Ooty, India: A Historical Second Home

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Ooty, India: A Historical Second Home

I was in class III when my parents decided to send me to a boarding school in Ooty. At an age when most children cry at being kept away from their parents, I was considered strange. The thought of a new place and people excited me more than anything. I spent many years of my childhood in the charming hill town. Years later, my father got transferred to Ooty for his job and, to my great surprise, the hill town became what I call ‘my second home.’

I used to wake up with a plan during my school holidays in Ooty. I knew which route to take, which buildings to see, whom to meet, what to say. It was almost like preparing to make a grand discovery. But, such is the town of Ooty, replete with historical monuments at every turn.

It was my favorite pastime to wander in the streets of residential areas trying to find examples of typical English houses that were built centuries ago. Then I went on to follow the route that I am most accustomed to. I started from home and followed a path that took me to St. Stephen’s Church, The Nilgiris Library, Adam’s Fountain in Charring Cross, The Botanical Gardens, The Union Church, the Café Coffee Day and then back home.

St. Stephen’s church, except for a few days in the week, remained deserted. The church was painted in pale yellow and the borders green; it was in complete tune with the colored flowers lining the path. Here I spent hours chatting with the security guard, marveling at one of the huge stained glass paintings and climbing up the top floor to investigate the unique bell system in place from the British period. The church to me was an abode of peace.

Ooty is primarily known for its scenic beauty, pleasant climate and mountain train. But there is a lesser known side to Ooty – its historical side.


Five minutes from the church was the Nilgiris Library, a red brick building with a panel in front detailing the period of its construction. With thousands of books and journals (including hundreds of books on travel alone), I always lost track of time at the library. With spacious, naturally-lit reading rooms and large arched windows, I felt transported back in time to the 1800’s and the setting would have been complete with just a cup of tea on my side.


Ooty – Hills

It took me fifteen minutes from the library to reach Charring Cross (a junction of three main streets). This spot was important to me because wherever I went, whichever route I took, if I could make it to Charring Cross, then I could find my way back home. The streets that branched out from this spot always made for an interesting time. Shops selling various goods like clothes, sweets, shoes, books, spices and homemade chocolates were the best places to people-watch.

The next stop was The Botanical Gardens (this was also the place where I hired a bicycle or a bike if I planned to go to Ooty Lake or Lovedale or Fernhills), but if it was too crowded I made my way directly to the Union Church. This church, yet another historical monument like all the above-mentioned buildings, was built during the British period. The mood here was always in contrast to St. Stephen’s church: vibrant and active because the church choir could be heard within the church premises at most times.


Ooty – Homes

By this time, I usually got tired and crashed in at the nearest coffee shop, the Café Coffee Day. Sipping my favorite tropical iceberg, I enjoyed watching passersby – who were mostly local tourists from other parts of the state. I would wonder if I could ever get enough of the history or the buildings of this charming town.

Ooty is primarily known for its scenic beauty, pleasant climate and mountain train. But there is a lesser known side to Ooty – its historical side. Years ago, I imagined starting a heritage trail that would make travelers aware of the rich history and culture of Ooty, a trail that would take them back in time just the way it did to me. But, somewhere down the years, I got busy. Now I live hundreds of miles away from my favorite place, which I once called my second home. Soon enough I will go back there, but whether the historical buildings will still survive or whether the heritage trail can possibly be launched – only time will tell.


Divya Soundararajan

Divya Soundararajan

Divya Soundararajan is a Tour Manager by profession and gypsy at heart. Based in Pune, an amateur birder and trekker, she writes travel articles for newspapers and magazines.