Thursday, September 3, 2009

Two Unexpected Encounters

There are very few Land Rovers in India. I have only seen one in our nine months here so far. This is a fact that is a little annoying to me, since many of you know I really like old Land Rovers. Mine (1963 Series IIA) is being baby-sat by a good friend back in Austin.
It came as a huge surprise that one was parked in the driveway of our Hotel in Mussoorie this past weekend. We had just returned from a walk into town and there it was - a late model Defender 110 with Denmark plates. Denmark? I had a chance to speak with the owner/driver. He and his wife are driving across Asia... 20,000 kilometers so far from Denmark to Mussoorie, India. Apparently Land Rover has been helping their adventure with some spare parts. His only major mishap so far was breaking down in Pakistan. Fortunately, the Pak army uses LR Defenders in their Armed Forces so the couple was able to make repairs without much delay.

A second chance meeting came through a local bookstore in Mussoorie. Before we traveled up to this hill station, it had been one of my hopes to maybe meet the Indian author, Ruskin Bond. He's a prolific writer, and happens to live near Mussoorie. Two of his more famous novels include "The Room on the Roof," and "Delhi is Not Far."
While we were poking around a small street side bookshop (an opportunity to get out of the misty, Mussoorie weather) Lesa spotted a poster of Ruskin Bond. He is apparently friends with the shop owner - and comes faithfully every Saturday (4pm-6pm) to sign books, and chat with readers. Both of us were excited - we bought one of his novels and a collection of children's stories and told the shopkeeper we would return the next day to meet Mr. Bond.
We arrived at the bookshop at 5:30 the next day from an afternoon of sight-seeing. We were afraid we might have missed our opportunity to meet this local legend. The shopkeeper recognized us right away: "I told Rusty you'd be coming. He's waited even though he's not feeling himself today."
And there he was. Very gracious and charming. We apologized for being late from our sightseeing trip and he asked us where we'd been - Mr. Bond has lived in this area most of his 75 years - He seemed genuinely interested and was willing to take some time with us. He shared his thoughts on how things have changed in and around Mussoorie. The author told us he lives about an hour's walk outside of town and when the weather is pleasant his still enjoys the stroll from his village into Mussoorie. What an honor and a treat to meet him in person!

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