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Delhi Archives – Nainital, North of Delhi

Nainital Dreams

[Digging out old stories from The Delhi Walla]

At a height of 1,938m, giddy tourists gratify themselves by boating on the lake, riding the ropeway trolley and shopping on Mall Road. That’s Nainital, the hill station in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region, 330 km north of Delhi. The sensitive traveller goes back with memories of smog and crowd, trash and traffic, tipplers and honeymooners.

Most of Nainital is as scarred as other north Indian hill stations, like Shimla or Mussoorie. Mall Road, the principal promenade, is littered with plastic packets. The hill slopes are pockmarked with hotels. The mossy rocks are painted with ads. The tree branches are entwined with electric cables. Throughout the day, the hills echo with the sound of honking cars.

Old, pristine Nainital is preserved largely in people’s memories; only the residue of that fabled past is there to see. “When I was growing up in Nainital in the 1960s,” says Delhi-based author Namita Gokhale, “it was a place of innocence and privilege.”

For centuries, the lake was held sacred by the hill people, but it was the British, homesick for England’s cool climes, who built the first bungalows. As schools and shops came up in the colonial era, Nainital became the commercial and Anglicized heart of Kumaon, in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was also the summer capital of British India’s United Provinces. Muhammad Ali Jinnah went to Nainital for his honeymoon.

After independence, the town….

Click here to read the rest of this article originally published on The Delhi Walla in October 2011.