Mugged in Mussoorie.

Gun hill, is one of the most visited tourist spots in Mussoorie, Dehradun. The spot is famous for its canon which used to blow at 12:00pm for the Britishers to set their clocks. Now the Gun hill point is full of tourists and numerous photographers, or what one should call them, the muggers.

First stop in our day’s itinerary was this gun hill point. A rope-way took us from Mall road to the Gun hill. Even before we could step our foot outside the rope-way station, a dozen of photographers surrounded us. Most of them wore black leather jacket for some reason, hung authentic Pahari clothes in their left hand and camera in the other.

Everyone just started attacking us with their offers, “200 ki family photo. Memsab ajao idar bilkul Pahari kapde he sab ke liye.” (Trans:200 for family photo. Madam try this you will look exactly like Paharis) Each one of them gave the same offer in different words.

Irritated by them, my mother told them we would click a photo while coming back.

The view was exactly opposite to this chaotic entry point. Extremely calming, with occasional cool wind blowing our hair. Almost the entire Doon valley was visible from the second highest point in Mussoorie.

Picturesque Doon valley

A paid binocular guide made fail attempts to show us the snow-capped peaks of Gangotri, Srikantha and Pithwara. He pointed his binocular at absolutely nothing in sky and said “Bhaiya ye dekho, Gangotri ke Darshan karlo.” (Trans: Look at the Gangotri peak.) I don’t know how, but my grandmother could even see Ganga coming down from that peak and she touched the ground to take her blessings. After a lot of time, capturing the whole valley and its silence, we now started going back to the station or the mugging point.

Paid Binocular services in Mussoorie

The same photographer seeing us come back, ran towards us and directly handed over Pahari clothes. Pointing towards a changing room he started taking out clothes for everyone. After about 5mins everyone was ready to click a photo against the panoramic Doon valley. Before hearing the shutter sound, we heard, “Memsaab Rs.200 har ek photo ke. Abhi 200 dedo badme aur photo acche lage to aur do.” (Trans: 200 for each photo. Give me Rs.200 advance and pay more if you like more photos) Thus, we handed over 2 notes of hundred.

Traditional Garhwali costumes are available at rent for tourists.

5 shutter sounds had ended our 3mins costume party and we removed the smelly, stained, velvety clothes. The photographer took the clothes and checked it twice. Happy with the returned clothes, he told us to wait for 30mins for him to print the photograph.

With an entire itinerary to cover we could not wait that long for a simple photo and requested to print in 5 minutes or give our money back. But being a professional, he came up with an excellent idea of delivering the photo to our hotel as he lived nearby. Happy with this, we left for the city tour to cover the entire city in one day.

Courier boy of the family(me), after the hectic day, was sent to the reception to bring the photo. The receptionist laughed on my question about our photo and told me that it was their fraud scheme and they do this to many tourists. With an unpleasant smile, I accepted the fact that we were fooled by a photographer. Until then, I thought myself to be a very smart tourist. Tourists are mugged many a times; this was one unique way of doing so.

Till date, a hundred-rupee note feels like a certificate of being the most foolish tourist. Though now, to cover up my foolishness, I tell people that I was mugged at gun point.

Painting by- Ms. Devika Mahajan

“Travel make a wise man better, and a fool worse.”

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