lunch, we were guided to the dinning hall. Frankly speaking, we never had such a sumptuous lunch in any Ashram. We had 14 items on the menu and each one better than the best. We finished all our resources of storing still there comes another item, Rasogolla, could not be refused.
After such a sumptuous prasad I had to take a good nap till the bell for tea went. I went alone as I am a tea addict, you can say. At least a cup in the morning (if possible two cups) and one in the afternoon is my daily routine. Tea kept in a big kettle and you have to serve yourself. In case your cup or mug is a big one, you can enjoy tea for a long time. After tea we requested the Brahmachari to change our room and it was promptly done. The new room had a big Varandah and good view of the hilly range and surrounded by all fruit trees. we all went out to see the nearby area. It was mango season, there were a large number of mango trees all around. With little strong wind mangoes would fall in torrents. We enjoyed picking them up in large numbers. We could also see a number of jackfruit trees everywhere. In the Ashram itself there were many. In one them the jack fruits were so big, I presume it would way about 50 k.g. We were told by the President Swami that Swami vivekananda did enjoy the luscious jackfruit flesh from the jackfruit tree that stands today in front of the President's office.
In the evening we paid a visit to Anandmayee Ashram just a few blocks from the Ramakrishna Mission. We did collect a few riped mangoes that fell from a mango tree grown on the Ashram campus. This area is full of green like Kerala and Bengal (east and west) having large number of Jamun, jackfruit, mango, lichee trees yet so close to the Himalayan range. By the time we came back to Ramakrishna Ashram, the prayer was on and we joined them at the shrine. After dinner we took a walk inside the campus and went to bed around 10 p.m. By that time, clouds started gathering in the horizon and during night there was heavy shower, like of which only we could see in Eastern states and Kerala.
The morning of 8th July turned out to be a pleasant day after the night's good rain. We got ourselves ready for the breakfast. After breakfast we went to the library to look for some books. We went back to our room for a good bath and washing. In fact the surrounding of the guest house is so beautiful with tall trees with fruits hanging specially jackfruits, mango (some are ripped ones) lichies, Jamun and a goshala (cow shelter) and we could see the hills at a distance and all through green and green, an ideal place for meditation and reading. After finishing our bath we visited the temple to see Bogh Arati (when God makes symbolic lunch a Prasad). At 12.30 the bell for lunch was sounded and our steps automatically turned towards the dining hall, an instinctive action of our physical body. The lunch was simple but homely less spice, less oil. As usual I went for a nap but suddenly there fell a riped mango on the guest house roof made a 'thud' sound and rolled down onto the floor. I ran out to find a riped mango in front of our varanda. It reminded me of younger days when I used to go into mango garden to fetch mangoes when there would be a storm and mangoes would fall in torrents.
After tea in the afternoon we were ready to find out Sri Aurobindo Society centre. It was a few steps from Ramakrishna Ashram on the same Rajpur road towards Mussoorie. The society has a large track of land with a meditation hall, a guest house and a sale centre of Pondicherry ashram products. We sat in the meditation hall for some time where relics of Sri Aurobindo has been kept. Meditation over, we looked around. The lady in charge came and met us and described the genesis of the society and how her mother started the centre and later on she took over. She also took us to the lotus pond which was then under construction and explained the significance of it. Then we together went to the sale centre to see and buy some incense sticks. The sale centre was arranged in a neat and clean way which we appreciated. We could see a number of mango trees and a lot of mangoes on the ground no one to collect them. I got some of them and ate a few.
Next day 9th July, 2012 we had a day of leisure enjoying the natural surrounding of the guest house. The morning breakfast and lunch were like home made food. I had some work on internet so we all went to the market in search of a cyber cafe. Before we could find one, it started raining heavily. We had to wait in a computer shop for a while although we welcomed the rain on such a summer day.
Finally we found one cyber cafe and I could catch up with my emails and other website work. By evening we were back to the Ashram for prayer. After night dinner we went to bed around 10.30 p.m.
The last day of our stay there on 10th July, we went to meet the President Swami ji and seek his blessings. in course of our conversation, I found he was a good friend of my Vivekananda Kendra days friend. Swami ji also revealed that Swami Vivekananda during his sojourn for a month in Dehradoon partook jackfruit flesh grown from the tree that stands today in front of his office. Really, speaking, one would be in awe to watch such big jackfruits being grown in that tree. After meeting him we went to the office to offer our donation. As we had to move out next day, we got our clothes washed and did necessary article in place for the journey before we went to watch the Bhog Arati and to have lunch prasad.
Once we had tea we met the Brahmachari on the way and he suggested that we should visit Bauri Shiva Mandir, a little away from Rajpur Road, Dehradun, towards Mussoorie where Swami Turiyananda practised severe spiritual disciplines. That is also the place where Swami Vivekananda met Swami Turiyananda. Thus our program got set by providence and we headed for the Bauri Shiv Mandir. The place is away from city and only a school we could see adjacent to the temple. Just near a bauri (water tank) a temple like structure we could locate and a plaque declaring that Swami Turiananda practiced his austerity in this temple. It was locked so we requested the priest to give us the key and he very willingly gave it to us. There was also an aged lady who also came inside with us. We sat quietly for a while. I was wondering that how this place was charged by the austerity of a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Turiananda and it still holds some remnants of that power. Those few silent minutes gave us a wonderful feeling that would be with us for a long time.
As we came out of the room we could see a number of monkeys on a mango tree and they started shaking the branches of a mango tree and a number of mangoes came down and I enjoyed picking them up as many as I could. The lady also picked up a few mangoes. In course of conversation the lady invited us to her old age home and we walked to her home to have a look at the old age home project. She treated us warmly with a cup of tea and snacks. She also shared some incidents from her life and reported how happy she is living independently in a community. Having come to know that we are bengalee, she took us to a bengalee family across a few houses. However, experience with those people was not a very pleasant one. In any case we appreciated her effort to make us happy.
By the time we came back to Ramakrishna Ashram, the evening Arati already started and we joined in. This was followed by dinner and all had very little food as we were quite full. The night was very pleasant and we sat for quite some time on the varandah enjoying the fragrance of fruits all around before we went to bed.
11th July, 2012 our train was to start from Dehradoon station at 4.55 a.m. so we got up early at about 3.30 a.m. and had our morning ablutions. We went out of the gate with our luggage but the auto that was scheduled to come did not turn up. A devotee who came early in the morning, on our request, called up the Brahmachari who arranged for the auto. He came and we two tried to get a lift from the passingby vehicle. Finally, a car stopped and we got in and reached the station just 10 minutes before departure. We thanked the person and gave him double the amount he had asked for.
We reached Delhi safely and our booked car was available at the New Delhi Station to take us home.