– By Bill Aitken
The limestone composition of the Mussoorie hills is claimed to be amongst the purest on our planet and is of curious provenance in having been pushed up from the ocean floor. In the 1970s reckless mining of the mineral by both private and government licensees threatened to destroy both the beauty of the town’s slopes and minimise its water sources. Thanks to public spirited voices led by Princess Sita of Kapurthala and Maisie Gantzer the Supreme Court intervened to ban quarrying and save the Doon’s environmental health and the right to an unpolluted life for its citizens.
However few except rock climbing friends remark on the aesthetic potential of limestone to reflect through aeons of monsoon fashioning nature’s sculpting hand. The originality of their design can resemble anything between primeval temple architecture and modern abstract art. It is a pity no one recognizes nor seeks to protect the stunning presence of these casually inspired rock masterpieces that we pass without notice let alone shout our wonder. What could be the ultimate snob collector’s show-stopping natural sculptures valued at lakhs, these unique Mussoorie outcrops instead are being mindlessly whittled away before the builder’s hammer.
Presented here are a few diverse limestone outcrops photographed in December 2015, all found within the space of a ten square metre patch of near vertical slope on a soon to be developed privately owned hillside falling immediately below the western boundary of Wynberg Allen Senior school and above the Mussoorie bypass. So steep is the terrain I had to be rescued by a passerby on the upper road who helped winch me up by means of a proffered walking stick.
Initially I was intrigued whether some of their craggy outlines might not resemble tree fossils such is the wizardry of the wind and weather. Closer investigation yielded a variety of shapes each boasting rugged character softened by warm natural colouring.