Tales From The Hills: Shimla

By Sunil Kumar

Moving away from the rather jaded, foul-mouthed and loud subject of politics; I move on to the hills; or more precisely the mountains; the Himalayas. The summer capital of the raj; Shimla. Just to put in a personal note here; my novel “Surreal City” has landscapes from around the world; so do read it. Available on Amazon.

English: A folk procession in Shimla Category:...

English: A folk procession in Shimla Category:Shimla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now for the capital of HP. Getting there via the UNESCO World Heritage toy train was rather long-winding; and if were not for the scenic beauty on display; the ride would have been a trifle more oppressive. As it is; North India is suffering a heat wave considerably worse than what Bombay ever dishes up.

Shimla’s sights and sounds are exotic to say the least; however the Mall Road is overrated and expensive. One of the pleasures on the trip was the Jakhoo Temple; and the rogue monkeys who snatch everything in sight. Possibly the oldest structure in the city; the path through the traffic clogged roads was an adventure in itself. The massive Hanuman statue now towers over everything in Shimla; visually impressive and very Indian.

English: The Indian Institue of Advanced Study

English: The Indian Institue of Advanced Study (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Celebrating 150 years as the former British summer capital; Shimla still has discernible remnants of the bleak island; as do many other places in the subcontinent. Visiting the Indian Institute of Advanced Study; or the Viceregal Lodge; I could see current UK TV favourite “Downton Abbey” come alive in the Tudorbethan architecture.

For those of us who love history; I’m pretty certain I do; the place can claim to have hosted many pivotal meetings pre-independence; and gives us a glimpse into what those burra sahibs were upto when they were not busy throttling the existence of the natives. No critique here; just some old scotch and fanciful thoughts leading me to an English manor of the mind.

It would be however unfair to remember only a long forgotten way of life; and focus on the present day haphazard urban planning that characterizes the country. Peace and tranquility still dot the hills; nature is beautifully serene that way. But; increasing populations can change the status quo; and make us yearn for a more simpler; uncluttered time. No 24X7 television and internet in the old days to remind me of the shallowness of existence. Or on the flip side; the profound depth of meaning that permeates the universe.

The Chail palace; constructed by Bhupinder Singh; former Maharaja of Patiala was an interesting detour in a trip that took us to Naldehra; Kufri and Tattapani among others. The majesty of the mountains does beat the Swiss Alps by a long shot; but then infrastructure is another story.

The hills are another aspect of “Incredible India” that can potentially generate much more money than they have upto now. Although we now have a leadership that claims to be different; the nation could be served better if we fast-tracked humane development coupled with a more rational eco-friendly approach. In the “tashan”(colloqualism for empty showoff) environment that prevails(I don’t do generalizations); this seems to be an elusive prospect; but then no harm hoping. More power where it’s actually due.

As a town-dweller(truthfully, the urban agglomeration of Aamchi Mumbai); the Himalayan mountains are another universe in itself; something that may sound cliched; but that’s the fact, mate; from here to eternity. I miss the city of Shimla; I came, I saw; now I’m in the groove again. Dhanyavad; Himachal.

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