From the Introduction
This is My Shimla. I call it so, simply because it is mine. Being born here, I would like you to see Shimla through my eyes, enter its great depth, feel the enthusiasm and experience its own distinct culture though the British influences are strong and remain.
At an elevation of 2200 meters, you can approach Shimla by the narrow gauge or the ‘ toy train’ from Kalka on the foothills. Alternatively the possibility of driving in always exists. . Winding hill roads take you through spectacular mountain scenery, villages, pastures and forests. Driving in the night is also not a bad option as there is always the chance of encountering a leopard or a fox. If you do not react they will just gaze at your car and disappear into the woods. A large snake can also crisscross your path. Welcome to Shimla!
Outside influences, from the plains of North India can also be seen on the way….Bhangra beats emerging from cars parked on the roadside. Car bonnets being used as tables, laid out with drinks and foods. Loud Punjabi youths claiming the gentle countryside. But please do not mistake this ‘exported’ culture as the original culture of the hills. Come let me take you for a walk. Lets first climb up Jakhu hill.
The original climb is steep and some new constructions on the initial stretch might irritate you. So I prefer to go around the hill and then walk up from the new road. This is a complete forest, The Cedar forest once the abode of some spectacular wildlife of Shimla. But now they have moved away to find shelter in the valleys around. Now all you have are some monkeys to protect yourself from. Towards the north you will see high Himalayan ranges starting from Reo Purgil, the highest mountain in Himachal Pradesh in the east till some ranges of Garwal Himalayas extending towards west. Here you see the Tibetan border that is being well protected by our army Jawans.
As the crow flies, the ranges are not very far but you need to drive to Spiti which is nearly four to six days by road. Six days because there are too many not to be missed sights along the way. A great possibility for your next holiday, this marvelous, pristine valley is dominated by the Yellow Hat Buddhists.
Now look towards South Eastern direction. Here you will see valleys behind valleys and ridges behind ridges. Here lies Chail, the former Summer Palace of the Kings of Punjab. The slopes here are dotted by tiny houses that form villages and the whole area is dominated by Churdahr, the highest hill of Southern Himachal. The hill is crowned by the temple of local deity ‘Shirgul devta’ and most of the time it remains snow covered . You may make an attempt to climb up to there for an overnight camp and then descend to the other side of the hill until Nauradhar.
To your west lies the town of Shimla that starts from the hill on which you are standing and extends till Observatory hill. Now I am not going to write anything about the history or the architecture or the administration or the old characters of Shimla. Many writers including me have done that many times and some are repeatedly mentioning them in their books and articles. So I am going to tell you something different about Shimla. I am going to tell you stories…about characters from the streets, brave tales of humble communities
The stories of the uneducated, but civilized and gentle. Everyday stories of people who believe in work and give and live with respect. Your luxury goods and ideas have no meaning for them. Living so close to nature they have no high expectations from life.
And once you start going through the lanes and trails of Shimla you will find them on your own. They are somewhere close to you and will attract your attention on their own.
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