The ISBT in Shimla is a modern multi-tiered structure. It is spacious and has facilities for private car parking and pick up by local buses. It is a terminal for not only inter-state but also intra-state services. After alighting from the Manali bus I went to the counter to book for the Reckong Peo travel next Monday. I was told that there is no advance booking for the buses to such destinations! This means I will have to reach the terminal quite in advance to get a proper seat and that too for the 6 AM service.
Within 10 minutes I got a local mini bus to go to Kalini, where the Forest guest house was booked for me. It was just a ten minute drive and it turned out that the guest house is a house that belongs to a top police official. All the rooms were occupied and was asked to wait for a while to ‘check in’. The rough ride from Manali had deprived me of sleep almost throughout the journey. Hence, I had thought of resting a while before doing the rounds of the town. As it turned out I had to wait for more than three hours for the appointed room to be vacated.
The accommodation at Kinnaur, in Reckong Peo, has been arranged by Srikant Baldi, the Principal Secretary, Finance, GoHP. His PA has been constantly in touch to reassure me that a room in the circuit house has been reserved for a five day stay. I was keen to meet Srikant in person to personally thank him for the help. I had the option of taking two buses to the Secretariat or to foot it for about four kms on steep, winding roads. I chose the second option only because the buses were overcrowded and I may have been asked for double the fare to carry my bulk in a packed bus. I thought it a good way to burn the calories tucked in via the ‘aloo parathas’. The walk tired me; the knees and the ankles protest quite strongly for the weight that they are being made to cart around. I caught my breath in the officer’s room waiting for him to return from a meeting. On his return I thanked him and handed him a copy of the Yatra book. His PA gave me the contact details in Reckong Peo and told me that the best suite in the circuit house has been allotted me. Srikant assured me that all help would be extended by the contacts in Reckong Peo.
I was told a walk to The Mall would not be tough on the legs. As it turned out it was a lovely walk through a wooded portion of the town and most of the roads were devoid of vehicular traffic. I did have to make numerous stoppages on the way; an indication of the poor state of lungs. However, when I reached the Sher e Punjab Hotel fatigue was replaced by a sudden ‘attack’ of ‘food deprivation’. While waiting for the boneless butter chicken and the rotis I met two young engineers who were on a short holiday from their work in Delhi. I asked them to guess when they showed a keenness to know where I hailed from. The closest they came to was Karnataka!
From The Mall it was The Ridge. As I hit the Ridge I thought that I as in the midst of another Anna protest. The Ridge was full of school children and others with banner proclaiming ‘For Annadale’. Later I came to know that the protest was organized to pressurize the government into allocating the area for sporting facilities. There was even a banner which read “Help us to discover the Tendulkar and Dravid in us’. A Blood Donation campaign filled up any vacant space there was on the Ridge. I could not resist a four-colored softy despite the heavy lunch. The last time I was in Shimla was on Christmas day in 2010 on my All-India trip. Then I was pursued by photographers who promised a picture in local attire. Today not a single photographer approached me. I suspect they were worried that they did not have the clothes that would fit my large bulk.
Finally, the body was winning over the spirit. I had to head back to the guest house after checking out the Mass timing on Easter Sunday. The Christ Church is the most predominant structure on the Ridge. I was disappointed that the church was closed and more disappointed to see a notice stuck on the Church board that the Mass for Palm Sunday and Easter would be held together at 11 AM. I was told that the notice was put up last week - which meant that Easter had come early to Shimla!
I found a short cut to walk back to the guest house. My feet were dead tired. Keeping the feet immersed in hot saline water put fresh life into the legs. Then the yawns widened and early dinner was on the cards.