Some days ago it snowed here. I noticed some tiny flakes floating in the air in the morning outside our window. Later they became big and frequent. My mind travelled half a century back in time. Little me standing next to my mother looking in wonderment outside the window on to a vast stretch of thick blanket of snow sitting over everything in the valley. We lived in Constance Lodge at Upper Kaithu locality of Shimla. Our house was located half way down the slope facing west on one of the hills forming a valley. At the bottom of the valley lied Annadale ground. The ground was in the news last year as the government wants to take it back from the Army but the army is in no mood to give it. The lure of IPL riches has made millionaires out of poor and has ruined as many. It’s an open betting facility which has the clandestine national approval and support. Obviously where big money is involved politicians like to have a share in the pie. It’s an uncanny reality that the sons of the politicians are good for nothing else. Even their daughters have a strong affinity for such men.
So the politicians have to keep doing something or the other to set their worthless wards up but they being dumb forget their bags filled with lakhs of rupees in the coaches of the trains or in the dickies of the vans used for canvassing. They make faux pas and inanities in their speeches and actions to show that they don’t really deserve what is being gifted to them. One thing that I like in Sikh religion is that their Gurus didn’t handover the seat to their sons but gave the honor and the responsibility to the best of their disciples. My heart really cries and my blood boils when I see Patton tank look alike son of Kim Jong Un, who was picked up by his father as the best one to carry the dynastic rule set by his grandfather. And now when I hear about Rahul Gandhi becoming the vice president of Congress, I really don’t want to hear sycophants sing his praises like Bhaands, the jesters at marriage ceremonies.
Upper Kaithu-Shimla. Picture Credits:-
Here in wresting the control of the ground Mr. Dhumal’s son Anurag Thakur is working behind the scene and he being an MP has quite some interest in and possibly holds a key position in Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. The army cites that the ground is of strategic importance and is also necessary for disaster management. That reminds me of having seen contingency plans for disaster management in place here in China but do we have any such preparedness anywhere in India?
Contingency Plans In Place In China
Annadale ground is the only natural level patch in Shimla and is excellently maintained by the army. Annual Dusshera fair was held there then. I remember once our schools annual sports meet also was held there. Cricket matches and Golf was played on the ground then and I think even now it is available for the sports and other events attracting large crowds. Once in a while a helicopter would land there. From the window of our house I could see the majestic bird’s approach, descent and take off. The whole valley would reverberate with the sound of it’s rotor. The ground being far away from the city was difficult to reach because in those days no four wheelers except army jeeps or trucks plied on the roads. There were two roads leading to the ground on our side of the hill. One was a steep path and the other was flat over a long stretch and ended up with a steep descent. The army vehicles used another winding road that ran through the hill on the other side of the ground. It was fascinating to see an occasional lonely light move through the darkness that set on the slopes like soot in the chimney. At specific times near the top of the hill one could see Shimla- Kalka train for a few seconds before it disappeared in a tunnel. The sun set behind the hill opposite our house beyond grand Viceregal lodge which was later converted in to a Centre of advanced studies.
Snow would bring along it’s own set of games and fun. Making a snowman was one. There was a level patch of bald land outside our house only. So every child would come and try his hand on making a snowman outside our house. Playing with snow balls was another fun filled activity but putting lumps of snow down the neck of someone’s garment especially the girls was the best of all. You could see them wriggle and cry and teasing the girls is the most thrilling sport for the boys. Playing with snow cannot be delayed because only fresh snow is soft enough to play with. The approach road to our lodge was where we would head for with our ‘Patraas or Patlas’ which is a short flat stool. They were made of wood then and had full length vertical sections to support the seats. They would work as excellent sleds when put upside down. The stretch of sloping path leading to our lodge wasn’t paved. The municipal water supply line that ran buried under this path was exposed at many places. In winter the water in it would freeze cutting water supply to our lodge. We would dig earth under the pipe and light fire to melt the blockages. I am not sure if that helped or not but the activity was full of fun. The wall of the central jail ran all along the length of a horizontal grassy patch where we played. Icicles from the corrugated roof of the prison cells were great in demand among us children. The icicles hanging from the roof of the jail at one corner could be reached and broken/plucked because the earth ascended towards the edge of the wall nearer to the police lines. We would call them ‘chhuras’ ( daggers). They are a fun to suck. Though tasteless and sugarless candies but they are rare. Over the years as we grow up we learn that rarer the things to get the fancier they are.
Our school was in Lakkad Bazaar ( Lakkad in Hindi means wood). Ridge is the sunniest spot in Shimla. Past ridge as you walk towards Sanjauli is lakkad bazaar. This part of the hill never gets any sunshine. There was a huge tree that marked the end of the sunny zone. The snow in this part would become rock solid as it wouldn’t melt until March. The snow that is tread over becomes ice and depending upon how much snow has fallen, the layer of ice on the road can be an inch or two thick. Chunks from this ice can be broken by hitting on it hard with the heal of the shoe for example, especially when it begins to soften towards the end of February. The beauty of these chunks is that when you slide them on the ground like Frisbees or kick them they gather great speed and cover large distances like a puck of ice hockey. But these chunks have sharp jagged ends and can hurt people. Children, especially adult boys have sadistic streaks. We would carry these chunks, which sometimes could be as big as A4 size papers and slide them along the ground and see them hitting the ankles of people. The people would be taken by surprise and cower, curse and yell expletives which would add to our fun. This was so thrilling that it became an obsession with us and we had to bunk the classes to play it, but short attendance could mean not being allowed to appear in the annual examination. Short lunch break wasn’t enough to play it and it needed to be clubbed with a period or two. This ofcourse was unthinkable, so we started bunking the class en masse’( we would call it mass cut). The teacher can’t mark everyone absent, logically in a lecture that he may claim to have delivered. The whole school was perplexed at daily disappearance of the whole senior most class one hour before recess. One day after searching for us everywhere the class teacher walked up to the Ridge to find us busy playing our new found sport. We were taken back and quizzed about the reason for bunking. We said that the coal stove that is put in the class room in the first period doesn’t last till lunch break and that it was difficult to sit in the freezing rooms. We saw to our surprise and disappointment another angeethi ( coal stove) being brought in next day two periods before the recess but the boys won’t be boys if they can’t devise ways to defeat the designs of even a school management. We started killing the fire by putting dust and snow on it and after a day’s respite the class teacher was at his wit’s end when he strolled in to take the last period before the recess and found the angeethi extinguished and the class missing. He used to teach us physics and probably he went back to his books to relearn the laws of thermodynamics.
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