Kasauli is much smaller than most other hill stations. Times Travel found that to be part of its charm
The sultry summer night we rented a chauffer-driven car opposite New Delhi Railway station, I was little unsure about the proposed destination, Kasauli. The driver in beige livery hunched beside the car inflating tyres told us he vaguely knew that Kasauli was somehere on the Kalka-Shimla road. He said, however, that he was unsure whether we had made the right choice in picking Kasauli over known places in Himachal Pradesh like Shimla or Kufri.
However, a friend of mine had sworn that Kasauli was a picture postcard destination, a favoured retreat of Khushwant Singh. Best of all, the area was no bigger than a few large-ish farms put together. Of course when I reached Kasauli, I found it’s not quite as small as it was made out to be.
I also discovered that most of Kasauli can be negotiated by foot as it’s all situated between the market at Mall Road and Monkey Point, a peak with a Hanuman shrine. Monkey Point opens to a huge vista of the distant plains of Chandigarh region and the river Sutlej, which threads a silvery ribbon through the hills.
I saw concrete steps laid out on the hill like a terraced slope in a tea estate. The summit of the hill was breezy, and had a huge, monolithic Hanuman idol. Thickly coated in vermilion, the towering presence of the monkey God defied the assault of a perennial strong breeze at the summit.
Kausauli seemed to have preserved its old world order of British Raj as it was developed as a cantonmentsanatorium after the British made Shimla as their summer capital. Today, its colonial ambience is reinforced by cobbled paths, ethnic shops, gabled houses and scores of neatly kept gardens and orchards.
Kasauli is a green location – the streets are lined with tall deodars, flame of the forest, chirpines, Himalayan oaks, huge horse chestnuts, and flowering kachnars. Wild flowers, roses, and rhododendrons are also aplenty. Amid the bushes, I caught the sight of some curious bird watchers who laid themselves on the bushes in a crude imitation of guerilla ambush and were circumspect over their binoculars. It appeared to me some of them were watching passer-bys more than the birds.
An old church caught my attention. Locating at the corner of a street, it looked desolate. A barbed fenced wire raised over a row of crumbling pickets defined the parameters of the church. At dusk, I pressed against the barbed wire to listen to the church choir but my ears did not register anything more than an eerie silence.
Not far away from the church, I was intrigued by the presence of an old antique shop. The shingle “Estd. 1869” spoke of it’s venerability. To my disappointment, the shop was closed on Sunday. About the same vintage, if of another genre, is the Pasteur Institute of Kasauli that produces the anti-rabies vaccine. It is the oldest institution in such a trade in India.
I stayed in a budget hotel in Kasauli as I hadn’t made prior b o o k i n g s. Both Hotel Ros Common and Hotel Alasia were full. Two other places later I realised I could have looked at the PWD rest house and Hotel Maurice.
Kasauli is on tableland, situated at a height of over 1900m and joins the Kalka-Shimla road at Barog through a bridle-path. As we kept our driver awake the whole day, he nearly drew us into a head-on collision with a lorry on the way back to Delhi. Early the morning we crossed Panchkula. I remember it was the day of summer solstice. A long trailing shadow of our betel-red colorMaruti followed us to Delhi as we were thinking about both Kasauli and the near collision we avoided!
Old is gold
Kausauli seemed to have preserved its oldworld order of British Raj as it was developed as a cantonment-sanatorium after the British made Shimla as their summer capital. That’s the reason why it looks as beautiful as it was back then.