Two Questions with Author Bill Aitken

Your cosy cottage in Mussoorie remains mostly enveloped in profound silence all through the year as its some distance away from the hub of the town. I guess this suits you perfectly.

A lot of people don’t like Mussoorie because it’s silent! In my book Footloose in the Himalaya I said that I have known several people who have aspired and sweated to get a house on the hills in an isolated locale where they can enjoy the silence. Once having got it and stayed there for three weeks, they say “Bhago!” They come again next year for another three weeks. It’s largely a matter of temperament that if you are a loner and, as it were, like cross country running as opposed to the sprint, then you are sort of more suited, more acclimatized to the idea of solitude, peace and quiet. Some people seem to like the idea of silence …It’s a state of mind … I must be considered very odd, because I like silence. In fact I wallow in silence.

From 1960 onwards, when your search for the elusive inner peace began and now that it’s more than six decades, as you say you wallow in silence, have you attained that thoughtless state?

No, I don’t think I have attained any state but I should add that my sort of most enlightening moment with myself is when I walk, particularly along Mussoorie bypass which is so isolated, there are no houses, there are trees, and I get all my ideas from those walks. It’s so hard to be original in one’s old age, and you see, I forget it by the time I finish my walk. I realize that one reason I’m not writing these days is that one’s preparing for the Great Beyond.

First published in the Statesman Festival Issue (Oct’2023)

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