To arrive at this town, which has inspired writers like Kushwant Singh and Salman Rushdie, without a book, would almost be a sin, hence not only did I carry a Mistry book with me throughout, I was also able to take time out, reading the book whenever I could, in breaks, while sunshine sprayed on the hills.
The days are cold, the nights chilly. Wind blows on the hills from the west but they could be mistaken to be coming from anywhere, for this chill brings the senses to a halt.
This town, if it qualifies to be a called a town that is, is just what I had thought it to be. Calm, serene, at peace. People drop by the city, en route to Shimla, maybe just to fulfill a formality of visiting the place, so they could have a “been there, done that” written against Kasauli’s name in a certain diary. The “Glitter, Glamour” has all been stolen by Shimla, 60 Kms away, and that is precisely the reason why I chose to come here.
To be here, is to come home to solitude. Kasauli lets you be alone. It lets you sip a cup of Tea, alone on the pavement made of heavy stones, shining and polished by frequent walkers, as people go by their work. No one comes to you, asking you to look at the winter collection of clothes, no taxiwalla comes to you trying to allure you in one of those sight seeing rides. You are left alone.
But do not mistake this for unfriendliness on the part of the residents of this small town. Talk once, and they will open their world to you.
While the world has moved to multiplexes and malls, Kasauli has chosen to stay back. But not surprisingly, intrusions by a modern world are impending. Glimpses of it were evident as I saw Nokia Phones and Prepaid sim cards being sold inside small toy shops. And clearly, this town is not a fan of movies or it’s stars as I find no evidence or traces left by any bollywood release — no posters, no boards. In a small chamber that exists within one of the few narrow paths that constitute the demography of Kasauli, children play cricket, while behind the batsman is a hand pump, it’s cement cuboid base, serving the players as a makeshift wicket. The ball touching the other end of the wall, is of course, a boundary scored. Passer-by’s like me, act as the wicket keeper.
Evening comes and I return back to the Army Holiday Home, my “base camp”. On the edge, down below, I see the bed of mountains. Northwest of my view, I see Shimla slowly coming to lights and up above I see the even slower formation of a starry night taking over the reins from the Sun. The Sun that has hovered around these mountains of The Shivaliks, the lower range of the Himalayas, is now going down in a way as if choosing a mountain to find it’s abode in. It finally dims down, the mist and fog, giving it cover as it goes to the hiding. Orion is now clearly visible over my head. The wind blows harder, convincing me to go inside the warm indoors. Daisy, the German Shepherd, follows me to my room and stands at the door as if waiting for me to carry out a promise. I am reminded of the Breakfast I had shared with her in the morning. I realise we probably have a silent, mutual understanding. For dinner, I give her three slices of bread, the best I could offer. She walks away and I go inside, turn on the heater.