The air is misty, the sky is cloudy and foggy today! It seems as if visibility has come to few yards of my steps and I am feeling a bit lost. Lost in the past when as a small girl I listened to from my Nani. I don’t know whether the stories she told me of the hoary days of Simla were correct or merely a work of fiction to stop us kids from straying in the foggy weather of Simla of the yore! But whatever may be the truth, even today I am reminded of those stories, especially one of them that would make my small heart flutter in fear.
And when I looked at my picture with Aarush that my daughter had clicked when I, as a Nani, sat holding Aaarush close to me outside a locked door of Gaiety Theater, that story came rushing to me. Perhaps that day when this picture was clicked I was busy telling the same story to my grandson! And this is the way legends and myths get carried on.
My Nani would, like many other women of her age, would guard us like a sentry if any of us would so-much-so as try to sneak out from home on a foggy day. “Don’t move out”, she would shout. They catch the young ones and cut their scalp open to get out the brains. Now the “they” in the story related to the Angrez log that she made to paint as horrible creatures. According to her, there was a secret chamber under the Ridge where the young kids would be taken and their brains scooped out. It sounded so bizarre but somehow true to our credulous minds. And I remember that how would I run back to home if by chance the weather would take a sudden turn when I would be alone on the Mall or the Ridge. I would imagine ghosts from the past—ghosts of the Angrez sahibs—waiting in the mist to get hold of me. I would run and run till my little feet would find succor in the small house, in the lanes of Lower Bazaar at Shimla, which connoted safety, security and warmth to me. I don’t know why such stories were told to kids of my generation or what the truth behind these stories was but the fact remains that I was always afraid of entering some portions of the Gaitey Theater as if someone lay hidden in the shadows of the dark galleries waiting to pounce upon me.
And last week when I sat outside one of the closed side doors of the Gaitey theatre with my grandson with me, I was thinking hard of the stories that I had to tell him. Sadly, I realized that I had the same kind of horrifying yet true stories to tell him though instead of Angrez Sahibs the characters waiting to have an ounce of our blood were our own people. Perhaps this picture, taken by my daughter, captured me and Aarush in one of those solemn moods when I was telling him one of the episodes when “those” people let loose a reign of terror and pain on someone who is a son to one of their “alumni”! And then they have the heart to celebrate Alumni Meets!