"Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it. " ~ Mahatma Gandhi


Kasauli: Retirement Home

S.C. Parashar, who retired from the I.A.S., is involved in environmental protection, enjoys long walks and is writing a book on Buddhism. Here, he reminisces on how he chose Kasauli as his retirement home.

As I embarked on the last major decision of the remaining years of my life, the quest for my retirement home, I had a spring in my walk and an overwhelming self- confidence. After all I was sure that like W. H. Auden, I had nothing to do with the plains. "I cannot see plains without a shudder.... O'Lord, not the plains. Not the plains".

And then there was the dream station of my school and college days: Shimla; with its lush green Jakhu hill, the immaculately swept Mall and the glorious Chadwhick Falls, which drowned all human conversation in their mighty assertion. On the way up was Barog, a railway station where the smell of crisp bacon, steaming coffee and delectable toasts and fried egg wafted towards you. Who could forget the shine in the eyes of Khudabaksh when you praised the copper-pipe toilets, while he offered you a warm hand towel.

More on Himachal
At a Glance

Return to Manali
Manali to Leh
Road to Khardung La
Dharamshala Diary

Introducing Himachal

Kalka railway station did not disappoint. It was still earning the prize for the cleanest hill station of Northern Railways. The rail car was unchanged and the detailed map of the track we would be travelling upon was still fascinating, more so as it indicated not only the mileage but the ever increasing altitude of each station on the way. The rail car grinded out with belaboured pulls up the winding track. As always, I wondered how it would manage to reach the peak of the hill past which the visible track waited in silent repose. But it managed. Barog was more or less unchanged except for the kiosk on the platform.


The rail car grinded out with belaboured pulls up the winding track. As always, I wondered how it would manage to reach the peak of the hill past which the visible track waited in silent repose.

We trooped into the refreshment room. What a change ! The old wooden chairs and the tables covered with crisp white damask had disappeared - replaced by red plastic chairs and sunmica topped tables. No, they no longer served English breakfast. Only puris and bhaji. Not that I needed to use the toilet, but with quick steps I walked towards them. No Khudabaksh. It was disappointing, but not surprising. What was shocking was the replacement of the copper pipes by gleaming stainless steel. The old wash basins had also been replaced. Perhaps inevitable. After all it was more than 30 years ago.

The rail car screeched to a halt and the old stone building of Shimla railway station embraced you with its long remembered charm. The town precariously perched on the hill side beckoned like an old friend. Having climbed to the level of the town, a shock awaited. Multi-storied structures, high-rise buildings, motor repair shops where grease and garbage mixed into black mounds of despair. Vehicles galore, dotted frequently with hooting buses and jostling pedestrians. And dust. Dust that had settled on the once proud deodar trees and rusted roof tops. The Mall was littered with discarded cigarette packets and Uncle Chips bags. The crowds, unbelievably dense and noisy up Jakhu hill. Multi-storied buildings had sprouted all along the way. Vehicles on the Mall. Ambulances being used to ferry school children or on shopping sprees !


The pilgrimage to Chadwick falls led to hell. The hill track had disappeared yielding place to a poorly metalled road littered with mule and horse dung. The deserted road led to dry rocks punctuated with excreta. No water ! No falls ! The silence was deafening. My dream lay shattered.


Glorious chestnuts, whose very leaves rusted to eye catching patches against the hill side putting to shame any cultivated flowers. And wild dahlias!
Then a friend suggested a visit to Kasuali - a small cantonment station. "Quiet, clean and green", he said. It proved to be a case of love at first sight. The tiny town with a single cobbled street where quaint shops were located. An Anglican church with oak pews and stained glass windows. A distant view of the snow-clad Dhauladhars', Kala Patter and its own exclusive Churi Chandni, which boasted of a snow cover for the greater part of 4 months. The Malls dotted with typical English summer houses, shaded by pines, oak, cypresses.

Glorious chestnuts, whose very leaves in spring rusted to eye catching patches against the hill side putting to shame any cultivated flowers. And wild dahlias ! It is said that the British army air seeded these hills and now the flowers bloom in season on their natural urge.


Miles and miles to walk without meeting a person. I often noticed the striped wood pecker busy gathering his daily food. Magpies, which seemed to prefer the cypress grove, sail across the hillside as do minuets of all hues and shades. Orange. blue, black, grey. The humming. birds and the Fly Catcher. I was even surprised by a fox and a hyena on Gilbert path one October evening.

Jackals heard when the distillery siren was sounded but never seen. Once I sighted a family of spotted deer in the valley below, when their young one turned back staring at me with curiosity. Even leopards were claimed to have been sighted but fortunately, or unfortunately I have not seen one. I regularly met Ram Saran, an old shepherd, during my evening walks. He would fall in step with me, pronounce that I was lucky to be living in paradise and that there was no hell or heaven except in this life. Full of Puranic stories, he had a certain native wisdom. He is dead now and I understand he died of a broken heart because his sons maltreated him, when he refused to pass on his land to them during his life time! So often did I hear the grass cutter, the wood collector, and sheep grazeer play his flute. Indeed I was living in heaven.


Kasauli is a small town with a permanent population. of about 5000 people, but it has a history dating some 150 years, with it's own folklore and even a haunted house on Khetarpal Marg. A ruin with two abandoned hearths looking to the northern snow peaks. The locals claim that on a dark night after 8.00 pm the ghost's footsteps will follow you. Recently, however, nobody has experienced this pursuit. Maybe the CPWD Colony which has come up nearly 5 years back has scared the ghost away.

