Gadding About with Urdu (Week 2)

Last week in Landour we experienced forest fires not far from where we were living and learning. There was a day and night of smoke, haze and burning pine. The smoke got into our classroom, our hair and clothes and generally hung in the air till the wind took it away.


(The haze and smoke don’t quite show up on these photos!)

Apart from the forest fires, it has been a thoroughly rewarding week in Landour, learning Urdu with Farid as my co student. I am happy to report that we are neck and neck! The grey matter is definitely working! The four classes daily are exhausting but a lot of fun.

By the middle of last week our fabulous teacher Mr. Habib Ahmad, took away most of the notations that we had spent laborious hours, memorising and perfecting the week before. The language is now all about approximations (and a bit of guesswork actually!). Out the window went many “nukhtaas”, “zer”, “zabar”.  We are conjoining letters to form words and then find it difficult to decipher our own handwriting! All in all a lot of fun!

Last week we made a couple of forays into the main bazaar in Mussourie. What a fright! Landour seems like a different planet although the two are contiguous. Mussourie’s Old Clock Tower has been rebuilt. The monstrosity that has replaced it brought tears!


(Hideous saffron mosaic tiles, designed and built with complete disregard for aesthetics or any sensibility!)

Some evenings finishing school at 5pm we walk into town to eat dinner at a restaurant just to vary our basic fare cooked by the chowkidar’s wife. One evening we ate at Rice Bowl. It serves mostly Tibetan food. The vegetarian Thukpa that I ordered was delicious. The quantity was just right and the vegetables were fresh and plentiful. Another similar restaurant is Doma’s Inn which is in Landour.


The walks around the chhota and badha chakkars are pretty much routine now, as is the lemon tea for me and bun omlette for Farid at Tiptop Tea shop at Chaar Dukaan. We have even opened an account with the owner since we are being treated as long term guests on the hillside.


(The hillside is dotted with daisies)


Gadding About with Urdu! (weekly update)

Learning Urdu has been on my “to do” list for a very long time.

My boys joined Woodstock School in Landour / Mussourie, 9 years ago and ever since I have been planning to study Urdu at the Landour Language School. It seemed to fit in with so many good things : to be near “mah boyz”; to live for a while in quiet and clean Landour; to challenge my brain with a new script and language and to be a student again!


The opportunity never presented itself until now. Farid my older one graduated from Woodstock a couple of years ago, though Iqbal, my younger one is still there. Farid, who is now a Junior at Quest University in BC, Canada, requires two credits from studying a new language for 96 hours. It was clear that the new language would be Urdu at Landour Language School!


(The Landour Language School is on the premises of the Kellogg Church in Mussourie)

We arrived in Landour last week. Leaving the dust and summer behind in the plains.  Climbing up steadily to cool environs, my nose picked up the heady smell of pine and deodar and the lungs automatically started breathing deep.


(Oakland Cottage is the building just visible through the Deodars. This is the north side view. We are staying on the south side / other side)

I had visited Landour in April to find us lodgings for a month. The aim was to find accommodations close to LLS. With Oakland cottage about 50 mts away from the Language School, we couldn’t have struck luckier! And though our room and small  kitchenette and bathroom are extremely basic, we have a beautiful view of the Dehradun plains in the southwest, especially at night with all the twinkling lights.  We are at the highest point in Landour, just below the iconic TV tower. And we are a hop, skip and jump away from LLS.

(Our daily walk around the chhota and bada chakkars takes us through the most peaceful part of Landour. These days the horse chestnuts are abloom).

The biggest challenge has not been to attune and exercise my 52 year old brain  to learn a new language. I was prepared for that. The challenge has been in keeping up with the agility of Farid’s 20 year old brain. We are classmates and learning together and I have to concede that Farid “gets it” quicker than I do. This last week I have struggled emotionally between being a proud mother and guilty of being slightly jealous of the speed with which he understands. His excitement and joy at learning is no doubt infectious but also irritating.

Our wonderful teacher Mr. Habib Ahmed already has us reading, writing and constructing sentences! We have 4 classes daily. Each class is one hour long. Our days have fallen into a comfortable pattern.


(Tiptop Tea Shop at Chaar Dukaan where we take chai breaks between classes)

In between attending classes at LLS we find time to revise over a cup of lemon ginger honey tea at Chaar Dukaan. We walk around the Chhota and Badha Chakkars everyday after breakfast and before class. We finish our scholarly routine with a well earned something sweet or savoury at Landour Bakehouse.


( Prakash’s shop in the background – famous for his jams and peanut butter)

Every week our schedule of 20 classes will change. So starting tomorrow our classes will begin at 8:20am and end at 5pm with long gaps in between. More about that next week. Meanwhile wish me luck that I am not left always at Farid’s heels but perhaps neck and neck….?