Sunday, 07 January 2018 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun-
Our valley of Doon is still a very popular destination for a holiday with the added charms of nearby Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Haridwar. However, I would like to take you back to the time when things were quite different in the valley. Even the people who were its residents got the feeling that they were on a long holiday. It was a pristine region with weather which was extremely salubrious and could be even described as heavenly. Life was not so fast and market forces had not taken over the world. People did not visit nice places only on weekends. They had ample time to be with their families, friends and relatives. My father was posted in the Doon valley for many years. I can well recall that our relatives (my father’s brothers and sisters as well as my mother’s sisters) would come in from other cities, especially Delhi, and be with us for long periods.
After their weddings, my “chachas” (uncles) and “chachis” (aunts) would come to us and then go up to Mussoorie to return to us and visit all the beautiful places of the valley. My parents, my brother and I would take them to the hallowed Indian Military Academy (IMA)and the statuesque Forest Research Institute (FRI), one of the finest buildings in the country. These two have been marvels in more ways than one and continue to have a flow of visitors from all over the country and abroad. An extremely funny incident occurred when my youngest chacha and chachi came to Doon just after they were married. My young chachi, who had passed Class 12 recently, saw the Rispana river and canal and suddenly became quiet. When she heard talk around her about the canal, her eyes shone and she exclaimed “So, this is the Suez Canal!” For a couple of minutes, nobody could react. After that, the loud burst of laughter embarrassed her no end. Till today, we tease her about that one!
Paonta Sahib Gurudwara in neighbouring Himachal was also a favourite destination for all our visitors and we would accompany them. The Yamuna river was a definite presence near the shrine those days and one had to take a boat to reach the Gurudwara. It was truly a memorable scene, etched on my mind forever.
In Mussoorie, we would all buy the beautiful walking sticks as souvenirs. Those days, there was a line of shops selling them in Landour Bazaar. Now one can hardly see these walking sticks. They were of various attractive hues and carvings-burgundy, chocolate brown, golden brown and mahogany brown. Most hill stations had them. We did not need them but still bought them for their beauty and perfection. The keychains on which the shopkeepers engraved our names in lovely colours and fonts were another popular item to be brought back from Mussoorie. Those were simple and happy times!
A movie in any of the many cinema halls of the Doon valley was an important part of the itinerary of any guest who would come to us. I remember seeing movies like “Kalicharan”, “Charas” and “The Great Gambler” with my uncles, aunts and cousins. It was such great fun! The only thing we sometimes resented was that whenever we decided to go to another city for the vacations, we would get a message from someone or the other that they were dropping in for the holidays. However, we did not mind it for long and found consolation in the fact that the town which was so sought after as a vacation destination was our home! The walks in the summer evenings upto the Rispana river, gathering litchis and mangoes from the trees, the visits to Paltan Bazaar on tongas, the tea and samosa treats at Kwality Restaurant, the movies at Natraj, Prabhat and Kanak cinemas, the photograph sessions at FRI, the jaunts on the Mall Road in Mussoorie and the afternoons spent at home chatting with each other removed any negative thoughts we may have had about not being able to go out of Doon.
It is winter now and the valley is quite cold. All the more reason for me to look back at those wonderful winter holidays. Angithis were found in many homes instead of heaters. We sat around the bonfire not just on Lohri but on other cold nights too. Exchanging some spooky stories that made us feel cold despite the fire!
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