Kasauli.... Those Were The Best Days Of My Life

1992 - 1995 .... The 3 best years of my life .... the ones I spent in that Heaven on Earth, Kasauli. My father was posted to Kasauli in November 1992. Packing our bags and moving to a new place was nothing new for us. Dad made me sit on his lap and gently broke the news that we would be leaving Chabua (Assam) ,our home for the past 2 1/2 years, for Kasauli. I was all of 7 years of age, and was unbelievably excited at the prospect of living in the mountains. Within a month, we had left the tea-gardens and ULFA behind for the pristine hills of Himachal Pradesh. It was a long journey ; took us more than three entire days to finally get to Kasauli. My first view of Kasauli was from behind the plastic bag I was throwing up in - in all my three years there, I never once missed an opportunity to empty my gut while travelling in the hills. The driver of the official Gypsy sent to receive us at Kalka station stopped to let us enjoy the first sighting. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Stark blue mountains rising up to touch the sky. The cold, crisp air nipped at our faces. Winter was already here. Steps cut out of the rock, the sustenance for the farmers battling it out each year against the elements of Nature. Fresh sprigs of flowers and ferns pushed out from cracks in the mountain face, tall pine trees showered needles at us every time the wind decided to sway them. Pree and I saw our first pine cone right there by the roadside and it was treasured by Pree for the rest of the journey. All around us, there were mountains and more mountains. And on one such mountain, there was nestled a beautiful town, dotted with tiny cottages and winding roads. That was Kasauli.

The Gang
We had a lovely home there... huge, airy, full of sunshine. We even had a garden full of roses and bright yellow flowers I didnt know the name of. It was a small campus, just about 8 families and 3 unmarried officers, who became our best friends in no time because they always had something for Pree n me. We were a gang of about 11 kids, ranging from 4 to 15 years of age, Pree being the youngest. All the parents were extremely sporting and let us kids go wherever we wanted to on those hills. The Gang ended up trekking on all the known paths, discovered several new ones, had picnics on the bare hillsides, went for nature rambles, started a flower and leaf collection, made several trips to Kasauli town (3 km from the campus) just for the heck of it. There were old colonial buildings on the way, the famous Sunset Point ( from where Chandigarh looked like a Cadbury's chocolate, the sectors divided neatly like the bar), an Army Guest House ( whose guard was rumoured to be tough on kids trying to trespass, but was captivated by Pree's charm and let us pass through every time), Gilbert's Track (from where Lady Gilbert and her horse fell into the valley below.. there's a grave to mark the spot where they fell), Rosewood Cottage (an upmarket inn for the tourists who came from abroad or from Chandigarh), Khushwant Singh's retreat (noone ever went there, but there it was) and several other beautiful villas, whose inhabitants we all recognised, but knew nothing about. Those were the carefree days of innocence , when all we would worry about was whether the dahlias we were carrying would survive the trek back home.

St.Mary's Convent School, Kasauli
Where the entire Gang went, comfortably in the bus we had for our own. Where I first saw the inside of a cathedral, and was overawed by its majesty. Whose buildings were scattered on top of a hill, and we had to walk for 10 minutes to get to the Library from our class. Where the hostellers were snooty and always had the best of things- brightly coloured erasers, fancy purses to carry their pencils in, the coolest schoolbags. Where children came to everyday from far flung places in specially arranged school vans. Whose parking attendant was a deaf-mute who taught me how to weave pine needles into rings. Where Sister Rosemary was notorious for pinching one's ears, and Sister Esmeralda was the sweetest (she was only 24 years old). Where I sang my first song on the stage. Where our Class Teacher was Mrs.Rathore, whose daughter Sneha always scored full marks in every subject (she was in another section). Where they took us on long marches in the mountains, then sat us down in the middle of nowhere and told us it was our picnic spot (we planned what to bring, and who to bring it,for weeks before the scheduled picnic). Where Pree was the favourite student of her teachers and from where Ma brought her back home everyday at noon in the ambulance because there was no other means of transportation. Where I made friends with Ruchi, Preeti, Angana and Sneha.. and went to their homes from school for lunch. Where Nitin made me my first proposal, on his birthday..." Happy Birthday Nitin"..."Thank you. I love you. Have some cake. I brought it just for you" , and I ran out of the classroom crying because the others started teasing me immediately... If I'd only known what it means to be loved (I got a letter from Nitin a few years back. He's a software engineer now... oh how I wish...). Where I prayed every morning with all my heart during the morning assembly for us to get a free period (I loved to run about in the playground). Where I enjoyed every second I spent with my friends.
St.Mary's Convent School.... where I cried my eyes out when we had to leave Kasauli.

