For a few weeks now our church group has been in the process of planning a camp. Many in the group were bent on going to Narkanda. Narkanda is a skiing resort in the foothills of the Himalayas. But with its frequenters being largely tourists, it’s also very expensive. Plus apart from skiing there isn’t much else to do. I’m sure you can guess from all the lovely things I’ve been saying that I wasn’t one of the many who dreamt of going to Narkanda. I wanted to go to Shimla and nowhere else. So when I got a message from one of the camp coordinators saying that we probably wouldn’t be able to make it to Narkanda and may have to have the camp in Shimla instead, I couldn’t stop smiling. And when he asked us to pray that things might work out for us to still have the camp in Narkanda I couldn’t resist saying that all along I had been praying for us to go to Shimla!
I love Shimla! I’ve been going there every year for the past three years and before that, every few years since I was a child. It’s one of my favourit-est places in India and every time I go there it’s as magical as I remember it to be. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. Though I do love it best in Summer. The snow and ice makes everything less cheerful, unless it’s the first snow and I’m indoors.
I love the open air, the sweet smell of pine, the view that only a town in the hills can offer, and the fact that there are very few cars there. (Although this has changed recently. The government has levied a green tax for all out of state vehicles to control traffic and bring things back to the way they were.) I could never stop appreciating the slow quiet pace of life. Did I also mention that my favourite hotel -The Cecil – is also in Shimla? It’s the quaintest and absolutely the most charming hotel ever! I love the old world charm that still describes Shimla.
Our church group isn’t as keen on visiting on Shimla because according to them there isn’t much to do there. Not much to do there!? The train ride alone is a delight! Especially since the trains going to Shimla are all narrow gauged and toy like. Then there are the long walks that never get boring in pretty places like these, the yummy momos that can’t be found anywhere in the plains, and the best gulab jamuns in all of North India! And if you like history you can take a walk to the Vice-Regal Lodge. Buildings from years ago still stand and are, in fact, still in use. How can anyone find Shimla boring? Everything about the place is a fairy tale dream come to life (except for the scary monkeys and leopards. But come on, they do add that dose of adventure that makes beautiful places all the more magical).
March 8 can’t get here soon enough. I’m looking forward to those lovely long walks, collecting pine cones to throw into the fire, and paying homage to Aunty’s Momos and Baljee’s Gulab Jamuns. A word of warning, when I get back I may still be gushing over the reasons why I love Shimla and what a lovely time I had there.