Life in Galli Number Two of Lower Bazaar Simla of the Sixties…1

Message of the Divine hidden in residential architecture of the Lower Bazaar Simla

For me my whole universe was around my home in the loving neighborhood of Galli no.2. in the Lower Bazaar Simla. I didn’t even know that it was the Galli number 02 till much later. I was always intrigued as how the postman, with a bulging khaki sturdy bag over his shoulders, carrying letters, envelopes, postcards and inlands in his hands, would deliver them to the right persons. For my little mind he was the epitome of knowledge and intelligence. When I quizzed about the question as to how the postman finds where to deliver the letters, that Bauji explained how all the houses had a nomenclature and an identity the way I had! It was a simple logic that stayed with me after that. Still, I didn’t even know or cared to know where the Galli number 01 ended or the Galli number 03 started. I came to identify houses not by numbers but by the people who lived therein! I carry image, though a little faded, of all those people and families who lived in those small burrow-like houses….houses that were full of love and warmth…not only of the Angithee that kept them warm but the love flowing in the hearts that provided coziness and warmth to the people in and around the houses. It was all inclusive neighbourhood where love, warmth and compassion flew freely for everyone. It was a small universe…or a small part of the big universe of Simla!!

My later readings about Simla would recount about Lower Bazaar that there lived “about half the Indian clerks and peons serving in the Government offices;about one third the domestic and menial servants; more than half the artisans, carpenters and tailors; and about three-fourths of the city’s shopkeepers.was owned almost wholly by the commission agents and money-lenders belonging to Sood caste.”

The rising influx of locals living in and around Simla and many more from Mandi, Bilaspur, Solan, Kangra etc., coming to Simla in search of livlihood, increased the demand for housing in Lower Bazaar. This residential area was a much preferred locality, perhaps, because of its easy accessibility to the Mall and the Gunj as well.

The houses in my neighbourhood had multi storey houses, where the ground and the first floors opened towards the lower tier of the multi-tiered architectural designs of the houses. The upper storeys opened towards the upper tyres of the tiered structures. The best part about these structures was that Lower Bazaar faced the Sun and the morning Sun would fill the entire neighborhood with light and Sun. Moreover, since the whole of the Simla was constructed on gentle to steep slopes, the houses would not restrict Sunlight but each would get a fair share of it…. at least in the neighbourhood I am referring to. These housing structures must have been planned with a humble origins but gradually more storeys were added to accommodate the riding influx of more and more workforce to Simla.

Something very interesting about these residential structures is that like a good art work where two different colours merge into one another to give the right shading and a united whole look, the residential structures built on the available plateau, also followed the same principle. The houses in lower Bazaar would have ground levels opening towards the Lower Bazaar and higher storeys would open towards the Middle Bazaar. Similarly the houses in the Middle Bazaar, towards the Mall side, would have lower floors opening towards the Middle Bazaar and the upper floors would open towards the magnificent Mall. When I analyse it , today, much distant in time and space and more objectively, I find a meaning in it. The message, open to all, in this simple place was that there are no rigid boundaries to restrict you… you may move up…as much as you can, though remaining grounded to your reality..the foundation you rise up from!!!

The place I was born and lived for the first 14 years of my life was one of these residential areas, a small part of it, rather. Who were the people who lived in this area? Did they live a “wretched” life as the British Raj documentation would make us believe or the adding of the prefix “lower” was also a deliberate attempt to mark the population in a different manner? The British, like all other rulers, very smartly differentiated the residential hierarchy down the slopes. The Lower Bazaar facing the Sun got all the natural warmth throughout the day that was denied to the long stretch of the Mall road. The buildings on the Mall, shops and residences above them, barred the view of the Bazaar from the Sahib logs. When these Burra Sahib logs, Along with Memsaabs, strolled on the Mall for what was called in common parlance ” Hawa Khana”, how could they be allowed to have an inadvertent peep inyo the mass of humanity living a “wretched” life down the slopes!!
But the homes, the burrow-like homes, enjoyed the glow and warmth of love as well as Angithees.

And I thought of my mohalla…who were the people that lived in that mohalla, what occupation did they have? As during my childhood it didn’t matter much but these days I am having a reflection on all my neighbourhood which stands for a segment of the larger canvas of life in Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties!

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