12 September, 2009
After a spell of incessant rains for almost four days it had stopped raining and Shimla looked just bewitching, as it always had seemed to me, after a long rainy period! Clean and bright! The sun rays of the evening sun had bathed whole of it into a golden haze. I could not stop myself from having a long walk and relive on the way all the images that came surging to my mind of the Shimla of early seventies!
With a song in my heart, I started towards the Chaura Maidan and was at once shocked at the sight that awaited me—so many vehicles parked on both the sides of the road near and in front of the Cecil Hotel! Had some accident taken place—was the first thought that came to my mind. I frantically looked around and was more surprised to find more vehicles coming towards the Cecil. Most of them with Punjab registration number and a few with Himachal registration number! The police personnel with guns-in-hand peeping from many of the vehicles, made the scene look dreadful. This was a sight that I had never even witnessed when late Prime Miniter Indira Gandhi had come to Shimla during the famous Shimla agreement or even during the first statehood day in 1971!
I walked fast as for me it felt sacrilegious to watch so many vehicles plying on the road that was a “no entry” zone for vehicles during not-so-distant past. I could make an assumption that someone-someone big from the Punjab Government must have come, and rued! I continued walking though the initial excitement had died down and by the time I had reached the State Bank of India, a pilot car blared its hooter and I found two-three dogs so taken aback by it that they chased the pilot car! I was almost smiling because the Shimla dogs were doing what the conscientious citizens of Shimla must have done—trying to drive away the motor vehicles from the Mall. This pilot car was followed by not less than 20-30 other vehicle—a long caravan of vehicles of all types and makes. I felt very bad for such a sacrilege of the Mall. When I reached the CTO, I found all those vehicles parked there and that at least was a solace to me that the vehicles were not taken straight to the Scandal Point!
All this has made me feel so indignant that I didn’t even care to find out the name of the dignitary who had come to visit Shimla with such a fanfare following him. Could be anyone—do names really matter when it is the power that decides the privileges that you enjoy?
On my return walk, someone asked me—Did you see Prakash Singh Badal who had come to the Mall? “No”, I replied, “But I did see all the vehicles that preceded his car and more vehicles that followed his car” and added humorously, “and of course some vigilant dogs chasing the pilot car!” I rued about the good old days when the leaders cared to walk and interact with the common men on the Mall and seemed to us like human beings and not the Avtaars they are made to look like these days!