Thursday, April 12, 2012

8th April 2012 – In Shimla

After a couple of heavy ‘Mooli’ parathas with pickle I left the guest house with the intention of visiting the railway station. I managed to catch a bus to the old bus stand. The bus was overfull, but towards the end of the ride I even got a seat to park my corpulence. As the bus got to the bus stand I asked the lady sitting next to me for directions to the railway station. She showed me a short cut to get to the railway track and told me to follow the track for about a km to get to the station. I found that though there were warnings not to trespass the railway tracks it was popular ‘thoroughfare’. I later learnt that the track I had walked on led to the railway goods shed, where in the past potatoes and such other agri produce were loaded for distribution in the plains. With better road access and the reluctance of the railways to carry smaller parcels of business such goods sheds died a natural death.
I had come to the railway station with the twin objectives of meeting the Station Superintendent and making a reservation for my return to Delhi. The two bus journeys from Delhi to Shimla had taken their toll and I was convinced that rail journeys are any day more comfortable for long distances. The SS was not in office. I tried to contact him at his residence through the SM, in vain. I wanted to give him a copy of the Yatra book. He was of immense help when I travelled to Shimla in December 2010 and stayed in the Railway officers’ rest house. Since I could not contact him I left a copy with the SM to be handed over to the SS. Then I went to the Reservation Office and made bookings from Shimla to Kalka and from there to Delhi on the 15th instant. The Shimla railway station, built in 1903 and maintained exceptionally well as a heritage, is a charming building with adequate facilities for the travelling public.
Then began the inevitable walk to The Mall. The old Railway Board building, the Post Office and the Audit & Accounts Office are all buildings of the old Raj. Reading inscriptions of the history of the town and that of its many buildings take the strain of the steep walk. However, in between this, I espied a glass counter full of yummy cakes. And they looked huge portions for Rs. 30. I asked for a banana date cake. When the lady retrieved a portion it looked half the size of what it was in the counter. I think it was a magnifying glass and not a plain one that encased the counter. Though extremely disappointed with the helping I enjoyed the fresh cake.
It being Easter Sunday only a few shops were open and there were not many people around either. It was getting hotter by the hour. Extra protection was discarded to avoid discomfort. I found people going in and coming out of the Christ Church. I walked in too and found the Mass at its fag end. I attended the balance of the Hindi service and wished the priests a Happy Easer before exiting the church.
I decided on seeing a movie to kill time in the afternoon. Houseful 2 was on show in Shahi theatre. I reached it on the way to the Old Bus Stand from The Mall. There were plenty of seats available. The movie hall is a relic of the old days. Nothing much has been done to refurbish it, except perhaps a rehash of the audio. The movie was a lousy effort at comedy.
I managed to just about get into a bus for Kalini, the place where I stayed. The bus carried a super dense crush load, to use a terminology used to measure crowds on the Mumbai suburban system. Every inch of space was used up. The only space in the bus, it seemed to me, that was not taken was the shadow region of my belly. It also helped me from people stepping on my toes!
I have the option of either taking the 6.15 AM or 9.15 AM bus to Reckong Peo tomorrow. I was all for the early morning service so that I reached the destination when it was still day. However getting to the ISBT posed the biggest challenge. There would be no local buses at that time and the taxi guys demanded usurious fares. I went to bed reluctantly accepting the 9.15 AM service.

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