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From dread to delight in Shimla, the Queen of the Hills

It was a rude shock getting back the heat of the plains after a weekend in Shimla and Mashobra. It rained quite a bit while we were there and though it cramped our sightseeing attempts a little, we weren’t complaining about the cold at all! A couple of us had to acquire more clothing, a jacket here, a pair of pajamas there, a small matter in the joy of being in the Queen of the Hills, Shimla.

I’d only been to the famed hill station as a very small child and had no memories of it at all. It seemed strange to me to have lived for so many years in the environs of Delhi and never having been to the most popular holiday destination of my fellow citywallas! So I grabbed the chance.

What struck me most getting into Shimla is the sheer density of the city and how precariously positioned it is on the massive mountains. As my friend Henri said in his comment on my Instagram pics from Shimla, it is a “disaster waiting to happen”! Certainly, it is a city run wild, with its older cramped parts intermingled with the recent multistorey additions, hotels and government offices all crowding together helter skelter.

The sheer density of Shimla hits you as you drive in

The sheer density of Shimla hits you as you drive in

Much of the building stock is old and diaplidated

Much of the building stock is old and diaplidated

The city rests helter skelter in the midst of the most stunning hillside scenery

The city rests helter skelter in the midst of the most stunning hillside scenery

We stayed at the Club Mahindra property in Mashobra, which is a quiet village ahead of Shimla. When in town, we parked and took the elevator up to the Mall, which is the only sensible thing to do! Because is it entirely predestrianized, the Mall in Shimla (despite the summer crowds) has a certain old world charm. I enjoyed the old colonial buildings and the ‘sense of place’ in the city. The weather, which turned from rainy and windy to sunny and bright in the few hours we were there, showed us the city in many different lights. I don’t want to crowd this post with too much info and I’d rather highlight some of our experiences separately. But here are a few glimpses!

It's hard to reconcile the incongruity of the crowded city gainst the magnificant backdrop of the majestic Himalayas beyond

It’s hard to reconcile the incongruity of the crowded city against the magnificent backdrop of the majestic Himalayas beyond

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Christ Church

 

The Town Hall and the Mall

The Town Hall and the Mall

The most darling little buildings in the Mall

The most darling little buildings in the Mall

Thank you for the sunshine! Apr 14, 2012

The weather has been so surprisingly nice these past few days in Gurgaon; that the air conditioners we hastily serviced and started up have fallen silent again. I always wondered why North Europeans constantly talk about the weather. Not just the English, but the Dutch and the Germans and the Swedish that I have had occasion to know place weather at the center of their social conversation and are quick to complain about the cold and the rain.
Increasingly I am noticing that we in India have started doing so as well. It’s a fallout perhaps of a change in prosperity where we start spending more time in air conditioned environments and the real weather outside comes as a surprise, at times an awfully rude one, when we step outside.
The other perspective I often think about is that it is those who suffer from lack of sunshine that complain the most. My yoga teacher was explaining to us the benefits of sun gazing during dawn and sunset. She highlighted the restorative, energising properties of sunlight and the powers of concentration and focus we can derive from meditating while looking at the sun at first or last light. Sunlight creates feelings of positivity and it wasn’t for nothing that the sun occupies a significant positions in many ancient religions, in Hinduism and in ancient Egypt for instance.
We in India complain about the summer heat all the time. We should be thankful that we see nearly twelve months of beautiful sunshine. That is why we are the happiest, most boisterous, loud and crazy people on earth! So when the weather changes to the fierce unforgiving heat, as it must, I will try and remember that this sun is a source of much if the positivity in my life!

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