An evening stroll at the mall road is a favourite part of almost everyone’s life in Shimla. As the day advances towards the dusk and people start making their way to the Mall road from all directions.
Same is with me. Whole day, either walking with the clients or working from home, here comes evening and the Mall road starts calling me. A short hike after a short walk through the forest from my house and I am at the main road from where a narrow road bifurcates to Lakkar Bazaar, near Chapslee. I like to follow that road as no traffic is allowed except the cars belonging to our crazy ministers and bureaucrats.
People keep roaming from Scandal Point to restaurant Sher-e-Punjab and back. Most of the time the friends find each other and after a handshake the stroll begins. They discuss their day, their life, the politics, cricket, weather, festivals, functions at Gaiety theatre, families and much more.
While walking I am generally lost in my own thoughts. Rarely does it happen to me that I meet someone known to me. We smile at each other, stop for a while to shake hands and then continue with our stroll.
The other day I was stopped by Nishant and Lokesh, the two young enthusiasts trying to promote the habit of reading among people by conducting some meetings. Lokesh came up with the idea of formation of a Book Club, that he has done and on every third Sunday of the month he calls a meeting. I have attended some of them and enjoyed the company of these young enthusiasts.
‘Sir, where are you lost?’ someone blocked my way and asked.
It was Nishant, ‘nothing, just some thought of a story getting developed in mind so I couldn’t notice you’. Said I, shaking hand with him and Lokesh.
‘Let us walk together’. They offered and I followed them.
We walked and we talked. The topic of the talk was the books they have been reading, the difficulties being faced by new writers when no publishers show any interest and also how to get published. It is really not an easy job. The publishers are crooks as they never declare the actual number of copies of your books they have published and the keep making money.
‘I am not interested in any royalty. I just want to get published’ said Lokesh.
‘You are right, but why should a publisher spend money on publishing your book? You are not a popular author. So why should he be interested in your work?’ I said to him.
‘Hmmmm. I think we need to go for self-publishing. Let us sit somewhere a have a cup of tea’ said Lokesh.
‘Tea! At this time?’ I was surprised with this suggestion. ‘It is half past seven in the evening. Not the time to have tea’.
‘No problem, we can have late dinner’.
I recalled the words once said by Robert, one of my clients from Britain – In India every time is tea time and every second person is a doctor.
I was not interested in his offer but the terrace of the restaurant Aashiana is my favourite place so could not say no. We followed the ramp leading to the Ridge from the Mall road and reached Aashisana. There was no place as all the seats were occupied. The waiters were busy serving the clients. No one greeted us and no one noticed us, not even the Manager.
We moved out to the terrace and found a table there. On the terrace we were the only clients. The discussion of book publishing kept going. We also waited for someone to come and take the order. It was nearly half an hour we had been sitting there and no one turned up. We peeped inside through the large glasses. No waiter had time to look at us.
‘I think we should leave’ I said, ‘as they are too busy serving dinner their clients’
We got up, and walked out. No one greeted us and no one noticed us, not even the Manager.
‘This is how the government restaurants work’ said Lokesh and after a hand shake we moved to different directions to walk to our homes.