Mussoorie was never founded. It grew in answer to a need, or rather, many needs. The first need was for Brit wives and children to escape the heat, dust and malaria of the plains. Then the colonial government decided to imitate the Mughal sarkar’s migration to Srinagar so they created Summer Capitals in the cool highlands of India. But this generated its own problems. The young men of the ruling Brits felt hemmed in with the starch of protocol in these summer capitals. So the Brits decreed that the most accessible hill-station to New Delhi should be free of summer officialdom. Mussoorie became a substitute for the distant watering holes of Paris, Rome and Vienna. Our high hamlet apparently initiated the assignation making Palm Courts attached to the ballrooms followed by the Separation Bell. Since the grass widows took a succession of companions during the nine months of the Feb to November “season” our hill-station became the QUEEN of the Hills!
From then on Mussoorie shape-shifted as swiftly as cloud shadows in a brisk wind.
It morphed to accommodate recuperating soldiers in the 39-45 War, and then again for refugee wives and children evacuated from Burma and Singapore. Finally during the Partition of India Mussoorie was touched by the flames of hatred as the Brits tore India apart into two nations. All these traumas have changed Mussoorie’s fortunes because our economic well-being depends on the disposable income of our transient population. It is, therefore, not the number of footfalls that determines our well-being, but the per-capita income that they generate when they visit Mussoorie.
This is an essential fact that our out-of-town netas fail to appreciate. This is also why the most Income-generating festivals were run by Mussoorie people without the interference of Double Engineers.
So where does our Mussoorie stand right now as a tourist draw? Briefly off-putting, perhaps. But that is because we had decided to take a breather and set our house in order before welcoming our next batch of visitors. It was a painful but worthwhile decision. So though we have virtually lost half a season, we should be able to regain the loss because of what we have succeeded in doing during these days of renewal. We shall list some of Mussoorie’s achievements during Refitting (to use an Indian Naval term).
• The Mall is our main road. If properly marketed it can also become our multi-faceted major tourist attraction. But it was marred with tangles of overhead cables and other obstructions. These took a great deal of time and the strict orders of very senior authorities to remove and replace by less visible conduits. But now, at long last that has been done. Our telecommunication facilities will now be uninterrupted, we hope. We are, personally, against cobblestones ever since we tripped and fell on a cobble stoned road in the Vatican many years ago but that is a personal prejudice which we will set aside.
Those are some of the success stories achieved during our lost half season. There is much more to be done but, most important the citizens of Mussoorie must take their future into their own hands. We need to increase the income of everyone living in Mussoorie and India is full of millionaires who would help us to boost our little town’s economy.
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)