Kasauli still retains what most of its unfortunate Himalayan cousins have lost — the old-world charm. You might spot a few minor transgressions here and there, but thanks to the army, a stickler for rules, the town is still picturesque, while most other hill stations of the north Indian region have been mauled.
Its lagging behind other hill resorts in tourist inflow has worked as a blessing in disguise, as has not having the best of restaurants. Let these famous food chains be the crowning glory of other cities; and quaint places be spared. I had always enjoyed day picnics to this magical spot, owing to its proximity to my native place, but had put up a prolonged stay rarely. But even a four-day stay in the town leaves me smitten. The gabled roofs, the scented pines, the fresh mountain breeze and sporadic rain are enough to unleash the child in me. And the isolated walks on those misty evenings with only ghosts for company. Agreed, you may not spot one but it is indeed worthwhile to conceive one fictionally, only to accentuate your otherwise frenzied state.
No wonder the town is dotted with vacation lodges of the rich and famous — most of these cottages are more than a century old. Tempted to get in, you spot bold signs such as “private property, no trespassing” on the gates. Yet the onlookers have their eyes transfixed on these, and their imagination running wild about the cozy stay that these would offer. You envy the pets that are the permanent residents of these dream homes, as opposed to their owners who visit only during vacations.
Of the most famous residences of Kasauli is Raj Villa, vacation residence of late celebrity author Khushwant Singh. Those of you who might have followed his career would recall how he would ascend to his mountain abode periodically to cradle his literary genius. How the themes of nature would then surface in his writing was evident in the weekly columns he then wrote for two leading national dailies. He would also often mention the stray pets which he had befriended here. As the sun would descend, he would call it a day with his stipulated sundowners. To commemorate him, Kasauli has an annual literary festival. Incidentally, the town is also the birthplace of another literary doyen — Ruskin Bond — though he has made residence in Mussoorie.
Another important landmark Kasauli is the more-than-a-century-old Kasauli Club, which rose from its ashes after being gutted in 2001. The enthusiasm of its members reconstructed it while retaining the spirit of the original colonial building. As you enter it, your eyes can’t escape the geraniums in full bloom laid with all the finesse. When you pick your favorite read from the bookshelves of its library and start relishing it along with endless cups of coffee, you are transported to a sublime realm. As you become privy to the changing moods of your favorite read, you are tempted simultaneously to gaze through the window and marvel at weather’s changing colours — sometimes misty, sometimes rainy, and sometimes sunny. By evening, it is all about chit chatting, trivial to some and of utmost importance to others.
At the end of my small vacation, I wished that the charming cool climes of Kasauli continue to enthral every visitor for years to come and do not fall prey to the decay that has besieged our other pristine mountain destinations over time. I also wished that every visitor to Kasauli comes with an elevated conscience about his or her responsibility to the pristine destination.
The writer is a Patiala-based freelance contributor