Then we have a cement platform which is reported to be the grave of a young lady, who was reputed to be an expert horsewoman and took a wager that she could ride up to Monkey Point alone at night. Those days, Monkey Point was approached through a tortuous winding path through a dense forest. The lady, it is believed, was thrown off the horse; and tumbled down the hill, where her remains were engraved by her bereaved husband. However, the oldest inhabitant of the town, Mrs. Mary Hotz, scoffs at the romantic tale and affirms that only the horse stumbled and died and that the grave contains the remain of the poor horse, while the often inebriated young lady lived to a ripe old age.

The Monkey Point which is the only point of tourist interest today, has no monkeys and no trees. There used to be a quaint Hanuman temple atop the hill. A few years back, some faithful followers, launched a collection drive and now we have an imposing marble structure with a marble idol of Hanuman in regular worship. All enquiries about the fate of the ancient idol were futile. Then we have an interesting point where the road converges around a hill. It was traditionally called Nelly's belly. Perhaps after an amply pregnant lady. It has recently been rechristened 'Premipath' The time sequence of events is obviously wrong and needs reviewing. Kasauli still boasts of two 'raj' letter boxes mounted with imperial crowns, inspite of two shady efforts to replace these by modern models.


"Monkey Point" may have lost it's monkeys, but Kasatili has a generous population of both the red faced and the black faced varieties. The red faced are a mischievous and often sadistic lot and love to destroy plants. They are clever and nasty, attacking women and children and sometimes the old and enfeebled. It has often intrigued me how they distinguish between the sexes. The black faces keep to tree tops feeding on fruits and leaves. They feed out of your hands and never overeat.

Kasauli could be appropriately known as the Hawthorne town. I do not think any other hill station has as many Hawthorne hedges. Not only around private houses, but along the public roads, which means the two Malls and the two subsidiary tracks. Initially there were no iron fences seen around the town. From late March to mid April, the bushes bloom in such glory that on a moonlit night it is a sight never to be forgotten. The generous splash over hill slopes and along the houses and roads shimmers like liquid silver with a hint of mild fragrance. The bushes are scattered all around as of a dance of fairies in white. Unfortunately, no further plantations are being made and all new houses have dismal iron railings around them, sometimes 10 feet tall. Instead of wicker gates, imposing, high and wide iron gates are being installed.

The Kasauli Club, established. in 1880, has always been the social center of the town. When I joined it about 12 years back, it had an ambience of its own. Old furniture, deep cushioned sofas and an exquisite Roman table with chairs. The club has since been modernized. Sleek chairs and sofas have replaced the old furniture. Synthetic wall to wall carpets cover the wooden floors. Those who have longer associations with the club reminisce about the facilities and the service in the past. They assert that the tennis' teas were out of this world and the club served it own cakes and pastries, hot and freshly baked in their bakery. Officers of the army from Sabatu and Dagshai always joined in for a game of tennis to be followed by an excellent tea and dance.


Now the club is active only in the season - May and June. It celebrates Kasauli night during the season when the chef from Chandigarh dishes out tempting tandoori chicken and sheekh kebabs. There are a few 'Happy Hour' evenings when liquor is served courtesy an institution or a member of the executive committee. These are followed by tambola and a musical soiree. Youngsters can be seen knocking tennis balls around these 2 months, while army officers hit the walls of the squash court nearly all the year around. The card rooms, and the bar are packed through the 2 summer months and there is always a shortage of parking space. Marutis run the 1/2 km to the market to get chocolate for the kids and pan masala for the ladies and gentlemen. Evening are abuzz with back slapping bonhomie in the lounges and bars and the latest doings of mutual friends. The side walks have been paved recently and hedges replaced by fancy railings.

Kasauli is about an hour's drive from Chandigarh and there is a sizeable crowd from there which packs its food and liquor to spend a day in the hills of Kasauli. The tape deck in the car provides music and durries are spread along the road side, so food and liquor may be imbibed. After lunch it is a game of cards, while the younger crowd drives up and down the roads when they are not aggressively romancing. Weekend evenings are rowdy and the roads littered with wrappings, packages and cartons. Mondays, Kasauli is the aftermath of a rambunctious party. Ablaze with colorful plastic bags which sometimes float up the pine trees to introduce a new flower - long lasting and progressive.

The summer visitors brings their own life style with cocktail parties and get togethers. Dresses get chic and attractive, talk loud and exclusive. The nineties plagued by Kashmir and Punjab problems saw a sudden spurt in construction. The plains crept up to the hill. Multistoried structures, flats and units on sale and hire. Flat roofs, brick walls, plastic chairs, cars, sky rocketing land prices and illegal constructions. Evening walks become hazardous with speeding cars and inebriated young men blocking the road with a bottle of whisky perched on their heads. Barbed wire fences the hillside asserting newly acquired ownership.


The market and club, the roads and hotels burst with holiday makers and film music. Shimla ridge is sinking, Barog has no water supply for the multistoreyed structures and the five-star hotel that has come up there. The builders smelt big money in Kasauli. The law could be circumvented, water supply assured by bribing the linesmen with a constant supply of rum. The onslaught on the last quiet and green hill station has begun.

How To Get There

By Air: The nearest airports are at Chandigarh ( 65 km), and Simla ( 73 km ).

By Rail: The nearest railhead is at Kalka ( 37 km ).

By Road: Taxis and buses are available for Kasauli from Delhi, Chandigarh, Kalka and Simla.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.