Founded in 1851 by the Governor of Punjab, Sir Henry Lawrence, Murree was originally established as a sanatorium for the British troops garrisoned on the Afghan frontier. The civil station and the town were developed between 1853 and 1857, at which time the Mall, church, post office, commercial establishments and residences were constructed. It remained the hot weather seat of the Punjab Administration until 1876, when the government made Simla their summer headquarters. Some accounts indicate that it was in Sunny Bank that the British first began construction in 1851, before moving up the ridge to where Murree now is. Whatever be the case, in the 1950s and early 60s, Sunny Bank with its dense pine forests, a few shops and a bakery, a military supply establishment, a couple of hotels and an agricultural research station was the perfect place for spending summers. My grandfather first came to Sunny Bank somewhere in 1945 or 1946 and immediately fell in love with the place. That was the reason that in the early 50s, he leased a house in the area and retained it for many years to come. It was in these last years of colonial rule that my grandparents, my parents and my older siblings stayed in a hotel, where the same set of rooms was rented by them every year. It was during this time that they struck up a close friendship with the Khwajas, who occupied adjacent rooms. Khwaja Sahibs son was the celebrated composer Khurshid Anwar, whose immortal compositions, rendered by the Melody Queen Noor Jehan continue to thrill listeners even to this day. The house in Sunny Bank was made of stone and surrounded by a fair sized lawn. Water for daily use was obtained from a spring, which had been harnessed through a pipe protruding from a stone wall. It was a routine with my grandfathers younger brother, known to all and sundry as Chote Nana, to have his daily bath sitting under this freezing cataract, without batting an eyelid. A short 10 minutes walk from the house, at the point where the Sunny Bank bazaar began, there was a milk shop. The owner of this establishment was a man of robust build, who sat cross-legged behind a huge wok of bubbling milk and earthen koondaas full of creamy yogurt. This spot was a favourite with us boys, as it offered bowls of delicious hot milk and heavily buttered buns. Further up the road and halfway up the steep U shaped bend, one came to the only bakery that dated back to the days of the Raj. We would often walk to the place and eat freshly made patties and mouth-watering cupcakes. Alas, the milk shop and this old bakery are now no more. There was also a YMCA Hostel in Sunny Bank. This was a stone house with well-kept lawns and idyllic surroundings. We were fortunate that the warden, Mr Albert was known to my grandfather and we could visit the place at will. This gentleman ran the hostel with almost military precision and carried himself with poise and dignity. I always contrived to be around the place at lunch time as Juma Khan, the Gilgiti caretaker cum cook, made some of the best potato cakes this side of Suez. I wonder if the hostel still exists or like all other things has been replaced by an ugly commercial structure. After lunch and some rest, all of us would begin the long walk to Murree proper, which took about 30 minutes. The Mall in those days was a promenade where families could stroll up and down freely and without fear of being stared at or harassed by the hordes of hooligan like visitors that throng it today. This famous stretch of asphalt boasted establishments such as Lintotts, Sams and Ambassador. The former was reputed for its colonial ambiance and excellent tea, while the latter were known far and wide for their beautiful ballrooms and dance bands. On arrival, we would head straight for our customary place at Lintotts, with its old wicker furniture and efficient service. Tea taken, we would take a brisk round of Kashmir Point followed by a social call or two. At dusk, the whole family trooped down the Lower Mall to our favourite tikka-kebab restaurant for a meal of piping hot seekh kebabs and naans. We would walk back to our house every night, taking a shortcut through the forest, on a trail that went down at a point close to the Survey of Pakistan Office. We did this year after year with just a torch and a few walking sticks, but never felt even the slightest of fear from any cause whatsoever. I do not think families can do this anymore without risk. I visited Murree recently to find that everything had changed. I saw what appeared to be a solid mass of people, which moved up and down the Mall, I saw groups of young men leering at females, whose appearance appeared to invite such harassment. I looked for the Ambassador, but couldnt find it. Lintotts and Sams were there, but a mere shadow of their former glory and the once serene Sunny Bank was in the grip of a perpetual traffic snarl. From an idyll, Murree had become a nightmare. n The writer is a freelance columnist.