Tidbits



  • Ma taught in KV within the campus. She was soon everybody's favourite teacher, as she always has been in all these years as a school teacher. Her students were from not-very-well-off families, but they showed their love in so many ways, it brought Ma to tears at times. Vivekanand and Devanand, twins who adored Ma, actually sculpted a wooden statue for her. Sunita knitted a sweater for her. A colleague gave her a handmade shawl (it was ugly, but Ma still wore it to school for a week). Everyday she returned home with flowers and cards the students made themselves. It was not unusual to see Ma walking down the steep slope with two or three tiny tots clinging to her hands, their mothers following with the bags and water bottles. Ma was everybody's darling. She still is.
  • We had parties every Saturday. The Commanding Officer and his wife believed whole heartedly in "Let's go Party Tonight". All 8 families would gather in the Officers' Mess Lounge. The parents would chitchat, have games, dance and sing (the CO's wife loved singing and dancing... hence the rest followed!!) .The Gang would always play hide-and-seek. The mess was huge, and we knew every nook and cranny of it. We always had such fun that we used to refuse to go back home, although it was usually 1 am by the time the party ended and freezing cold outside.
  • I had my first crush there in Kasauli. He was in The Gang, one year older than me. We would often run around holding hands, we would dance together in the parties, help each other during our treks. I was convinced I would marry him. The next year, his mom brought two Rakhis, and Pree and I tied him a Rakhi each. End of crush.
  • Dad, Ma, Pree and I would go off to our favourite spot on the hills for picnics during summer. We would walk it down to the spot, carrying a bag full of goodies- Maggi, Rasna, chips, chocolates and water. We would sit on the rough brown grass under the Pine trees. Dad would doze off, Ma would read a book, and Pree and I would run about picking pine cones and flowers. Eventually, we'd sit down to eat. Dad would crack jokes, the two of us would prattle about school and the various secret ways we' d discovered and Ma would give the latest gossip going round the campus. All in all, a peaceful and lazy Sunday. Perfect.
  • We went to Shimla, Chandigarh, Kulu-Manali and lots of other places around there. We didn't travel much because Pree n I were majorly travel-sick in the mountains. The campus had a picnic in the valley, by the Solan river. The entire station was there- around 100 families from the ranks, and the Officers and their families. Huge cauldrons, gallons of kerosene, stoves- practically an entire cooking range, were loaded onto a one-ton truck. The Officers rode in the two-ton trucks with the airmen and their families. A morale boosting gesture apparently. That's big in the forces... bonding with the ranks. When you have to ask someone to sacrifice themselves for the nation, you need to show them you're going to do the same. The Gang rides together (as usual) in our school bus, with our mothers. We sing all the way down to the river, then have the best time of our lives splashing about in the frigid waters, being almost carried away by the swift current, and pulled back just in time by a fat cook who looked as if nothing could dislodge him from his position. We ate the food cooked right there, sitting beside the river, throwing pebbles in and watching them disappear with barely a ripple. It rained lightly, and we saw a double rainbow spanning the sky. We all ooh-ed and aah-ed, and stood watching the miracle in silence. A blood-red sunset later, we all piled back into the trucks and buses and rode back home.... unforgettable days....
  • Lucy... my first pet. An utterly cute, tiny little furball of a puppy that a cook from the Mess gave us. We all adored her. Ma, Pree and I were crazy about her, and Dad succumbed to her selfless love and her floppiness in no time. She would jump onto the bed at the middle of the night, somehow get into my sweater and snuggle up to my neck from inside. In the morning , I would be woken up by a wet lick, an eager yap and a face full of Lucy. She was a mountain bred, no pedigree. But no amount of breeding could have produced more lucid brown eyes, dripping with affection. She would follow us everywhere and was known to everyone in the campus. One day, our upstairs neighbour (whose wife had passed away a few months back) took a fancy to Lucy. Ma, being generous as she is, gave her away to him. Pree and I were heartbroken, but comforted by the thought that she was still only a stair away. We often found her pawing at our door, whining to be let in. Ma tried to be strict... after all Lucy was now theirs. But she was underfed, and was digging in teh garbage for food. One day, we returned to find Lucy gone... forever. Our neighbour, for whom Lucy was a momentary fancy, had left her hungry as usual and as she foraged for food, a passing group of tourists ,who had come to visit the famous Monkey Point, took her away. Someone in the campus saw her in their arms, and rushed to tell us, but it was too late. I never forgave the neighbour for his neglect. And I would never forget Lucy either...
Leaving Paradise
And then, one fine day, Dad sat us down again, and told us we had to move to a new place now. The tears just wouldn't stop. The Gang cried with us, and consoled us at the same time. We would always be friends. We'll always keep in touch. The bigger boys, who'd been like brothers to us both, immediately brought us our favourite chocs. Surbhi, my best friend there, cried with me. Soon, we were packed and ready to move again. We were sent off from Kasauli by over 100 families who had gathered there to say goodbye. We were accompanied all the way to Kalka station, 1 1/2 hours away, by 10 officers and their families. And as we rounded the bend from where we had our first glimpse of Kasauli, I bid my final goodbye to the best place of my life.
Those were the best days of my life....

2 comments:

  1. beautiful description! i have never lived my life like this as in my dad changing jobs..but sometimes i wonder how it would have been? i live in bombay and i would love to live in a small town someday....

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  2. ...Fantastic..I accidently tumbled over your blog, reading up..for a weekend trip to kasauli, ofcourse LIVING life, the way you did in Kasauli..quite a childhood..away from the boring , mundane , routine & monotony of a fast paced city life..well wriiten. Looking frwrd to that Kasauli trip now..

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