By Ayushi Nagalia
Contrary to a widespread belief in the youth of Uttarakhand in our early 21st century, Uttarakhand has been the land of inspiration for numerous writers hailing from all disciplines and genres of writing. The sister towns of Mussoorie and Landour have always been a literature delight for topmost writers and historians in the world. While everybody knows the famous Ruskin Bond and his deep relations with Mussoorie. While most literature enthusiasts squeal at the thought of meeting Mr. Bond at the Cambridge Book Depot on Mall Road in Mussoorie, most of them are unaware of the fact that names like John Lang, Lowell Thomas, Emily Eden, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie and Rudyard Kipling are also associated with the Queen of Hills, Mussoorie.
If all this is not enough to make literature nerds flock to Mussoorie and Landour, several houses in Landour echo themes from Sir Walter Scott’s novels, with names such as Kenilworth, Ivanhoe, and Waverly; the town’s most renowned schools’ names, Woodstock and Wynberg are also inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s works. The Irish touch is also visible in homes called Shamrock Cottage, Tipperary and Killarney. On top of this, there is even a ‘Kipling Road’ in Mussoorie which is one of the best trekking routes from Dehradun to Mussoorie.
Landour, being an old British Cantonment, has a rich history of civil officers, murders and most of all, ecological and architectural changes. these changes have been immortalized by the great number of poets and authors who found themselves in Landour and could not resist spinning characters off of the town. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot was a result of the story that was handed over to her by Sir Arthur Conan Boyle, who came to know by Rudyard Kipling, the story of a mysterious murder of Madam Frances Garnett-Orme in Mussoorie’s prestigious Hotel Savoy. It’s even more intriguing that 1902 built Hotel Savoy follows the gothic Victorian architectural style, which makes it all the more suitable setting for a murder novel to be based on.
Rudyard Kipling, even though his stay in Mussoorie was brief, took away and gave off a lot to Landour and Mussoorie during his visit in 1888. Not only was Kipling the mode of Madam Frances Garnett-Orme’s murder story’s transmission to Agatha Christie, but also trotted the beautiful ramps (slanted lanes, common to hill-stations) of Mussoorie and honored them by depicting them in his novel Kim. The mutual gain of Mussoorie and Kipling came from the story of Fredrick “Pahari” Wilson.
The stories of “Pahari” Wilson have been recounted by the generation of Landour citizens, who never seem to forget the white king of Garhwal, and how he was the first Englishman to have permanently settled in the Bhagirathi Valley. Wilson was an adventurer who fled his country and deserted the British army in 1857 to satisfy his thirst for adventure. After being refused a refuge in the King od Harshil’s kingdom, due to the king’s faith in the British rule, Wilson was forced to settle in the outskirts of Harshil, where he married Raimata, a Pahari girl, who helped him devote all his time and energy to his timbre trade, which brought him to a height where he had the authority to mint his own brass coins and rule his followers, i.e., he became a king of Harshil. Even though he was warned several times by the authorities of British India, he continued his trade in Timbre and produced railway berths, gaining massive profits. He later married a local girl, Sungrami who was nicknamed Gulabo and fathered three children, Nathaniel, Charles, and Henry, who came to be known as Nathhu, Charli Sahib, and Indri by the local people. When Wilson and Gulabo died, they were both buried alongside each other in the British Cemetery on Camel Back Road, Mussoorie.
When Kipling visited Mussoorie in the summer of 1888, 5 years after “Pahari” Wilson’s death, with his Professor, friends and Mrs. S.A. Hills, he stayed at the Charleville Hotel which was funded by “Pahari” Wilson and was named after his second son Charles. On hearing the story of Wilson and visiting the British Cemetery, Kipling was deeply influenced by Fredrick Wilson’s life. He remarked “He (Fredrick “Pahari” Wilson) led a life that would have been the envy of kings”. Shortly after leaving Charleville and Mussoorie, Kipling wrote his most read short story, A Man Who Would Be King, drawing the protagonist Daniel Dravot as a loose sketch of “Pahari” Wilson.
A Man Who Would Be King was a stepping stone in Kipling’s career. His connection with Mussoorie is permanent and that of a mutual benefit and harmony. While Kipling got an inspiring story, Mussoorie got its name associated with a great writer. The Kipling Road in Mussoorie, which had turned into a forgotten path, is being revived. Ruskin Bond has mentioned that the Kipling Road has a scenic view of Dehradun and is a road that inspires characters and plots like no other; he himself used to walk along the Kipling Road years back and is glad that the road is being revived, and may germinate more writers like Kipling.
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