Thats what we are going to do in this post. We are going to begin with pictures and stories of Himachal, move on to blog awards and wrap it up with Diwali wishes!
This post is so long due that the contents seemed too stale to write about. But this blog is also about documenting my life. Toh late hi sahi, document to kar hi dena chahiye! So lets get started…
I stop over at Delhi on my way to Solan. Delhi is a familiar city. Familiar in the sense that it still feels the same. It has changed the way it look considerably in the 6 or 7 years that I have been away. The roads are different,more congested.Landmarks have changed. There are fly overs everywhere. CP now looks like something else all together. With massive scale renovation/redevelopment work on for the Games(which, having seen the state of, I can assure you will not be done in time) it just doesnt look like the CP I knew. I met up with old friends at Dehli and had a rocking time! There are some friends with whom it doesnt matter how far apart you live, how many years have gone by without meeting in person. All you have to do is meet and it feels just like old times. Conversation flows easily. As does the coffee if you dont want to be thrown out of Cafe Coffee Day. I seriously over dosed on coffee that day. But what is a little over dosing, I ask you? It was all for a good cause. 🙂
Himachal was everything I remembered it to be. The hills were green, the sky a clear blue, dotted with cottony clouds and the children pretty and energetic. Let me share with you some pictures that I took during the visit.
The schools in Himachal Pradesh are in a much better condition than the schools in the other states I have seen. The literacy level in the state is general good and the economic condition of people is good too. I havent seen the kind of poverty I have seen in say interior Maharashtra anywhere in Himachal. I am told Government policies support development. That is not to say that there arent any problems in the state or in the education being offered to the children. The terrain is itself a challenge. Five days of walking up and down mountains exhausted me. And I had a car to drop me to the nearest motorable place. Its obviously not easy for children and teachers to walk everyday to the school. The distances are also much larger than there are in the plain. In Himachal population is quite less and it is scattered. So you will find one tiny cluster of huts on one hill and another on the next hill. And the total population of this scattered village will be served by one Govt. school somewhere on either of the two hills. So if you want to go to school everyday, its very likely that you will have to walk a lot to get there!The Government allots teachers as per the population of the school. So if yous school has 60 kids ranging from calss 1 to 5, you will get only 2 teachers. Thats means one teacher will be handling more than one class at a time. Multi grade teaching has its advantages but from what I observed, its also has its challenges!
That, btw, is a shot of one of the Government primary schools.
Thats a picture of two girls trying to solve a maths paper.
The LPG cylinder hasnt reached all villages in Himachal. In some they still cook the mid day meal the old fashioned way- on firewood.The ladies in the pink is the one in-charge of preparing the meal. When I approached the “kitchen shed” with my camera two other ladies said they wanted to join in and be a part of the picture. How could I refuse?
This was a multi grade class with children of class 2,3 and 4 sitting together. With only one teacher, utter chaos prevailed. Himachal has a very interesting Government policy. On rakhi, karvachauth and bhaiduj, only lady teachers are given a day off. Women also get to travel on State Transport buses for free. We visited this particular school on karvachauth. One look at this class and we knew how terribly the solitary male teacher was trying to keep the classes running. He wasnt able to do much but I have to admit he was trying.
This was one of the sweetest girls I met.Amidst the chaos, she had decided she wanted to learn. So while other kids were busy looking out of the window, escaping from the class on the excuse of wanting to drink water, playing games instead of finished learning tasks given and basically adding to the general pandermonium, she was sitting with her siyahi and takhti, writing numbers 1 to 100.Nothing broke her concentration. She wasnt interested in playing nor did she get distracted by those who were. She just wanted to write her numbers.
Do you see those 4 dots at the end of the path? Thats children racing throught the field at the end of a busy school day. They ran so fast that the pretty much reached the end of the path by the time I got my camera out. Made me wonder i whether it was the school that was so bad or if it was the mother at home that was so attractive…
These little guys werent in any rush to get home. They stopped on the way to chat for a bit.
In place of apricots, I got corn this time. Having gorged on the apricots last time, I sorely missed them this time around. Corn wasnt a good enough substitute for the delicious apricots. October is corn seasion, so there was corn everywhere! In the fields, in the homes drying on the terrace, in flour mills getting convert into makai ka atta and in the markets for sale. Just about everywhere! If you want to eat some corn, all you have to do is stop by a house where the corns cobs are being dried in the sun and speak to the family for a few minutes. As hospitable as Himachalis are you are sure to get a cup of tea and a roasted corn cob (or two!). I have found the Himachalis are essentially simple , uncomplicated people. You can stop by anyone’s house and you will be invited in and served tea . It doesnt matter whether or not they know you, they will be warm and friendly towards you. To me Himachalis come across as content people. They seem to be happy with what they have got and are undemanding. May be its the terrain that makes them that way. In the plains life is much easier so we want more, expect more. Its also easier to get what we want. In the hills life is tougher so you learn to appreciate what you’ve got.
