Annadale, the bare name of it, opens up so many memories of a place that we would gaze at, longingly, during our childhood days. It seemed like a ovalish round open space the kind of which we had not seen anywhere in Shimla! The Sun rays falling on the ground made it shine like a jewel amidst the green dense deodars that surrounded it. The magic of Annadale held a great charm for us, the children, in the Nineteen sixties as this was a place to be admired from afar but to be visited barely once or twice in a year!
My earliest memories of Annadale bring forth the grand spectacle of Dussehra, an annual feature, eagerly awaited by young and old residents of Shimla! My father would hold our small hands in his stout and big hands and my sister and I would tumble down the great descent to Annadale. The descent was much easier for us as we wouldn’t like to waste any time on the passage. We wanted to have more and more time to have fun in the ground! In fact this was the day when our enthusiasm would culminate in a much happening event. As we would watch the raising of the Ravana, Kumbhkarna, and the Meghnath effifies from the very day when huge bamboo structures would be given some shape for the upcoming effigies. And as the Annadale ground was clearly visible from the window of our class, in the then Lady Irwin School. The school was housed in the hotel Dalziel building and its windows opened to the great valley down where Annadale shone like a jewel!
Our enthusiasm would reach its pinnacle on Dussehra day and we would happily stroll around various stalls selling toys and eatables and waiting for the evening when the local Ramlila inaction would culminate in Rama personate killing the Ravana with an arrow! And then the effigies would be burnt! What a spectacle it would be. When my father would make all efforts to hold us strongly, I would with full might dislodge my hand from his hold and rush to get a piece of falling bamboos that made Ravana! As girls in school believed that keeping a semi burnt piece of bamboo, used in the making of Ravana effigy, would bless us with intelligence. And who didn’t want intelligence and that too if available in such an easy manner. In fact it was the hidden agenda that I had, in my mind, all the while when we went to Dussehra at Annadale! Though I was careful never to get a piece of bamboo used in the making of Kumbhkarna effigy! 🙂
Another memory pertaining to Annadale ground is regarding the annual Sports Meet of our school that was held in the Annadale ground. This would also be a great day, eagerly awaited as sometimes, if we would be lucky, we would watch from close proximity Army Helicopters that took off and landed in the Annadale ground. Once the Headmistress of our school Mrs. I. Goswami talked to some Army personnel and he was kind enough to allow all the girls go up and have a look at the interior of the Helicopter. We all were much impressed with the influence and skills of Mrs Goswami and looking back I remember with gratitude that it was my first chance to have peeped inside a “flying object”!
Such is the magic of the world Annadale for all those Shimlates who grew up while the town still loved the legacy of the Raj on one hand and looked for indigenous development of free India on the other hand.
I fully support Save Annadale Drive launched by DYFI! As it is my childhood dream that I am trying to save! The dream about a place which still had fruit trees, flower plants and even some birds and animals that loved those dense deodars!