The Reign of the Hills
Gena Fazel
BETWEEN HEAVEN & EARTH: WRITINGS ON THE INDIAN HILLS by Ruskin Bond and Bulbul Sharma Speaking Tiger, 2022, 432 pp., ₹ 699.00
February 2023, volume 47, No 2

Between Heaven & Earth is an exhaustive compendium authored by contemporary literary stalwarts and travellers who utilize descriptive writing to produce pages of text reminiscent of Shansui paintings. Bulbul Sharma’s and Ruskin Bond’s cataloging incorporates a plethora of voices, and echoes of the past. The reader is treated to Ruskin Bond, Khushwant Singh, and Keki Daruwalla alongside Bill Aitken, Jim Corbett, Thomas Munro and Rumer Gooden.  Memoirs inclusive of changing topographic details are etched between intricately constructed accounts of travels.

Notably, the Mall Roads of Shimla and Mussoorie of the last century are a central concern—many lament the loss of the open wide road, that now resembles a busy street in the capital. Indeed, a profusion of hawkers and vendors is the modern-day reality of Mall Road. Plying their wares, they fulfil the needs of an average tourist—souvenirs emblematic of the town’s heritage, handmade jams and sweetmeats, or cozy knits can be purchased at hefty prices. The altered demography of the hills is distinct—the British had ensured with their tea parties, balls and picnics, that these areas remained a place for their community to escape the excruciating heat and allow members of the army to recuperate in the sanatoria. Others recount the slanderous gossip and drama that followed these fête champêtre in great depth.

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