Looks can be deceptive. A soldier to the core, ADS, our friend, is a handsome fellow with a rustic Hollywood-ian demeanour. He looks anything but philosophical or a soothsayer. When he remarked seven years ago that an effective way of beating the rough and tumble of summers is to visit the cool climes of hills before the heat picks up, we laughed it off as one of his wisecracks but when his amicable wife, Gugu, seconded him, we had to take them seriously and give it a try. That was the beginning of our early-April trysts with the beautiful Kasauli.
A small hill station with negligible commercial activity and a limited tourist sightseeing suited my better half, who hates long travels. An-hour-and-a-half ’s drive from Chandigarh, Kasauli has an enviable altitude of 6,200 feet above sea level. ADS booked us all at the army-run holiday home with a cautionary note: “Don’t hope for a five-star culture. Carry your nick knacks for self-cooking and remember to take your evening tonic along,” the latter part of the advice meant especially for Jaggu, our friend who loves to indulge. The six of us embarked on our small little journey to the hills, the main aim being to authenticate the wisdom of ADS.
We checked in at the holiday home, a quiet serene place atop the famous “Monkey Point” or “Sunset Point”. Our friend had passed his first test of selecting a place that was the coolest available in station. Surrounded by pine trees, the lush green ambience was exhilarating. The direction matrix installed at “Sunset Point” indicated the general layout of towns in the plains across the valley, with our City Beautiful visible nicely in the haze. “Wait till it is dark, you might be able to see the All-India Radio tower of Sector 34,” ADS remarked, buoyed visibly by our vibrant response.
Jaggu, a good cook, was planning a barbeque dinner, meanwhile, with all his focus on the drinks bottle that he had packed fondly in multiple layers of newspaper, lest it cracked during the journey. The sun was setting and the point was packed with tourists from far and near. A sign read: “Look beyond and you see beauty… look down and you see litter… what a shame.”
The entire valley was lit up in the dying brightness of the setting sun, presenting a beautiful sight. Back at the holiday home, the cool breeze with a pleasant flavour of pine intensified, making us shift indoors. The all-glass windows of the rooms served as a perfect foil for the chill without disturbing the country view. The twinkling lights of Chandigarh on one side and Shimla’s on the other led us into a game of sighting the landmarks of both places.
We were up the next morning for a trek along the ridgeline that took us around the Kasauli hamlet, a three-hour excursion, a pollution free unforgettable experience. The third day, after a lunch trip to Baikunth, a nature resort in the vicinity, it was time to get back to base. The memories and the feel of hills saw us through the difficult summer months indeed, with a chorus in unison: “ADS tussi great ho.”
For the past seven years, it is now a habit with us to visit Kasauli. On the trip this early April, we recounted the changes over the years. The good change is a concerted effort by the army to keep the area clean, and it’s putting up inspiring signs to sensitise tourists, especially the youth frequenting the hill station. The bad change is that the increased air and light pollution levels down in the valley make it difficult to sight the once prominent AIR tower of Chandigarh’s Sector 34.
The writer is a Chandigarh-based retired army officer