Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Destinations :: Himachal Pradesh (1) :: Kasauli (1977)

by Proloy Bagchi (writer), Idgah Hills, Bhopal, December 07, 2016

A travel write-up on a trip that was undertaken almost forty years ago


While posted at Chandigarh I became specially enamoured of the hills up in the North. During the visits to the then centre of the town, Sector 17, I used to wistfully look at the Himalayan range of Dhaula Dhar. On a clear day, and Chandigarh days were mostly clear with bright sunshine and turquoise skies, the range would be clearly visible with snows clinging to its tops. A fascinating site! As luck would have it, I could never get close enough to the Dhaula Dhar.

The year 1977 was a good year when my newly-acquired wife and I forayed into the Himachal. The first trip had to be Kasauli – a place one could see on the top of the Shivaliks and close to Chandigarh. I had heard of Kasauli from my father who had been there to admit one of his ailing junior colleagues in the TB sanatorium that the place was famous for. Sanatoria, with a lot of greenery and located away from urban concentrations, was where patients of tuberculosis used to be taken to before Alexander Fleming came on the scene with his peniciline. What the patients needed was a clean and clear air not to congest the lungs further. In those days it was practically waiting it out for death in healthy environs. Maharaja of Gwalior had a bed in the Sanatorium for his people and my father took his colleague after the bed was allotted to him. The Sanatorium was still there when we visited Kasauli but not so much as a refuge for tubercular patients.

An old family friend, who has, unfortunately, passed on, from our Gwalior days was also insisting on a visit. He was a Deputy Director in the Central Research Institute located there which, I understand, has since been closed.. He had a house on the Upper Mall, a good pleasant walk away past the summer floral blooms on the two sides of the road. We had a very happy time with him. A very happy and lively man who used to be a very good sportsman in his college days, he had cultivated the same happiness and liveliness in his wife and three lovely children.

Kasauli looked every inch a colonial town. It was established by the British in the first half of the 19th Century. The place traces its origin, once again, to the British efforts to stall the progress of Gurkhas. In the process they established a garrison here. Nonetheless, it must be said that they had a knack for discovering beautiful places in the midst of nature with pleasant climate for colonization. The town, small as it was, grew around for the satisfaction of the needs of the cantonment that was established there. Once the Gurkha pressure was eased and the rebels of the 1857 War of Independence had been tamed the place remained as a sanatorium-cantonment – quiet and peaceful. The peace and quietude prevails till today along with seasonal floral blooms.

Today it is a resort for tourists, especially those who do not wish to be jostled around by the summer crowd in Simla on its Mall. Kasauli had at that time nice peaceful walks on its Malls with pines, oaks as also chestnuts whispering right through. One of the finest walks probably in the entire state one had the added pleasure of walking in the midst of blooms. We used to walk up on to the Mankey Point from where one gets a fair view of the Punjab plains spread out below. The place was around that time given away to the Indian Air Force to install their radars for early warnings about air raids from across the Western borders.

Down below in the town were the quaint shops selling nick knacks for the benefit of the tourists. The town square is dominated by the 150 years old Christ Church clock tower which had since stopped chiming. It was restored by the Army only in 2015. A nice small place with pleasant weather and lots of flowers – good for a quiet sojourn!

About the Writer

Pushing 80 I was born in Gwalior in Central India to parents who were educated in Calcutta, now Kolkata. My father did his master's in English in 1916. He was a professor of English in the then only college in Gwalior. After qualifying in the exams for entry in to central civil services I served the government of India for 34 years reaching the very top of the professional cadres of the Indian Postal Service. I also acted as consultant ion behalf of the Universal Postal Union in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland.
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