Bill Aitken, Mussoorie’s resident author turns 90

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1987
Author Bill Aitken at 90

Dateline Mussoorie: This year, it’s a very warm summer in Mussoorie. Ma and I make our way to Oakless to meet resident author William McKay Aitken or Bill Aitken as we have known him since childhood. Bill turned 90 today. We find him, as always, in the best of health and spirits, if you take away the usual twinges in the hinges.

I have never been better,’ he says. At ninety Bill takes a five kilometre walk –  twice a day plus the usual household chores and gardening keep him busy, come rain or sunshine. It helps to keep his Scottish genes in shape and as he says: ‘It helps me sleep better.’ Longevity runs in the family: ‘I have two older sisters,’ he says, adding: ‘They live in London and they call me on my birthday, Christmas and New year, but as we are all going deaf, we make polite noises and whisper sweet nothings to each other and put the phone down,’ he giggles.

Bill cuts his birthday cake surrounded by friends and family

His landline has been ringing all week with his fans calling him from Lucknow to Bombay all taking no chances, congratulate him days in advance, as he politely says, ‘Plus or minus a few days, chalta hai!’

A prolific writer, Bill Aitken has over two dozen books to his credit, a British-born Indian travel writer and mountain lover from Scotland, Mussoorie has been his home for over four decades.  His books cover his travels around India, its mountains, rivers and its steam trains… Seven Sacred Rivers, Divining the Deccan – A Motorbike to the Heart of India, Footloose in the Himalaya, The Nanda Devi Affair, Exploring Indian Railways, Sri Sathya Sai Baba – A Life, Literary Trails, Riding the Ranges – Travels on my Motorcycle, Mountain Delight, Travels By a Lesser Line, Zanskar, 1000 Himalayan Quiz to name a few. Even today we find him working on his latest book review.

Keeping tradition alive, the Jind family lays out a feast for Bill and his close circle of friends and family at their residence St Bernard, celebrating a thorough gentleman who has added value to his home in the hills in many ways than one.