I had to leave my youngest brother back to his boarding school after Deepawali vacation in Mussoorie. After admitting my brother to his school same day, I was free like a new-born calf who was ready to jump all where around the hills and through silent streets in the night. I was with one of my most Fantastico friends, Saurav. He was living in Mussoorie for years.
We, now, had two choices to see the sleeping Mussoorie. It was either to ride a bike or on foot. The second option sounded better and the night journey began in the evening.
It was already 7 in the evening. The cold breezes were high; visibility though the fog was less. Chilling winds were slipping in through our jackets. We came walking down to library but were unsure where to go. We decided to keep on walking on mall road. It was a stupidity to walk on the mall road in chilling last October winter nights when winds were high. Anyway, we moved on.
Walking aimlessly on mall road:
To our left were some hotels and lodges. Some of them were dedicated to honeymoon couples. And, to our right was the Doon valley bathed in yellow lights. We were walking over the clouds looking down at the beautiful earth. That was surely a Fantastico experience. Dehradun was like a flat city decorated them with beautiful small Peppy twinkling lights. We stood there and took a look at the city. Clouds were playing hide n seek with us. We, sometimes, were losing the view of Doon valley and sometimes gaining it. After waiting for the right time, with boiled sweet corns in our hands, we could see the city with vestal lights. So pure and so amorous!
Around 7.30, we reached ropeway which goes to the Gun hill. We already had covered almost two kilometers on a cold night. There were few closed road-side shops covered with plastic sheets and tarpaulin in the dark, looking wet due to the moist with dew formed over them. The mall road was still not that empty, though.
There were few couples enjoying walking hand in hand and few porters returning home with long rugged heavy overcoat and beedi in their hands.The trees looked sleepy and dead black. Winds were still whispering into our ears. A few shopkeepers were closing their shops and at some stall, a bunch of friends was enjoying tea together. I felt, I had got a third eye to see the different facets of this world.
Around 8.15 pm, we reached picture palace. Here, mall road takes a left turn towards clock tower then goes to Landor community hospital (I have a very nostalgic relation with this hospital because this was where I stayed taking care of my brother 5-6 years ago and it was the first time when I fell in love with Mussoorie) and then goes to world famous “Wood stock school”.
This part of Mussoorie is older. When British people had decided to settle down at Mussoorie, they chose this area and gradually life spread to other parts of the hills too. It was like; I was walking through some old countryside village of England. This side of Mussoorie was full of old shops, old people, archaic houses, old vehicles and older cultural too.
The pancake journey:
“Bro, we can go and have a hot freshly prepared pancake,”
I was surprised thinking where was he was going to take me then. Pancakes were up on my minds then. I could see the contours of Landor community hospital from a distance. I thought we were going towards the hospital because I could remember some shops there where they used to prepare modern western dishes on an old kerosene stove.
But this time, we were going to Saint Paul’s church. there were few shops over which were famous for freshly prepared pancakes. Looking at the dark and lonely atmosphere around and silence along the street, I was confounded and perplexed. I looked at him and he understood my dilemma. By giving me a gentle jerk, he told that as he had lived there for past 6 years and none of the routes were unknown to him; he used to bunk and had pancakes here often with friends. I surely had no options left other than to believe his Fantastico experiences. I had to believe him. And, we then moved into dark woods ahead. Secrecy of the silent valley was walking behind us like some stalker.
Incited by the skittish ambiance, he jumped into his flesh and started telling many ghostly and spiritual stories that happened around there. He talked about few foreign saints, priests, their miraculous power; how behavior and attitudes of people changed along that. He tried stopping me and made me hear the muteness of the night too. I felt poor while he kept on coming up with thousands of weird stories.
Around 10.15, I could see some lights up above the way. And I guessed it right, it was the church and lights were coming from that. Our shaking steps became firm and we almost ran to the shop. I could feel a thousand of rats in my belly. A big sigh of relief there. Finally, we were at our pancake shop and surprisingly shops were open too. I had never expected that, especially in Mussoorie, in winters.
I was thinking,
“Why anyone would open his shop even after 10 when most of the town sleep around 8”
I asked the same to him and he said that teachers, students, and staffs from Woodstock community come here at night just for stroll and midnight madness. I thought it must have been a very awesome community full of Fantastico people.
It was now time to order for our much-awaited pancake which we had been longing for. And woohoo! the order was taken.
We sat there in open chilly winds.Here too, as I had guessed, the shop-keeper was preparing pancakes over a stove. Wow! It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.It took almost 10 minutes for our order and pancake was in front of us then.
We could not wait and just jumped over it and next time we lifted our face to see each other only when we had finished that like hungry lions. Phew! Gone in seconds.
By then, it was already 11 in the night. I felt like sleeping beside the burning stove. But, I knew that winter was going to freeze us to death if we did not move fast. This time, we decided to walk back by taking longer but busier route which passed in front of the Woodstock school gate. Anyhow, expecting for few persons on the road after 11 on a cold night in old Mussoorie was a stupidity.
We started descending down. We already had walked almost 6 kilometers from our room and we had to return through the same distance too. But this time, the advantage was, we had to go downhill and we almost ran all the way down through silent and dark woods. We kept on walking in haste until we reached the picture palace. Ah! What a relief was it to see few people there? We were back into our own territory though we still had miles to go. Anyway, coming back to the foggy mall road in the night after having stomach-full hot and heavy cake seemed to be a nice experience.
We reached our room around 12.30 at midnight.
The greatest achievement was, we dared to pass through those ways in the night, where people think twice before going through them, even in the day. Second best lifetime achievement was I had the best pancake ever in my life.
As we were heading towards our warm quilt, everything that happened flashed in my mind. I used to ask Saurav a lot of questions about a lot of things which I saw on the way and he was trying to correlate everything with some past incident and stories.
When we reached our room then confessed that we felt someone was stalking behind us but we did not give that a damn. And our final and healthy conclusion was that ghosts and spooks haunt only them who are week by their heart. And! Certainly we were not.