Everyday Adventures- II

Living in Shimla, the famous North Indian hill station, comes with challenges. Sure, we are living in the lap of nature, amongst majestic mountains. Yes, the weather is wonderful throughout the year. Of course, the pace of life is incredibly leisurely. And to get from one place to another, you must be ready to walk. (Read about more walks, here).

It is one of the highlights of my life here. Walking trails are incredibly interesting, and there are so many ways to get from one place to another. I mean so many paths, shortcuts and stairs. Everyday I choose a different path to get to the same place.

Recently, I visited the famous Kali Bari temple in Shimla. These were the Navratras, the nine day festival dedicated to the Goddess Durga and her various avatars. The temple is thronged by devotees all through the nine days. The approach to the temple is lined by small shops set up to cater to the need of the devotees to buy offerings-flowers, prasad, bangles etc.

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The entire area resonated with religious hymns or bhajans. Being a part of the multitude was exhilarating for once.

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Kali Bari Temple

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Devoted to Lord Shiva

Prayers offered, I was free to explore the area, the previously unpassed roads (unpassed by me, that is), streets and trails.

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The view around the Kali Bari Temple

Some paths were so steep that there were stairs alongside for help in walking.

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Stairs or path-take your pick

I encountered beautiful British era architecture, some old buildings in disrepair and abandoned.

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And then there were some houses, looking serene.

Serene

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Old World Grandeur

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The walk from the temple left me glad.

Making a Mango Whistle-A Book Review

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Making a Mango Whistle

Book: Making a Mango Whistle

Genre: Young Adult

Author: Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay

Publisher: Penguin – Puffin Classics

Which is a better phase of life than childhood? Don’t we all wish we could go back to being carefree children, knowing nothing but play and exploring the world around us?

“Making a Mango Whistle” by Bibhutibhushan Bandhyopadhyay is for the young adult reader so that they can explore the delights of childhood anew and muse on the minor disappointments that seem like great tragedies to the children themselves.

Apu and Durga are brother and sister, children of Harihar and Sarbhojoya, living on the fringes of the village and prosperity, immersed in joys that only children can summon even in adverse circumstances.

When Bibhutibhushan published his first book ‘Pather Panchali’, it was hailed as a masterpiece in Bengali literature. Soon, ‘Making a Mango Whistle’ was published, which dealt only with the children and their wonder filled lives.

Durga is a six year old girl at the beginning of the book. The book talks of Durga and her as yet unborn brother Apu for the next five years. Durga is very attached to her Pishima-her father’s sister. Pishima is a widow, dependent, old and frail. The first few chapters explore the relationship of the old woman and the young girl beautifully. The pathos of old age and its juxtaposition with the childhood innocence of Durga touches hearts.

The birth of Durga’s little brother Apu changes the girl’s life. The tragic and the apathetic end of Indir Thakuran or Pishima is the end of a phase in the little girl’s world and she now turns to her little brother.

We see Durga as a carefree child, bold and always exploring the village and the mangrove forest around. She is never to be found home. As Apu grows older, he becomes her companion and friend in all their misdeeds.

Reading about their escapades and their innocent play and the sibling love made me long for my own childhood. I experienced a range of emotions, from tender love to incredulity at the world’s ways, to deep regret of why things could not be otherwise.

There are endearing descriptions of mango picking, pickling and eating the sour fruit behind their mother’s back. There is make-believe play where the children set up shop and gather sand, pebbles and other things to act as wares. The cookout by Durga in the woods introduces us to Bini, who is ostracized because of her caste.

Durga is very loving and protective towards her brother. She shelters him from the cold wind and a heavy downpour when they run off in the storm to gather mangoes that have fallen from trees. She often gives him money to buy what he wants.

The most evocative incident in the book is when the children walk for miles to see the railroad in the hope of seeing a train. They walk amid thorns, lose their way and stumble back hone only by evening, having failed to find the rail tracks.

Apu, eventually goes on to see the railroad, then a train and after that, even travel in one as the family leaves their ancestral home in the village of Nischindipur for greener pastures and better prospects in Benaras.

