Multihued and polychromatic character of Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties
My mornings would be started with the melodious singing of Prabhat Pheri which a group of dedicated men and women would participate in…..every single morning, all seasons….in Lower Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties. I would wonder why they have to walk around whole of the Bazaar singing devotional songs….so early in the morning!! What drives them? Sometimes to cater to my curiosity I would venture out and see this small group walking towards the Tar Ghar and then return there from….singing very soothing bhajans. The melodious and serene voices just mingling to one single voice would herald wellbeing of all the residents of Simla irrespective of who or what they were!!! Who were those people comprising the Prabhat Pheri….I never knew nor had any desire to know as just like different voices mingling up to become one single voice, the whole group seemed like one single mass, all were bound by something much above it.
Soon after the Arya Samaj Mandir would come to life and chanting of Vaidik Mantras would be finding a way to my ears as Arya samaj Mandir was not even fifty yards away from our humble abode! My ears, soul and mind would seep in all this unconsciously while I would be busy in mundane morning tasks…. and waiting for Bauji to go to Shiv mandir in the Middle Bazaar.
The first thing that attracted me at the entrance of the Shiv mandir was the big ghanta…hanging with the help of a very solid metal chain. I would jump up and would try to reach it…. The sound of the Ghanta would vibrate and resonate for a long time… Bauji would say that the sound emanating from the Ghanta of a mandir travels deep to one’s soul clearing it of all malice as the metal of the Ghanta had a mixture of so many metals….all becoming just one!
The Masjid, barely a flight of steps away, had its own daily azaan…. It’s big huge cavernous hall would be enigmatic for me. We would play near to the main hall as Neera Khanna, my school mate, lived there. And while playing with Meera and Sheela, the daughters of Deepak Bhojnalaya, I would try to see the person who would be paying his obeibeisanc to his God!.
Sometimes it would be Daulat Ram Chauhan uncle, with big moustaches, sitting comfortably in the single-room house of Shakuntla Massi, talking to us kids, when the evening azaan would be paid, It was as usual as it is to listen to a any other sound in the neighborhood….no fuss was made about it. Shakuntla Massi would be often sitting outside her home on the wooden Dewan made of rough planks and chatting to Hatoes who lived in the room nextdoor! No one thought of this as unusual.
In the evening we would run up the stairs to the St. Mark’s Church which housed Government primary school during the day and transformed into our playing space in the evening. Sometimes we would go to the Church near the St. Thomas school and play there as well. No one stopped us.
Gurudwara Sahib was relatively far and one hadd to cross the busy Cart toad so ositing this was not very frequent but on some special occasions…the kids of my mohalla would run to the Gurudwara sahib and were awestruck by the sense of devotion and piety the sewaks had! The Nissan Sahib flying atop it would make us think of the supreme sacrifice….of his own sons…. by Guru Govind singh ji!!!
When I get up and started college at Sanjauli….Jassi, our friend would take us to Sanjauli Gurudwara. I experienced the serenity and peace at this Gurudwara. Even much later…whenever I visit Chandni Chowk in Delhi…I must may my obeisance at the Gurudwara Sheesh Gunj Sahib!!! Just sitting there and listening to the soothing shabd in itself is so soothing for me even today….. I am reminded of the Prabhat pheris in the Lower Bazaar of Simla of my days!
We were the kids of a generation where stories from rich Indian culture were our staple diet. And these stories in black and white were experienced around us where there was love and harmony all around…..everyone coexisting….with pure bliss and peace!! I am so grateful to have been born in that small house and raised in the living neighbourhood of Lower Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties….for instilling basic human values in the kids of Simla of the Sixties!!! What else I could have asked from life……when I had received the experience of a lifetime!!! I am so grateful for being raised and groomed in the narrow lanes of Lower 6 Simla of the Sixties where my persona developed wide….open…and all inclusive!!!