St. Andrew’s Church…our evening playing spot in Simla of the Sixties
I never thought back in the Sixties the privileges that we enjoyed, though by default, during our childhood. This was all because like all kids of any age and period or place we, too, created ones when there were a few in Lower Bazaar mohalla. As Bauji worked in the Head Post-office and we had our home very near to it, a few flights of dtsirs down the Mall…all this open area around the Post office was virtually our playing space.
Thete was a small dark passage on the western side of the Post-office building connecting it to the postal colony adjacent to it. This passage which we called a tunnel was our playing spot as well. Ajust near to the entry of this passage there was a rough steep kutchha area wherefrom we woukd go up catching holld of the roots of a tree to the St. Andrew’s Church which we called Chhota Govrnment School as this is what it was in early Sixties!!!
The Chhota givernment school was the primary wing of the Lakkad Bazaar Girls’ school, if my memory serves me right. Therefore the whole building must be abuzz of chattering of the small girls during the day. I would confirm more about this from my friend Kiran who lived in the Postal colony at that time.
So we would reach the peaceful and cavernous church building in the evening and play under the trees, around the vast open space around it and beside the wooden jangla on the path…..you name a place around it and it surely would have been our plaing spot. The solid stone parapets around the church building were our favourite spots for marble playing. We would enact dances and plays under the arches and recesses of the beautiful window panes of the building seving as backdrop. So near to the much happening Mall yet enjoying our peace and freedom like a unbound soul. And we enjoyed this freedom because Indu Kiran lived in the adjascent building overlooking the Church and this space was for us an extended neighbourhood, enjoying all benefits that come in the extended neighbourhoods.
Above on the top of the small hill was a beautiful house occupied by, what we knew, the headmistress of the Lakkad Bazaar school. Her name, what comes to my recollection, was Mrs. Anand. She lived in that beautiful house, with beds of excuisite delicate flowers, just like out of a fairy book for my imagination. And a very small daughter of the house, seemed like a small fairy to me, living in her castkeurtou ded with flowers, facing the church and overlooking the Mall and below. Perhaps it was because she lived in that wonderful house and having a “room of her own” even at that age that made me look at her with such feeling of awe. And rightfully so as we slept crammed together close to Amma while she slept in her own room. Once we went to her house and saw a small sunny room called “nursery”….a term I learnt for the first time to be usd for a room though for me nursery was always a classroom dedicated in schools for small kids!!! Sometimes, but very few times, this angle would come out to play with us but we are rather crude for her taste and inclination. But who bothered for it. As long as the chowkidar belived that being friends to the “baby” as all little girls are called in sophisticated homes, we could access the Church building as our playing space.
Later, perhaps in late Sixties, the school shifted to Lakkad Bazaar perhaps and young boys of Arts college came to occupy this building.it was so very exciting for us, the kids. As in the evenings when we would go to lay there we would collect all the pieces of papers stewn anywhere around the classes as these eoukd be scribbled with dressings and paintings. How we would treasure those pieces!! The small one-room accomodation lining just below the beautiful house were the servant quarters, perhaps, once upon a time but now they were occupied by the students of the Arts college as their living quarters. We made friends with a few…one that I remember was Waheed, a Muslim boy who gave us small colourful paintings made on handmade paper. Very small which I would keep in pages of my book, to show sometimes, to impress my friends at school.
But our playing time got reduced as by that time we, the growing up adolescent girls, had become a little self conscious and now we would not go to the Church building as there would be boys of the Arts college all the time.
And soon after the Arts college, too, got shifted to some other place and after that I don’t remember visiting the beautiful building which happened to be our playing spot in Simla of the Sixties!!
also was the dear h for a playing spot But today I am deeply touched by the unique experiences that came our way…playing innocuous games at incredible places in Simla. And one such 0 was St. Andrew’s Church on the Mall, near to the Head Post-office building.