I love encountering Dehradun and Mussoorie in Hindi movies. It is supposed to be this wonderful place where the climate is always exotically cool, and depending on the movie, a destination for the glamorous and rich (Teesri Manzil) or the pure of heart (I can’t think of a movie like that right now) who run through verdant fields. Dehradun is a very nice place, but its not quite the stuff of movie imagination.

The Library Bazar, Mussoorie

The Library Bazar, Mussoorie. Probably from 1917. 10 cm x 15 cm, Chromolithograph (Courtesy Priya Paul Collection and Tasveer Ghar)

I’ve always wondered how it got its reputation. And a few months ago I got the chance to find out. I was asked by Tasveer Ghar, a digital network of popular culture, to write an essay based on materials donated by collector Priya Paul. The collection itself is an embarrassment of riches, but my heart skipped a beat when I saw picture postcards from Mussoorie and Dehradun. Yellow with age, almost a hundred years old, with images of places I have known since I first learned that places have names.

The results of my exploration are up at the Tasveer Ghar site.