In October 2014 I went to India. I wanted to look for the house my Cockburn ancestors had lived in, in Mussoorie, and visit Camels Back Road Cemetery. However, my journey also had a more subtle goal: I wanted to discover what India was like – I wanted to get an idea of what it was about India that the family had loved so much.
In India the Sanskrit word yatra is used to describe a sacred or special pilgrimage – and I came to think of the trip as a personal yatra.
In Mussoorie I stayed in Landour and loved walking the high wooded roads, gazing at the snow-covered Himalayas on clear days and watching the mists roll in and out on hazy days. The winter line, an atmospheric phenomenon found only in two or three parts of the world, created stunning sunsets that went on and on.
Most days I walked down to Mussoorie ‘central’ through the old, narrow Landour bazaar where the shops are still populated mostly by shoe makers, tinkers, tailors, sweet sellers, fruit shops and tiny grocery shops.
Mussoorie ‘central’ was a completely different place, with an endless and often ugly jam of hotels, shops and traffic created for the Indian tourist market. However, I’d known before I went there that it would be commercialised, and didn’t find it too bad. In every corner of India there is a special experience to be had – something unexpected or interesting. The trick was to take it in small chunks and not become overwhelmed or exhausted.
Stepping back off the road into a doorway would give me a safe spot from where I could look at the street more closely, and I could often identify remnants of colonial buildings and landmarks.
Beyond Library Chowk, the Mall Road became less busy. Camels Back Road was a lovely walk, and a highlight was the day I took a taxi to Everest House and saw a stunning panorama of the Himalayas.
The ‘Mussoorie’ tab in the top menu has links to photos and information I gathered during my trip.