Combermere, the name would instill in my little mind a mixed feeling—a feeling of awe and fear that the deep canyon, down the bridge, fills me with; and a feeling of peace and tranquility that would fill my mind with a relief! If on one hand, I would dread looking down the abyss that looked perilous to my little mind, the little red and green post office building will fill my heart with warmth, love and care. And why would it not as all Post office buildings were like a second home to me—my father being a post office employee!
Walking from the Mall towards Chhota Shimla, we would stand at the Comberemere, a place where we would part company, my friends would return and I would be walking home alone. Sometimes we would stand gazing at the place that was so different from the Mall as it was calm and tranquil. Like Hardy’s “Far from the Maddening Crowds”. Thus, the Combermere would be a dividing zone. Not only literally but symbolically, too, it was a dividing zone—between awe inspiring deep abyss on one hand and life giving source of perennial water, situated at the back side of the Combermere Post office, on the other hand. Here after I would walk alone and at peace with myself.
Often, would I stand looking deep at the gorge and wondering at an old building, housing so many families that seemed so precarious. I was concerned for the safety of the families and wondered why they lived there and how did they cope up with living next to a danger zone as I had heard of numerous episodes of attempted suicides at this spot!
But the red and green ancient looking Post office building would fill my heart with hope and Life! The natural water source with its spring water would invigorate me and with an added zeal, I would march ahead toward Chhota Shimla. I had heard from the old timers that this water source never goes dry even when all the water supply systems would fail the Shimlaites in the old days. Yes, there was another at Shankli!
I carried the same childhood impression about the Combermere and felt happy cocooned in my old world. But a recent visit to Shimla when I was able to clearly see the changes that, in the name of development, have brought to the place, made me question the harm that we are doing to pristine beauty of Shimla. The place where I had seen many a film shootings taking place was now the Combermeer Hotel that had nothing of its old charm. I am not over critical but am able to write it as I have a relative picture in my mind about what Combermere stood for an old timer like me.
And the least said about the imposing structure called Khel Parisar, the better it would be. I vividly remember a small pond of water at a place nearby where I had seen someone having been drowned many years back but today when I started imagining the place where it was, I just was clueless about its location. If on one hand big buildings are erected at this point on the other hand the holes have been filled. TheComberemere
Bridge had the pristine Post office building at one corner and a Photo studio and a restaurant at the other corner. I remember having coffee in that restaurant many a time and watching the post office building.
And today I had to search hard where the Post office building was! It was lost in the shadow of the imposing structures surrounding it with. And it was painted red, with green roof—an obnoxious red—I would say. What has happened to the aesthetic sense of the planners, I wonder. It looked like a poor cousin in the company of much richer cousins whereas in good old days it reigned majestically in the entire landscape!
The buildings and the people made the entire area cumbersome and I felt like an alien in a different place and at a different point of time.
There was nothing like walking away from the crowds as the crowd seemed to have stretched to this corner. The tranquility and peace of the earlier times was difficult to find. I felt like finding a familiar place or the feeling but all I got was a feeling of suffocation. Where had gone those beautiful days and the places—my heart wanted to know. No answers. I was so tired and drained of energy that to find the perennial source offspring water seemed like a futile effort. I didn’t even try to find whether it was still there or was sacrificed on the way to development? Why do we search for things that are no longer there?
With a heavy heart, I realized that it was Combermere then but was cumbersome now!
Today, tradition meets enterprise and its spirit lives on in our