Shimla has long been at the forefront of Indian history and a larger part of the credit goes to its beautiful landscape. A small town rich with events, architecture and memories, Shimla still hasn’t lost its enviable charm, There is much to be shared about this wonderful town which is a halfway city by now and threatened by the overflow of tourists.
This anthology comprises articles written by many interesting people who share a past with Shimla either as residents, students, or professionals The articles cover a range of things about the place including the suburbs around Shimla There are personal stories as well as objective ones to give a wholesome picture of This special region
Minakshi K. Chaudhry is a freelance writer and journalist who has developed a deep love and knowledge of her home state Himachal Pradesh.
Is not it overwhelming to know that a ‘mere halting ground’ with ‘a few miserable cultivators’ huts’ in 1817 when the Scot brothers, Patrick and James Gerard reached here on 30 August, went on to become the summer capital of the British Raj in 1864?
The story of the rise of ‘Simla, a middling sized village where a faquir is stationed to give water to the visitors’ and the surrounding hills into prominence defies logic but that is the way history weaves its magic. Even then let us give some flight to our fancies and ponder some silly questions as historians would call these.
What if the Gerard brothers has taken a different route and
never reached this hill abode? What if the Gurkhas had not subjugated the hill states with the ruthlessness with which they did? What if the hill chiefs had not invited the British to deliver them from the tyrannies of the Gurkhas? What if the desire to locate a viable route to Tibet had taken a different turn? What if Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy had chosen a different place to build his house? What if..?
But the deal was clinched in favour of these hills. There are very few hill stations in India which have such a rich historical past, strategic location salubrious climate and plentitude of architectural splendor.
For me the heart of Shimla town is warm and delightful with the freshness and effervescence of a child, laughter echoing all around. It is the cockpit of Shimla hills.
Life in Shimla hills has a rhythm of its own. It dances to its soft and laid back melody of poignant lyrics symbolising the beauty of nature and its relationship with man made things.
This anthology is not just a collection of articles but a tale flowing through time and space... a story that beats with the hearts of people relating their experiences.
One main reason for the British to have taken fancy for Shimla hills was the climate and environment. Cooler temperatures compared to burning and humid summer months in the plains of India, mist filled monsoons and snowy winters reminded them of home. Clean mountain air, deep glens, thick conifers, all combined to create the magic of the English weather and made them nostalgic about their homeland.
For them, these hills were a place to rest, relax and enjoy the fun, frolic and festivities. Though for Indians it was a different story altogether who had to brave ‘the three and half month long monsoon, its hard to digest mineral water, the panting uphill and break neck down walks, since most indians could not afford either horse or Rickshaw.’ A place which was home to the British but was a symbol of exploitative imperial government for the Indians, as Mahatma Gandhi described, ‘the distance equal to the height of 500 floors separates the empire from us...’
At the centre of it all was Shimla town that was for the British, and still is, for the multitude of indian and foreign travellers who throng to it in all seasons, the ideal retreat. The reasons can be many. . . to escape to the natural air-conditioner in the summers; to walk hand in hand on meandering footpaths in the forests where tall deodars whisper tales of love; to enjoy incessant downpour with hot tea and pakoras; to ‘build a snowman with kidney beans for eyes. broomsticks for hands and charcoal piece for nose; to be with the nature and hear the sound of silence....
The articles in this volume are written by some of the best known writers. They capture and portray this flowing story which will make you feel the pulse of the hills. . . time flows with these contributions yet it stands still.. .back and forth.. .present and past.. .past and future. . .the train of thought is as thrilling as the journey from the pains to the hills; be it in the toy train or on the winding, curvy road presenting the panorama of rolling hills. The festivities of the rulers and the plight of the locals; the natives and their master; the rulers and the ruled—all find expression here.
From the prominence as the summer capital to the orphan like post independence status and then another life as the capital of Himachal Pradesh, the authors .capture every nuance of life in these hills.
On the one hand, the anthology assembles the vital and momentous moments and the pieces of life away from the prominent and mainstream happenings, on the other and then performs the difficult task of gauging the present along with the past.
Primarily based on contributors’ personal experiences, the anthology has been supplemented with historical and literary accounts. It is a collective effort for which a variety of inputs were added. I have attempted to bring together in a single volume a characteristic group of people who have a link, an association with the period covered in the present collection. I chose a wide variety of topics designed to appeal to all despite the indefatigable effort in unearthing little known or quite forgotten tales. It may not be a really perfect collection as I would have liked to make it but has any anthology pleased its maker and then every critic, every reader?
It would be natural for every reader to get maddened by the omission and inclusion of specific topics but these are the kind of complaints that no anthologist can escape, Moreover, the first limitation was that of space. I have tried to offer substance of the finest quality in optimum quantity.
SIMLA changed officially to SHIMLA in the beginning of the 1980s but I have retained both spellings as used by the contributors ho chose to spell the town as per their own familiarity.
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