marvel of Shimla
cool climes of Shimla, the picturesque hill station in India,
I return rejuvenated to Dhaka. There is something about the
Himalayan hills that never ceases to enthrall me. Is it the
heady fragrance of the pine and deodar trees, the caress of
the mountain breeze or simply nostalgia?
the answer, Shimla, situated in the north western Himalayas
at an altitude of 2,130 metres, attracts a huge number of
tourists--particularly in the summer months when the northern
plains are roasting in the heat. This season transforms the
Mall into a busy hub. Visitors hop into the numerous shops,
restaurants such as New Plaza, Fascination, Dominos, the popular
coffee shop Barista, or simply go for long walks and picnic
on the few remaining quiet spots.
old timers bemoan the transformation of the idyllic hillsides
into a concrete jungle, there are still a few fascinating
walks such as the steep climb to the Jakhoo temple, Lover's
Lane (which attracts fewer couples), and outside Shimla, the
Mashobra and Kufri walks.
are famous landmarks of the former British summer capital
of Shimla such as the Ridge. This large open space in the
heart of town offers a panoramic view of the mountain ranges.
On the Mall also is the well-known Scandal Point. This site
acquires its name from an old story which linked a daughter
of a British Commander-in-Chief to the Maharaja of Patiala
and led to their elopement from this spot. However, according
to historians, the place acquired its name as a long time
landmark where people gathered for conversation
culture vultures there is the Gaiety Theatre which was built
in May 1887. Now undergoing a massive facelift, its first
play was titled Time will Tell. The theatre has spawned
talent such as Rudyard Kipling, Baden Powell, KL Saigal, the
Kendalls, Prithviraj Kapoor, Balraj Sahni and Anu Pam Kher.
Among the plays that have been staged here are Antigone
and The Glass Menagerie.
there is the Viceregal Lodge (built during the viceroyalty
of Lord Dufferin which spanned from 1884-1888). This magnificent
five-storey building, with its memorabilia of the British
Raj, is a fine example of Victorian architecture. The Lodge
also attracts visitors for its well manicured lawns and woodland.
Now it houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies where
prominent researchers and scholars work on projects.
see for people keen on sight seeing is the Glen, a popular
picnic spot-wooded ravine with perennially green slopes. This
is an over 30-minute walk but well worth the effort for its
exquisite surroundings of oaks, pine, deodars and rhododendrons.
There is a luxurious undergrowth and this reserve forest plays
home to black partridges, yellow throated martins and, if
lucky, one can see barking deer, foxes and leopard cats.
shoppers, there's Lakkar Bazar, adjacent to the Ridge which
teems with wood crafts and souvenirs.
For many tourists, Shimla is a base to make trips to other
picturesque spots such as Tara Devi, Kasauli, Kufri (which
boasts of skiing facilities in the winter months), Naldhera,
Narkanda, Fagu, Chail, Tattapani. This last destination houses
hot springs and is believed to cure skin and various diseases.
Other locales in Himachal are Kangra, Sangla, Kulu and Manali.
also has other claims to fame. For one, it is the backdrop
of the Bishop Cotton School (BCS), said to be India's oldest
public school. Founded on July 28, 1859 by Bishop George Edward
Lynch Cotton, the school will complete 150 years in 2009.
Among this fine institution's alumni are the famous writer
Ruskin Bond, golfer Jyoti Randhawa, Himachal Chief Minister
Virbhadra Singh and a host of industrialists and front ranking
with its motto 'Overcome evil with good', BCS runs a learning
centre--the first of its kind for Shimla--for special children.
This centre helps these young ones to develop not only academic
but also social skills.
landmark is the quaint railway train between Kalka and Shimla
which is now 101 years old. For those with leisure, the exhilarating
five-hour journey takes one through 103 tunnels and glimpses
of small places such as Barog, Tara Devi and Kandaghat. There
is little to match the excitement of making the ascent to
Shimla--this trip is marked by verdant forests, wild flowers
and cool environs even when Northern India swelters in the
to this idyllic hill station, one takes the Himalayan Queen
or Shatabdi Express--trains from Delhi to Kalka. From there
it is a three hour winding journey by car or taxi. Altogether
it takes around eight hours at the maximum to go up from the
Indian capital to Shimla.
those with the time and inclination for a new travel destination,
Shimla is a charming get away. And surely the magic of the
hills will draw the traveller again and again.
Bond: A famous name from Shimla
Among the luminaries who have emerged from the portals of
the Bishop Cotton School (BCS), Shimla is writer Ruskin Bond.
In many of his writings, the reader gets a glimpse of Bond's
school days, ranging from his escapades as a schoolboy, to
his early fondness for literature and the teachers that inspired
him along the way.
the library of the school which fuelled his passion for literature.
He cites the plays of Barrie and Bernard Shaw and the novels
and stories of Priestly, Maugham and Saroyan.
an amusing story of his early days in BCS. Apparently, though
he looked cute in his choir dress, he was told not to sing
because he 'had a terrible singing voice.' The alternative
was to lip synch with his friends.
in his 60s, with novels such as The Room on the Roof,
Bond has truly scaled glorious peaks. This winner of the prestigious
John Llewellyn Rhys at the age of 18 for this novel, has other
works to his credit. Among them are collections of short stories
such as "The Night Train at Deoli", "Time Stops
at Shamli" and "Our Trees still grow in Dehra".
He also has several children's books to his credit: The
Cherry Tree, The Blue Umbrella.
advancing age, there is no stopping Bond's creativity. The
Mussoorie hills-- where he now resides--continue to provide
inspiration to this literary giant.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004