The famous Mall played a big role in the social history of the Seventies! in Simla. This post is about the boys and girls of our times, in Simla…in the early seventies. How interesting it is that those who were handsome dandies and sweet looking Bobbies in the early nineteen seventies are almost nearing seventy now!!! Though I cannot write what were the aspirations, dreams or concerns of the young generation of our time but I, sure, can write about what I noticed about some of them, from a distance. The comment section may open the Pandora’s box of restricted knowledge to all the readers. This is purely a satire with reference to none.
There was a famous saying, perhaps in a lighter vein, “Beware of three W’s of Simla: Weather, Women and Ways.
We, the girls, feeling the onslaught on our species, rephrased it, “Beware of three M’s of Simla: Men, Monkeys and Mall!!
And when “the men” and “the Mall” come together the catastrophic effect is beyond imagination for the “frail” damsels of Simla in the Seventies!! Just joking!
People often ask us, “What is so special about the Mall?” Is there any mortal living who doesn’t love the Mall and enjoys taking rounds on the Mall. If someone is honest enough to answer, the plain reason for going to the Mall for the young crowd was the adrenaline rush it resulted into. The boys will get is following the girls and the girls would get it by being followed! Such a simple logic, no rocket science involved! But going to the Mall needed two things, the preparation which includes the attire, what to wear syndrome and the money to have some refreshment when you are tired of gliding incessantly, and the second is the intent; the why of the process!
Generally girls are considered to be vain…vanity thy name is woman! But the boys are not, by any means, less vain when it came to dressing up for the Mall. The college dandies, in their best attire, would shoot towards the Mall. Perhaps it was the impact of some movies of the Seventies that a new style statement swayed the young generation. It must have been the movie Bobby that brought about such a change. Most of the boys started using Long hand knitted mufflers, in all hues and shades, whether the Simla weather demanded it or not. To knit this muffler required more wool than for knitting full length cardigan. But in the name of fashion even the delicate damsels, who would otherwise ooh-aah on slightest pretext, would wrap around their slim thin neck, a muffler weighing not less than a kilo of wool! Bell-bottoms with wide flares became the hottest attire for girls as well as boys…wider the better. “How come the width of your bellbottom is more than mine” became the guiding mantra among the college dandies as well as Bobbies. As the width of the flare went on increasing so did the width of the collar of the shirt. Full faired bellbottoms, dog-collared tight fitting shirts, and a muffler long enough to reach knees became the fashion statement amongst boys. I correct myself, the fashionable boys!! Few of the dandies became the torchbearers of the style revolution and these life style creators acquired the necessary props also. The foremost was to let their hair grow to cover their ears. The goggles with big frames became the iconic statements. I, too, would look, secretly wishing to acquire one, at the open display made at the Tibetan market in the Rivoli building where that beautiful girl attracted everyone. When all the boys would be ogling at that girl, I would be secretly admiring some goggle frames to suit the cut of my face!
Another interesting change was that as the flares became wider, the waste of the bellbottoms became higher. Knee upward these would be tight enough to show your anatomy. And the shirts, too, were tight to show your six packs (if you had any). This was not a fashion for out-of-shape dandies! Someone smart must have thought of covering the ungainly looks by covering the upper body with a jacket so short and tight jackets in mute colors started ruling the style.
These short jackets, had a belt at the waist, making the waist look slimmer. I am talking about the boys craving to have a slim waist, accentuated by the tightening of belt around the waist. The jacket, too, was not a simple one. it would have stickers in various colors, shapes and sizes stitched onto the jacket. These stickers would depict insignias, flags and labels for god-knows-what! I, too, bought one sticker to mend a hole in my sweater. And these boys would support shoes with high heels. These would be flat heels but high enough to put a high heeled stilettos to shame. The wide flared bellbottoms would cover these high heels, and the boys would have a long legged smart look. The fashionable boys of the seventies would have slim waistline, long legged appearance. And some more daring kinds would have thick metal chains around their necks with pendants having 007 or a cross, whatever design was considered to be in vogue those days.
These smartly dressed heroes of Simla would walk in groups and never alone, this is something, I could not find an answer to.
Nothing is permanent in the world, and it was more true of the love affairs that started on the Mall. The group of dandies’, flaunting their fashionable flared trousers would find some object of attraction and start following the
The girls having intricate knowledge of the maize of stairs running through the middle rung of Simla would dodge these boys, very smartly, by vanishing down the stairs from the Mall to middle Bazaar and emerge back at some safe place…to walk back to their homes.
The smart young boys would be, too, egoistic to go down the stairs and would start searching for another object of admiration. I think their 30″ flares and the high-heeled shoes would be the deterrents and not their undying spirit of adventure and “true love”! Moreover the Lower Bazaar girls were well conversed with the maize of “Ways”, the third “W” of the famous saying so the brave hearts would move ahead in life with another one in mind!
They would walk; rather glide through the Mall searching for their Bobbies, which, as I said in the beginning, were aplenty at that point in time. Every nook and corner, galli and mohalla had its own Bobby, there was, in short, no shortage of Bobbies. There dandies would roam around hawk-like searching for someone to fall in love with, love at first sight, The Bobbies, too, waited for their prince charming , gliding wearing the flared Bell-bottoms to fall for them. It was a mutually agreeable, though unspoken, rule that prevailed. There would some love stories initiated in the first round, lasting another round on the Mall, and then breaking during the third round. Some serious love stories succeeded like the famous love story akin Bobby…some could not take away despite love being in the air, and some were such utter flops that no one ever talks about their stories.