Way back in the sixties, a young girl at a boarding school in Nainital, who had rosy cheeks and dreams in her eyes, would wistfully drool at the little cottages with sloping roofs and a fairy-tale ambience, while her school bus stopped for a routine ‘strawberries and mulberries’ break at Jeolikot. That little girl realized her dream in 1994. Yes!-her name was Bhuvan Kumari!
The interiors were a dingy, dove-cotes like mess. You could be forgiven for thinking that gremlins and ghosts ruled the roost there. Friends and ‘experts’ advised her to demolish the whole structure and start afresh, but the lady wisely decided to rely on her instincts and intuition. She did not disturb the outer shell-that original ‘ivy covered cottage’ of her dreams, but completely revamped the interiors as her heart dictated.
But we are talking about history, so let’s get back to Victorian times, when it all started, and the ‘cottage’ found itself as an appendage of Vergomount Estate. It seems that Sir Vergomount wisely chose to locate his estate at an ‘all-weather’ location like Jeolikot, thus dispensing with the necessity to move from ‘hill-stations’ to the plains, and vice-versa, as dictated by the vagaries of the weather.
Originally established as a health resort, the Cottage was, till independence, run as a hotel by a Scottish lady and her daughter. The Cottage’s history is incomplete without vignetting at least two neighbours from the hoary past. One a lady-a direct descendent of Napoleon-who came visiting, fell in love with a local boy and stayed on. The other was a retired British Army major named Warwick sahib, who hung on, till death, to the fantastic secret that he was actually a she! You can trek up through the verdure to what had been their abodes, but watch out-Warwick Sahib(a)’s ghost still haunts her old home. The old cemetery could also throw up a few ‘surprises’-check it out. Dead folks do tell tales…