Aging Gracefully (One Hopes) in Mussoorie

OK, peeps, it’s been a month or so since last I put up a bit of what I’ve seen or done since arriving in India five weeks ago. As some of you may know or recall, I had about a ten-day wait in Delhi while the paperwork was finalized to allow me to come over and work here in truly lovely (but really not yet tourist-ready, trust me) Manipur. The second weekend of my Delhi sojourn was … well … the weekend on which this boy from Ohio finished his 47th complete cycle around the sun, to borrow a concept from my friend Gary. Unable to tolerate the idea of smoggy, hot and loud Delhi that weekend, I and two colleagues who were also waiting for the green light to head east all decided to hire a car and drive the six or so hours up to the foothills of the Himalayas to Mussoorie: described by at least one gentlemen as THE hill station to see and be seen in during the British Raj. It’s certainly lovely. We were there during the rainy season, not the high (and dry) season, so sadly you won’t see images of the snow-capped Himalayas, but perhaps you can imagine them and still get a sense of the grandeur of this truly lovely and remarkable town.

smw, slt is not able to publish with regularity these days — I’m experiencing a lot, and working hard, but have limited internet access and even more limited free time and energy. Bear with me; it’ll unfold over time. Enjoy these images in the meantime.

…ummm….that’s our hotel. We kinda broke the bank and splurged in honor of my bday on a gorgeous legacy hotel. It was worth it. A tad musty, a tad shabby perhaps in that elegant old-school way but the food at the restaurant was excellent and the people working there were delightful.

The griffins and large stone house are NOT Hazelmere Cottage (sign below); that one is closer to the Kasmanda Palace Hotel, we treated ourselves and stayed. But this is also a grand summer home built by a ruler from one of the princely states under the British Raj. I was so captivated by the look of the building and how it fit into its hillside, taking the photos above the griffin shots, that I was noticed and Fiona and I were invited in to have tea and snacks on the back porch, with the griffins, and delightful chat with the grandson of the house’s original builder and resident (himself a delightful conversation partner and retired brigadier, if I understood correctly); he and a young lady whom Fiona and I took to be an American based (possibly American-born) relative of some sort shared some really enjoyable conversation over tea with views of the misty hills. It was quite an experience!

Another thing that captured my imagination was the idea of all the young English-type lads from the far-flung corners of Britain’s empire, whose final resting place was here when they died of malaria or TB; or who were raised here by colonial-bureaucrat parents and went off to fight Britain’s colonial wars and never made it back, to leave behind a memorial stone in the Anglican church on the hillside. Then there’s the sheer chutzpah of the British, in the first place, to march into an India that had been doing high culture since before Europe’s dark age, and declare that they were the bosses now, thank you very much, and oh while we’re at it we’ll just put in some churches and stained glass and act as though all those venerable and great religious and philosophical traditions that originated in this subcontinent aren’t worthy of our honor or respect … well, a hundred and more years later we see the mixed legacy of the British Raj. (But you gotta admit the stianed glass is nice, huh? The brigadier told us not to miss it.) The colonial mentality fascinates me, especially when you consider that solid arguments are made that we INGO folks are the new colonialists. I like to hope we approach it with a different ethos and that our results are more uniformly positive, but honesty requires one to admit the argument has been and will be made, with some reason.

…I believe that’s a scene from the Ramayana, but I’m often wrong when it comes the density and complexity of Hindu iconography etc. Still, pretty cool statue at the temple entrance, no?