- What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
- —William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Shimla or Simla? For old timers like me it sure is SIMLA, that generates the warmth of the place in spite of what the present day Shimla may stand for. I really wonder do the young people even remember that Shimla once was known as Simla and it was a great effort for persons like me to write this new spelling of “Shimla”!
Though as a young child, I often wondered as to why what we called Shimla in Hindi was spelled Simla in English and took it to be another nuance of the English language. But finally when the name was corrected(?), I felt uncomfortable. I don’t remember exactly when this renaming took place but have a rough idea that it must have been at the time when I too was renamed from Saroj Kumari Rajput to saroj Thakur, after my marriage!
What’s in a name? Rose even if called by any other name would smell as sweet. So lets discuss a place that we love irrespective of how it is spelled.
At least can enlighten you about Shimla between 1956-1978, the time that I was there. And as I often visit Shimla quite frequently even today, my earlier impressions about the place find a comparison to the present day Shimla.
Among the places that every Shimlaite would vouch for, the pride of place goes to the Mall. So lets begin from the Mall. I remember The Mall where we would play all the time during winter vacation as the lower bazaar where we lived had narrow alleys and the Mall had a special charm as a place to watch people and roam about. But it was the Evening college that was at that period residence of the headmistress of a Govt. school that had the mystic charm to play hide and seek therein. Later it was changed to Govt, Arts college and I remember vividly roaming inside the class rooms and outside in the lawns and collect all the small pages where some budding artistes would have made paintings and sketches, and keep them as treasures. Today when someone asks me where I learnt painting from, I would silently thank all those unknown masters who like Dronacharya taught me the art of painting, an Eklayaya
And if you wonder how could we own all that territory, the answer is simple, my father worked at the General post office and the Post office residential colony was just a wall away from the Arts College which during the evenings would be our playing haunt. And sometimes some Arts college students would be benevolent enough to invite us to their work area and to let us have a look at the masters at work. I learnt painting and drawing watching them.
The majestic Green and Red Post office building was another favourite haunt for all of us as kids. There was a recreation room that had a carom board and a few almirahs full of books and I could get books issued from there. We felt a part of the post-office family. I wonder if they still have those books and the same recreation room? I am afraid such things are considered wastage of time in the present work culture.
The Gaiety Theatre was another place that holds memories of the past. The Post office recreation club had some budding artistes and many of them would participate in many functions. Once we were trained in a national song “Hum hain is sansar ke nanhe sipahi, ham kisi toofan se darte nahin…” that we performed at the Gaiety theatre. During the rehearsals we would meet the members of the amateurs Dramatic society of Shimla aand sometimes when they would need someone to play the child role, it would be given to someone from our group, though never to me as I was not good looking by their standards.
And yesterday, during my short visit to Shimla, the renovation work at the Gaiety theatre brought back all those memories associated with it surging center stage. How I wished they had not touched the building established in 1837!
I am being carried away and am reliving all those memories that lay buried inside me and came surging out when I found this group on ORCUT. Ask about any place and I would give my own perspective on that from the view point of an old timer.