I have come to believe that the mountains have a special property- that of viberating peace and calm. I have traveled a fair bit and I am yet to find a place that has the palpable silence that prevails in the mountains. You can hear the silence in the mountains and thats a wonderful thing. It is also a little scary because we are used to so much noise and activity.
We finished our work in the 5 days that were alloted to us and de-toured to Shimla on our return journey. Do you want to know what the city made me realise? Never visit a city at 8 am. There is nothing you can do there if you reach so early. Other than roam the streets and take random touristy pictures. Which is exactly what we were forced to do. As per our travel schedule we werent supposed to go to Shimla at all but we begged and pleaded till we got our heart’s desire- a de-tour to Shimla with 3 hours to spend as we liked in the city. So what if the 3 hours we got were from 8 am to 11 am? Had we known nothing, and I mean nothing functions there in the early mornings(not even eating joints) we might have changed our minds.
Shimla was much colder than we had expected it to be and we were so unprepared for the weather. Thats why in our light shawls we f-r-o-z-e . Inadequate woolens and the hunger pangs were a horrible combination, I tell you.
We figured we couldnt do much(besides watching children in their blazers walk to school) so we asked for directions and found our way to Mall road. All in the hope that the most happening place in Shimla would have at least one or two eating places and shops functioning at such an early hour. Mall Road is to Shimla what town is to Bombay. The most hep and happening street in Shimla has all the big brands you can think of- mostly shoes, apparel and some handicrafts.
The Christ Church is one of the most famous churches of Shimla and is situated very close to Mall road. I think this church featured in the movie Black, but I am not sure. Its is a beautiful structure. I wanted to go in and say a prayer but it was locked. 😦
I found this gorgeous Chinar tree on the Mall road. This was the first time ever that I saw a Chinar tree and I was unduly excited about it, much to my colleague’s embarassment. The board in front of the tree said ” Rare Chinar Tree”, I had ever reason to be excited about the tree, dint I?
Another shot of the Chinar- the leaves against the sky. Dont miss the fading moon.
Shimla has lots of lovely Colonial structures. Its a remainder of the British rule and a beautiful one at that. Its also what gives Shimla is character. That and the hundreds of schools kids. I dont know about you, but I have always associated two things with Shimla- the British summer capital and schools.
I didnt get to spend too much time analysing the structures closely. To be honest I was too busy admiring them and getting my pictures taken against their backdrop but they seemed to look pretty well maintained. All Government offices are in these pretty structure as are many shops.
This is the state library on Mall road. I love the sloping roofs. They are so typically pahadi .
We walked up and down the Mall road and kept asking people when the shops will open. Trust me on this one, if you ever reach Shimla at 8 am and are waiting for the city to wake up and the shops to open, donot believe people when they tell “nau- sade nau tak dukanain khulainge” becase no shop opens at nau-sade nau.Contrary to what people willmake you beleive, you have to wait till 11 to see the shutters go up. We couldnt find any of the nice looking restaurants open, so we settled to have breakfast at the Indian Coffee Shop. Located at the fag end of the Mall road, the Indian Coffee Shop was established sometime very, very long ago. The walls and ceiling will tell you that. While I loved the look of the place, I dint like the food too much. The idli bordered on being rock hard,the sambhar had radish in it and the coffee was so too strong that you needed a stomach of steel to digest it. But still, it was the only eating place open at 9.30 and it did get some fuel in our bodies.
By the time Shimla got started, it was already 11 and we had to get back on track and move towards Chandigarh. We dint do too much in the capital of Shimla- we just walked a lot and ate a yucky breakfast, but I am still glad I got to see the city.
Shimla is a pretty city but I am sure it used to be prettier. Its now very crowded, polluted and touristy. From a nice hill station it has turned into a commerial city thriving on tourism. Thats something I dint like too much but as time passes city change and there is no way to stop them , is there?
That was Himachal, now for the awards. Putting these up has been long due,Lively. Thank you for the award. I accept them with much gratitude.
Its 11.30 pm so technically its still Diwali. Happy Diwali everyone!!!! I wish this Diwali brings you all lots of prosperity and happiness.
Image source:google images.
PS: I am traveling again this coming week. No, its not for work. Its a vacation. To my favouritest place in the world.:)