Durga watches them or seems to Apu to watch them go, standing by the Jamun tree at the edge of the village. Apu thinks of his elder sister repeatedly over the years, even into his adulthood. Even in the unguarded moments, he always remembers his didi, once weak and fever ridden, asking him to show him a train.

The village life, the community events and the excitement that fairs and jatras evoke in the are beautifully rendered.

The narrative is richly interwoven with the description of the flora and fauna found around the village. The book tells a touching tale of rural Bengal, of innocent joys, of sibling love and of the turns and events in the life of a simple, impoverished family.

Everyday Adventures

What felt like a chore actually turned out to be an adventure.

A few mornings ago I had to take my daughter to the dentist. The day was cold, the skies were grey and it was raining. It made the winter day look even more uninviting.

Well, we started and took the local bus. The second best way to move around in this popular North Indian hill station of Shimla is the bus. The best way is to walk. Umbrellas firmly under our arms, we stepped down the bus at the Lift on Shimla’s arterial Cart Road. The Lift, which is actually a couple of lifts, takes people up to the famous Mall Road which is the hub of the city. Normally this place sees serpentine queues and I prefer the best option, of walking up the steep trails and stairs. The dentist we needed to see was in the Dental College and Hospital, attached to the prestigious Snowdon Hospital, now rechristened as the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital.

We were the only passengers in the normally very crowded lift and when we reached the top, voila! the road was uncrowded too, owing to the early morning and the bad weather. It seemed as if we had the place to ourselves. The lift exit is right opposite the large Indira Gandhi Sports Complex and there are many food fests, book exhibitions here the year round.

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Walking on was exhilarating without having to avoid the numerous tourists and locals. I clicked the empty benches where I usually look anxiously to find a space to sit.

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Benches waiting to be sat on

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Mall Road

The road leading down to the largest market, the Lower Bazaar, was enticing. Not many shops were open, just the ones selling liquor! Ah! People get up that early for a drink!

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Leading down to the Lower Bazaar

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The as-yet uncrowded Lower Bazaar

A little further on, we took the upper road to the Ridge and were rewarded by our first view of the Christ Church and St. Michael’s Cathedral. It is probably the most photographed place on the Ridge and can be seen from miles around.

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Christ Church

There were some limpid pools after the rain and the nature spots looked inviting.

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Limpid pools

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Grey Skies

We reached the magnificent Ridge maidan.

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Ridge

Crossing it, we took the road to the famous shopping destination of Lakkar Bazaar, full of colour, interesting artefacts and knick knacks.

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Shop till you drop

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Roller Skating Rink Building

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Magnificent Views

After a few minutes and a bend in the road was the hospital, catering to thousands from across the state on any given day. It is easily the medical helpline for the people in this hill state.

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Snowdon Hospital

Our work done, we retraced our steps, holding on to our umbrellas as they almost flew off in the strong gusts of wind. I wished I could photograph that, even though we were drenched!

Time for a hot snack of momos before we caught the bus home.

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Momos at the Bakery

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Yummy Sweets here

Hot food rounds off this adventure.

Art on the Street

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Wall Art

Improving the aesthetics of the Mall Road in Shimla (India), is this wall art. It attracts the attention of the passers by, hundreds of which are tourists in this popular North Indian hill station.

The road is flanked by a swank row of shops on the other side. Art like this, at intervals on this road entices the eye away from the restaurants and the showrooms.

If Wishes were Horses…

I wish I could follow my dreams

I wish I knew what my dreams were
I wish I could think clearly
I wish I could express myself
I wish I had the courage to experience an entire gamut of emotions
I wish I had not shut myself away
I wish I had the courage to take risks
I wish I could sing out my heart
I wish I could weave a few words that are simple and from the heart
I wish I could lead entire lifetimes in the course of a few years
I wish I could feel deeply
I wish I could help and not be self conscious about it
I wish I could hold a hand and comfort
I wish I could express gratitude when I needed to
I wish I were more open to the beauty around me
I wish I could attain a measure of wisdom as the years turn to decades