You can wean it of everything, but you can't take away its air. Perhaps that keeps Mussoorie ticking with tourists, says Anuj Kumar
What makes a hill station tick? It should provide an opportunity to walk for long in the wilds with fresh air caressing the soul. That was long back. Today amidst 24x7 schedules, people demand something more exciting. As for nature, a room with a view will do.Here is one such option nestled in the hills near Mussoorie. The Jaypee Residency Manor is a fitting option for those seeking a refreshing weekend. For the growing number of people who want to splurge at a hill station but don't find the right place to do so, here is one. One can laze amidst nature without having to compromise on the luxury. If the view from the terrace is exotic, from the rooms it is panoramic. The multi-cuisine restaurant draws with the same quality and variety that any five-star offers in a metro. The bonus is, the staff is much more congenial. Adding fun to leisure there is a bowling alley, video games, health club and a heated indoor pool. "There is an increasing customer base which doesn't want to walk around in hill stations. They want all the facilities in the hotel itself. We offer treks in the hills, but I have yet to come across anybody opting for it," smiles T. Menon, Front Office Manager. The Manor, indeed, offers a jogging track around the circumference of the property.
The new clientele, says Menon, largely comprises the BPO and multinational companies' staff, who come for company-paid holidays. This is an interesting development because in these cases you have to take the break at a hill station, even if you don't have a tourist mindset. "They come so tired that they just want to relax in a soothing ambience. Then there are traditional tourists - the business families, the parents of kids who study in schools that abound in the area and of course the honeymoon couples, who don't want to discover nature outside their rooms." One doesn't belong to the emerging set and believes a true tourist is one who is always curious to explore the unknown, even if it means stretching oneself a bit. But unfortunately, one is groupedwith people so athletic they lose a lungful at the very sight of height. With Menon having found a buddy - he keeps looking in on his customers - one's wish is fulfilled. There is hardly anything unknown left in Mussoorie. And perhaps that is its problem. Thankfully, some constructive activism has made the Government regulate the construction activity in the area allowing Mussoorie to recover its breath.The famed Kempty Falls are empty of any serenity that one comes looking for. Stacked with shops selling nothing exclusive, the place is full of filth. Plastic bags can easily be seen beneath the transparent water. Then there is another set of tourists in our country, which fails to differentiate between a ghat and a fall. The municipal garden presents a similar picture, where plastic seats are an eyesore. "Private partnership could be an option," offers Menon. But then it goes out of the reach of the common man. Menon turns silent, whether in agreement or because he doesn't want to spoil his walk, one doesn't know. The only time one laughs is when one sees a restaurant called Rendezvous with its name painted in Devnagari! Another problem with the elitist tourist is he wants to take his wheels to the last motorable point, as if trying to prove a point to nature. Alas!As for another popular locale, the Mall Road, the place has got a Barista now. Again the exclusivity is missing. "Today the tourist wants to take his city to the hill station. Except for the chhadi (stick) we don't sell anything traditional. All the things come from Delhi and Jallandhar," says Ravi Kant Sharma, an old shopkeeper. What's still fresh about Mussoorie is the air. It is particularly true of the Lal Tibba area. A cup of tea here, and you forget all your blues. A walk down the Sisters' Bazaar is equally rejuvenating, so is reaching out to some of the famed residents of Mussoorie - Tom Alter and Ruskin Bond. Just keep your jealousy aside.