I hope Khaled Hussaini would forgive me for pilfering the title of this post shamelessly from his amazing, amazing book but in my defence, I could not, no matter how hard I looked, find any alternative which epitomised my journey to this isolated little hill town called Kasauli – a humble, unassuming place nestled amid green, gently rolling Himalayan foothills. So unassuming, in fact, that I think the only thing Kasauli is notable for in popular imagination is the fact that it happens to be the birthplace of the Anglo-Indian writer Ruskin Bond. And even he did not stay for too long in the place. I imagine he preferred the much more noisy places like Shimla and now Mussoorie. Perhaps he felt alone in the vast green emptiness of Kasauli. But if I were given a choice, I would love to stay in Kasauli. Forever.
I have spent a lot of my life in Uttarakhand’s much more popular Mussoorie, called ‘queen of the hills.” I was told that I should expect Kasauli as a “mini-Mussoorie.” Turns out, the “mini-Mussoorie” moniker is true in more ways than one. The most striking thing I noticed as we entered Kasauli was the absolute sereneness and a refreshing lack of people. Now, I do not hate people, in general, but too many of those people have infested previously actually good places like Mussoorie and Dehradun and rendered them irrevocably crowded and cacophonic. Since these places happen to be really close to my heart, one can’t help but nurse a certain amount of scorn for people. Especially a large amount of them. So for that reason, Kasauli came as a wonderful surprise – I remember thinking that instead of any big city with all the facilities and amenities at my disposal, I would love to settle in Kasauli, the destituteness of this charming hill town notwithstanding.
So as I was saying, Kasauli lacks people. That’s why the quiet you observe here is so unrealistically awesome that it is only experienced to be believed. I could not describe in words without doing it injustice. Even the handful of people who do live here are unaccountably taciturn, almost gloomy, as though the peace was a sacred thing in Kasauli and the noise could inspire the wrath of some local god. Whatever the reason, Kasauli is still untouched by the ill-effects of large amounts of humanity.
Another striking thing about Kasauli is its roads. They are very narrow, so narrow that they seem almost one-way. Whenever two vehicles, which are coming from opposite sides, have to pass each other, it takes quite a bit of time to get it done. But in spite of this, there is hardly any traffic problem in Kasauli because of the very few number of vehicles. Which is again related to fewer people who live here.
The highest point in Kasauli, and its really only “tourist place”, is a Hanuman temple. From there you can observe all of Kasauli and then some. The scenery is fantastic – everything painted by a vivid shade of green, wooded landscapes, cottages and small houses studding the round hills, like twinkling stars spread across a clear night sky. It actually is very pretty. I was simply transfixed by the view and kept gazing at it for better part of the hour before being jolted out of the reverie by my sister.
So that’s it. Kasauli is a beautiful and pacific little hill town. A perfect place to spend your weekend, and in my very personal opinion, a lovely place to live. My fantasy is possessing a library in my own personal cottage and having nothing to do whole day except reading on the porch with frequent peeks at the tiny, verdant valleys of Kasauli and beyond.