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Revisiting Shimla

********** Revisiting Shimla***************
So, we are back to home at Chandigarh after a trip to Shimla. That was an engrossing trip, I took to relive the memories of my childhood spent sixty years ago. The ground under my feet didn’t feel any different, but the horizon had all changed. Not as far as my old eyes could see but quite much of what they could. Well, if I speak of the whole view my eyes could behold all around, I can certainly call it a vista and I would like to speak it from that aspect. There were clusters of colonies stretching deep down to the valleys on every hill that forms the part of the panorama one gets to see when one visits Shimla. It was very different from the images of Shimla of my childhood my memory held.
The Shimla of those days comprised of old, scattered houses with rusting tin roofs and decaying wood construction and they were all legacy of the British. In fifteen years of my childhood that I had spent there, I don’t remember seeing any construction activity. There was neither any vehicular traffic on the roads and arteries that connected these clusters. The road that ran through the heart of the town and connected it to the other towns was still called Cart Road, not because the rechristening trend had not caught on the imagination of the politicians but perhaps because the rare vehicles that drove on it were hardly better than the Carts which ruled it for a century before. One could walk on this road for an hour at least if not hours, without coming across a vehicle. The stretches of this road were so desolate that there were stories of them being haunted and everyone knew the people who had had encounters with the Chudails who partied there all night and even during the day.
Children never ventured out of their homes after sunset and their uncles and fathers who if on rare occasions were held back till late hours on the works they had gone to attend to, came back with the stories of fresh encounters with them every time. People who had to go to work at night or their occupations kept them away from home late after the town was engulfed in thick darkness, kept with them flash lights or torches as we called them, but they always returned home with the stories that their torches failed to light up at the crucial moments of their encounters with the spectres. Shimla in the 1960s was a ghostly town.
When I visited Shimla in the year 2001 a sort of an explosion had occurred in the construction activity. New India was fast becoming industrialized. Post liberalisation in 1991 Auto Industry had literally taken the wheels of progress. Where as the people in 1960s stood in long queues for booking their Bajaj scooters that had two years delivery time and there was 8-10 years waiting period for Premier Padmini, they now could simply walk to the showroom and get the vehicle of their choice.
The result of this was inundation. The city was flooded with automobiles. In 2001 when I visited Shimla last time, I was so dejected to see every road and every nook and corner occupied with vehicles of every description and there was no check on pollution either. There was garbage and filth everywhere besides. The dream city had become a nightmare. So heartbroken was I that it took me another twenty-one years to decide to revisit it although I had a home in Chandigarh which is a little over hundred kilometers away. Agreed that my job kept me away from India for larger part of this time but it was the disgust, the lack of desire to see the rot that had set in the town I loved that kept me away. Obviously, I had to safeguard the treasure trove of my childhood memories because I dig in to it so often to colour my stories, that I could ill afford to sully it.
I haven’t had a holiday ever since we returned to India in 2018 after a long Sojourn in China. After the marriage of our elder son in Nov. 2019, Covid-19 took control of the world. We the retirees had little reason to venture outside. While it has been mutating to survive and test the advancement in science man takes pride in, the non-essential travel plans of us all have largely been shelved all along. But now after finally getting over with the responsibility of the marriage of the younger son, suddenly it occurred to me to take a short holiday for breaking the monotony of boring routines. The young couple back from their honeymoon trip to Goa was too willing to join in but Smart Sulekhika who has slowed down a lot wasn’t willing to go for a climb in the sub-zero temperatures of Shimla. For our young daughter in law who is from Mumbai, even Chandigarh’s chill is daunting, the idea of going to Shimla was a welcome challenge. As she has to go to Canada next month for continuing with her journey of life, this impromptu trip to Shimla was going to be a stepping stone. So, we packed our bags and came here on 26th evening, I for reliving my old memories and the young couple for adding a visit to another place in their honeymoon album.

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Navneet Bakshi

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Sunil Sharma
Sunil Sharma
1 month ago

A great story about Simla with which I also have fond memories. I studied in Government College, Simla in 1969-70 located near Sanjauli. The road from Mall Road became deserted in the evening. It was scary to walk on that road as there was a cremation ground nearby. We had heard stories of a Rain Shelter being haunted.
Those were the days.

Ushasurya
Ushasurya
5 months ago

The Geography / physical features brim with changes everywhere Navneet.
The boon or bane of a spot. I wonder!
But deep within, I do wish that Hill Stations are left alone..
The horizons change and we have concrete and steel monsters everywhere !
Well……this certainly is not the change we wish for I suppose !!!

Suresh Rao
Suresh Rao
5 months ago

You are looking cool Navneet! Shimla is cold for us in this season. We have visited half century back during summer time. A family friend of ours, a construction engr, was incharge of putting pile foundations to a small hill in Shimla whic used to sink half to one inch every year I believe. The Military wanted to make the hill stable as they had located a RF tower on top of it that used to get direct radio signals from a similar tower on top of Shankaracharya hill in Srinagar; sinking of the Shimla hill was no no as they would lose direct line of sight for RF communivcations!

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