New Delhi, India
November 22, 2012
Chaar Dukaan lies uphill of Landour’s main market—you go up the steep road that forms Landour Bazaar, and a little further up, is a small clearing on the side of the mountain. A few old houses surround a small patch of lawn, and beyond a prominent ‘No Parking’ sign are the four shops of Chaar Dukaan. These aren’t fancy shops, by any stretch of imagination: their trade is mostly in groceries and other everyday stuff.
A couple of them have diversified into eateries as well, and serve sandwiches, omelettes, and other dishes, none of them too fancy. They’ve set out plastic tables and chairs both under awnings in front of the shops as well as on the lawn. The menus didn’t appeal to us (and we had, in any case, made up our minds to eat at Emily’s). But this was lunchtime, and almost all the tables were occupied—so it seems these eateries do good business.
What did interest us even more than Chaar Dukaan was the church that stands just beside the four shops, and separated from them by a narrow lane: St Paul’s. Unlike the imposing Christ Church in Mussoorie, St Paul’s (built in 1840, just four years after Christ Church), isn’t a dauntingly majestic building. It’s much smaller, for one, and more open, with tall conical arched windows down each side.
A row of wide steps leads up from the road into the grassy churchyard. We walked up (this was at about 1.30 on a Sunday afternoon. Although church service would’ve ended at around 11 AM or so, the church was still open for any visitors). The porch is somewhat unusual for an Indian colonial church: it consists of three arches made of grey stone rubble, looking rather like very thin, rough-edged grey bricks.
Inside, the church was flooded with sunlight pouring in through the tall windows down either side of the pews. The nave floor, made of a simple geometric design of black, red, cream and yellow tiles, is in sharp contrast to the sloping ceiling, which is extremely simple but very pleasant: it’s made of a warm brownish-gold wood (deodar cedar?). The combination of that lovely honey-coloured wood above, the cream walls, and the abundant daylight makes the interior of St Paul’s look very light and airy.
It also helps highlight the beauty of the stained glass windows in the church. Above the altar is a three-arched set of stained glass panels depicting Christ, the central one portraying the crucifixion. There are a couple of other panels too, especially near the door leading in from the porch. One particularly lovely (and poignant) one is a depiction of the Madonna and Child, which is dedicated to two little children, died at the age of 1 year and 3 years respectively. The children and their parents—an Emily and Llewellyn Wavell—are mentioned in the stained glass ‘plaque’ below. It’s a sad reflection on the terrible unpredictability of life even in the late 1870s, when the two children died.
No entry is charged for St Paul’s. There wasn’t anybody around to tell us whether it’s open through the week, or only on Sundays. It’s probably best to time your visit for a Sunday morning or noon, when you can be sure it’ll be open. Services are held by the same priest who conducts the service at Christ Church. The service at St Paul’s is at 9 AM every Sunday.
From journal Landour and beyond