Shimla – after years!!

Shimla – the queen of hills. No matter how commercial it gets or how crowded it gets, it still holds a special place for some of us friends. On a recent ‘official’ tour there, I tried hard to remember when I was there the last time. It was on a new year’s eve when we were there to inaugurate 2007. There are plenty of good memories before that of course – cricket with a fractured hand, ‘Naldhera’, the super expensive ice cream which was priced at an exorbitant Rs 30 but was compulsory on a cold night, experiencing the snow fall for the first time and sitting beside a warm fireplace at Vishesh’s home on Dec 31st, 2006.

Shimla essentially remains the same – the mall road, the ridge, the church and the famous Gandhi statue. But this time some things stood out. One is a huge statue of lord Hanuman on the top of a hill just behind the church. So if you click the church from certain angles, you will get the orange statue in the background.

Another notable difference was the absence of Barista on mall road. During college days, Barista was an aspirational place and we had hoped to be able to come to the Mall road barista café one day. Sadly, it was not to be. One another expensive eating joint used to be the Baljees, again on the mall road. But when I went there this time, it seemed as one of the cheapest. Times change. Things change. Shimla.. well the same.

Church with Hanuman statue in the background

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The Traffic Jam

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A Vibrant Sun Set at Shimla

It was a trip to Shimla after nearly an year. And for the first time in car – not driven by a driver. 2 days of 2006 and half a day of 2007 passed like a breeze – a rather cold breeze, I should say, considering the freezing temperatures there. On the return journey yesterday, I took turn behind the wheels. But we caught the peak traffic time when we reached Parwanoo. Kilometers long vehicle queues – frequently brightening red lights in front, bright yellow colors, angrily looking at you from the rear view mirror – tempers rising somewhere, horns blowing elsewhere and people breaking queues to form more parallel queues.
I have been stuck in traffic jams a couple of times – but that was always within city – where you could always take a detour, if possible or the car was the one which you have been driving for years, hence like one of your body part. But this time, the body part was a bit alien – I had never driven a santro before, and I had never driven a car on a hilly terrain before. So it was a bit hesitant me behind the wheels. A car in front made a brave move. There was no on coming traffic. He broke the 2 lined vehicle queue and went ahead to form one of his own – with zero space if something wanted to come from the opposite side. Then another went behind him. The temptation was hard to resist. So our car also made a dash for it. What happened next was what had to happen. A truck was majestically making its way from the opposite side. The 2 leaders in front of us were listening to the abuses of the truck driver. The next step was to try and reverse. But one glance back and it was almost a simultaneous “aaah..” from everyone in the car., followed by “lo ji.. phasss gaye”. The line behind us was endless. Then started the process of merging the extra line back into the mainstream. Some ego clashes, horn blowing, arms waving and forcefully cutting into other cars later, we merged, moving, at one point, only millimeters away from the stranded oncoming truck. The painful process of moving at speed of inches/minute continued for eternity after that. There were a few opportunities to repeat the foray we had undertaken earlier but only one or two were taken – playing it safe the other times. The normal few minutes journey from parwanoo to kalka took years. And everyone wondered how much time it would have taken had we not attempted the first venture.
As we steered clear of the jam after kalka, we saw a truck coming from opposite side bang into a car moving in the same direction. In a matter of seconds, another mini jam had been formed behind the two. How much more complicated things became as a result of that – we will, fortunately, never know.