I was on the little terrace attached to the Rhododendron Suite at The Rokeby Manor in Landour. From my vantage point, I could see the clustered hillsides with their clutch of shops that made up the Landour bazaar, and beyond that an all-enveloping mist. As I stared into it, the swirling clouds of white graciously parted to give me a peek into Mussourie just below Landour. These ever-changing misty monsoon views — dense as coarse cotton one moment and translucent as finely woven muslin the next — made me glad I had decided to visit Landour in the rains.
Rokeby Manor stands pretty in stone, a throwback to the Raj. Its most charming attribute is that it is located in the peaceful Landour Cantonment between the St. Paul’s and Kellogg Memorial churches.
There are lovely walks around the area, so we put on our walking shoes and headed out into the drizzle with an umbrella. We followed a young Englishwoman sharing her huge umbrella and chatting in Hindi with a local woman and her young child. A little later, we passed another Western couple, also chattering away in Hindi. Within a few steps, we discovered the reason for this fluency in the local language among foreigners. The Landour Language School is housed right behind the Kellogg Memorial Church and foreigners come here to learn the local tongue! The school, which dates back to the 19th century, was founded to teach Hindi to newly arrived missionaries.
Of course, they practise their skills at Char Dukan, a neat little Landour hangout and one of the cosiest marketplaces I have seen in India. A clutch of shops grouped together (more than the original four that gave it its name), it is here that you can take a break from writing and sit and sip chai, people-watch and snack a bit. The storekeepers have a slight Western twang — must be all those exchanges between them and the Hindi students!
Our 2 km walk took us past Sister’s Bazaar, where the British nurses used to have their dormitories. Today, you can buy yummy homemade peanut butter from Prakash’s Store, one of the oldest in town.
From there, we wound our way around the mountainside and came right back to Char Dukan. The fickle mist, the undecided drizzle that kept rolling in and out, the constant birdsong and soothing smell of rain made the walk something special.
A few days later, when we drove from Landour to Dhanaulti, we found some of the most stunning views, and when the mists momentarily parted, glimpses of the imposing Himalayas. After Bataghat, the road broadened and the scenery gradually changed from thick oak woodlands to alpine forests sprinkled with rhododendron clumps.
During those few days it became quite clear why the English had chosen Landour as a rest and recuperation place for their tired soldiers. Landour, named after Llanddowror, a village in Carmarthenshire in southwest Wales, probably by a nostalgic and homesick Briton, calms and relaxes you and nourishes creativity. When you walk down those lanes, don’t be surprised if you bump into the likes of Ruskin Bond, Stephen Alter or Bill Aitken...
For details, more on Rokeby go to visit >www.rokebymanor.com