It’s strange that very few people have ever heard about Lansdowne. This small cantonment area with its undulating plains and green hills is a place of dreams. A solitary traveler’s solace. I heard about Lansdowne from my cousin who lives in Delhi and visited Lansdowne. They praised it for its beauty, its solitude, and its simplicity. These adjectives are really close to my heart. Apart from being a traveler, I’m a silent poet. I wish to absorb nature in silence. Transform them into metaphors. City life with its loud noises, smoke, and soot and constant busyness had nothing to offer me ever. Lansdowne seemed like a place made just for me.
A traveler’s heaven.
My family and I set out for Lansdowne on a three-day trip. But of course, my trip was from Delhi. I visited Delhi quite a few times and always say goodbye to Delhi with a little heavy heart. The exception proves the rule. Leaving Delhi was such a relief. Believe it or not, city life has always felt like someone strangling you constantly. I just suffered without saying anything. I just hoped Lansdowne could let me breathe fresh air again.
We reached Kotdwar at 3 p.m by Garhwal Express from Old Delhi railway station. A small station which I had never witnessed before except for the pages from a storybook. A small platform, a little waiting room with furniture from the British era welcome us. Lansdowne is 5600 feet above the ground. While well-connected with roads, Lansdowne has successfully kept herself away from the town. She has kept herself enclosed in her own world of silence and solitude. We had looked into many hotels in Lansdowne. There were few but we stuck with one – Hotel Blue Pine. The hotel was built on a green hill – cutting on its surface. It looked hidden among the trees surrounding it. We were lucky to find our room at the ‘Snowpoint’ – the room at the very top. A modern touch infused the hotel surroundings. The hotel staff was kind to us. We can still remember their smiling faces as they greeted us.
We spent the first day at Lansdowne trying to get the travel-exhaustion out of our system. The evening had already fallen on these lands. When I went out to see the scenery, darkness surrounded me from all corners. Exhausted, I did not strain my eyes too much. It has been ages since I was engulfed by such deep darkness. Slowly, I disappeared within it – becoming invisible to the world and to myself.
In the morning, when I came back to the balcony, the world of Lansdowne greeted me with open arms. In front of my eyes lay a magical land – small hills lay close to one another and interlocked in a friendly circle. On the side of each hill, a sea of pine trees flowed. Each hill had a special texture – each seemed to fulfill their own role in building up this magical land. If I were not a silent poet in my heart, I would have named each hill and called them out. But to me, anonymity is king. Let nature remain unnamed – let her be a mystery.
We went out to visit the cantonment. On our way, we met only a few jeeps lazily passing by. Like most roads in hill stations, the Lansdowne roads took sharp turns. It was surprising how deftly the drivers rode the streets and made those risky turns. The cantonment area informed me that I was in human civilization. There was a market for ordinary and tourist-based items, jeep owners ready to hire a car for you, and the common humdrum of the crowd. Within all this, one can see the soldiers trying to maintain everything properly. Our soldiers – the ones who left their wife, children, mothers, and fathers back home to ensure our safety. Here, among the well-groomed and well-maintained soldiers, you can get a glimpse of their little sacrifices. You might even have a bit of chit-chat with them.
After buying bread and cakes from a bakery, we came back to the hotel. Today, we had no plans for tours. We lay low for today – enjoying our short time beside the hillsides.
Lansdowne cannot be called a tourist spot. It is an experience. However, there are a few tourist spots present in Lansdowne too. On our second day, we went on a tour. We visited the St. Mary’s Church, Tip and Top Point, Army Museum and Bulla Lake. A mix of contemporary beauty and natural beauty engrossed us. However, the body has its needs too. After a long tour, we were hungry. We started searching for a restaurant.
Deep within the pine forest, a small establishment ‘Fairy Dale’ has been set up as a hotel-cum-restaurant. The prices were cheap and the restaurant owner was kind. In the midst of the forest and the smell of pine cone and boiling chicken, we were trapped in a limbo of man-made establishments and nature’s creation – set in a perfect balance.
As the sun casted its final light against the half-golden hilltops, we returned home. The silent land fell even more silent. Night fell quite suddenly making the world invisible again. Perhaps, outside our house, nature rose in its mystery, behind the curtain of darkness. We could never know. Did we go away from human civilization? The silence said yes. However, sometimes, a honk or a growl of a distant car tore through the silence and made us realize – no, we are not lost. We are just in a place far, far away.
The sky was dark when we woke up. Pillows of clouds ran wild on the canvass of a once-blue sky. Slowly and steadily, they creased towards the hills and engulfed them in their bosom.
And then, the downpour came on.
I was quite scared. But the rain seemed to enliven this mystical land. Swaying in the wind, the trees and the grasses danced as the rain pelted down in full force. It seemed as if the trees have grown greener still, if that was possible. As if they were glowing in the rain.
When the rain turned into a drizzle, we went out with all our luggage. We were bound for Delhi – back home – back to the smog of the city. The car hired by us was waiting. After loading the luggage, we sat down and asked if the driver would be able to drive properly in this weather. He said he was experienced in all sorts of weather.
As the car sailed down towards the station, I looked back to bid a silent farewell to the mystical lands of Lansdowne. It seemed as if those anonymous hills were smiling back at me. As if they were saying – come back some other time. We will be here every day, forever, in storm or sunlight, in earthquakes and even the apocalypse. We are here to stay.
The sun shone from within the raining clouds and lit a part of the rain-wet hill slope.
Yes, I will come back to Lansdowne.
Books, movies, and the overanalysis of everything defines the world of Atriya Majumdar.
He has a lot to say, but then he doesn’t say much.