The Silence of Landour

Landour, Uttarakhand (pic courtesy: Venkataraghavan S)

The sounds in Landour weren’t entirely different from what I heard on my balcony in New Delhi every morning — mynahs conversing song-like, squirrels screeching their presence before scurrying away, leaves caressing and whispering to each other, rhesus macaque monkeys crashing through treetops (ok, maybe not the monkeys). It took me a day-and-a-half of the weekend trip to realize the difference of Landour. It was the background silence — the absence of the constant drone that underlines our urban existences, of the hum of machines, like air conditioners and electrical appliances and vehicles.

The silence of Landour isn’t an overwhelming, deafening silence, where every thought is amplified until you can hear your heart rail and your mind hammer against their cages. The silence of Landour is soft and unobtrusive, a stillness you feel when you’re ready, once your body has been soothed out of its world-weariness and your fractured mind’s multiple existences are gently brought back to one — here and now.

The biggest menu you’ve seen, Devdar Manor, Landour (pic courtesy: Venkataraghavan S)

You feel the infinite silence in the spaces in between. You feel it when you pause to look at the towering pine trees as you shuffle up the steep incline to Char Dukan — a 106-year old market of exactly four shops that serve delicious chocolate waffles, cheese Maggi and aloo-pyaaz paranthas, along with varieties of tea, postcards and local books. You sense it when you sit on the large front porch at Devdar Manor, waiting for the pizza and chai you ordered from the biggest menu-card you’ve ever had to order from, peering through the mesh of leaves at flecks of light blue sky. When the thick evening fog rolls in, it hides everything — the distant mound of Gun Hill, the slanting asbestos-roofed houses of Mussoorie, the football pitch nestled in the lap of a lush green hill. You stare blindly into an impenetrable, luminescent grey, straining to make out shapes, when the muezzin’s voice cuts through, clear and sonorous in the crisp mountain air, bouncing lightly off mountain faces. You can almost touch the silence that follows every syllable, a beautiful harmony of balance.

You may sigh and wish you could physically bottle the silence of Landour and listen to it every time your city existence runs you ragged, but you do bring it back with you. The silence finds a nook deep within you and settles there, waiting for the next time you clamour for some peace and quiet. At that moment, the silence within you leaps up and envelops you in stillness, bringing back fond memories of Landour — of contemplating which homemade jams to buy from Sister Bazaar, of chuckling at the pen-art pieces on the old wooden walls of the majestic Rokeby Manor, of hanging around outside the houses of Ruskin Bond and Victor Bannerjee pretending to gaze at the view but really hoping to catch a glimpse of them, of reading literary quotes about the mountains under every garbage can, of unhurried moments of absolute stillness.

(Based on a trip in June 2014)

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