“Happiness is a mysterious thing, to be found somewhere between too little and too much.” – Ruskin Bond
If you are a book lover, you can’t really visit Mussoorie without realizing that this is Ruskin Bond territory.
You see it in the winding roads and rolling hills. You hear it in a chirp or a caw. You smell it in the sturdiness of the oak tree. You feel the presence of the life that inspired one of India’s greatest writers.
I read Ruskin Bond fairly late in life but was drawn to the simple joys that Bond delights in. Last year, for my birthday, I wanted to see Mussoorie like Bond might – with gentleness, slow moods, and languid walks.
And I so hoped to meet him.
So, I went to the Cambridge Book Depot on Mall Road, a bookshop that Bond is known to haunt, especially on Saturdays when he chuckles and jokes around with children and adults alike. I waited, peering into what surely must have been the most narrow bookstore I had ever visited, books hanging precariously on their aged spines.
He didn’t turn up. I moved on down the road to the Mussoorie Library – another favorite of Bond. This was pulsing with chaos, pushing me away. I gasped. The crowds were too much. This wasn’t the Mussoorie that Bond writes about with such love. This was a chaotic den of trippers coming here to snap selfies and jostle for chaat. Where was the calm? I walked away.
The next day, I walked over to Landour, lost in trails winding and straight. Here was Ruskin Bond’s home – not an idyllic cottage – but a simple whitewashed house overlooking the hills.
It’s calmer here, and I see what the writer sees: a sweeping view of the hills. But a noisy restaurant next door intrudes into the peace. I found a bench in front of the writer’s house and read.
I read for hours. At some point, the noise quieted. Should I go and knock on his door? I wondered. But it seemed rude, an atrocious invasion of his privacy. So, I stayed there, content to just lose myself in the same landscape as a beloved writer.
At some point, a window slammed shut even as the sun started to set sleepily. I shut my book too, and walked away. I never did get to meet Ruskin Bond. But you know what? It felt like I did.