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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Story of a Little Indian State: Himachal Pradesh (Part 3)

In this article, I shall love to boast like several Indians, that I have had touched history; meeting it upclose and personal.

After the previous day's bitter experience during the trip to Fagu and Chail, where, unfortunately for the clouds we couldn't absorb any beauty of the places mentioned, the bus driver presented us a platter full of wavy experiences, driving the coach like a mad man. I have had taken the bus ride round the wavy mountain terrains, but never felt so bad.

Hence, Day 2's trip to Naldegra was cancelled and I planned a historical trip. Heard about its beauty from the various shows conducted in the Discovery Channel or the History Channel. Read about it's significance, making the scars on the subcontinent prominent. We were about to visit the Shimla House (as commonly known as); but in original, its the Viceroy's House. The house, where the great Indian subcontinent was torn apart by the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, under the supervision of the last Britton Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten...

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011. The Viceroy's House, Shimla.

Lush green garden, covering over 75% of the property, this building presently house IIAS. Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, which was gifted to the scholar fraternity, but the second President of India, Dr. Radhakrishnan. In his honour, the institute house his portrait at the entrance, being the founder of the institute and thanks for his pioneering activities, our teachers get a deserved day of treats; The Teacher's Day!

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011. The entrance of IIAS, Shimla.

IIAS is housed within the lavish house, which has 332 rooms in total. Un-altered since its 1921 costruct, the Viceroy's House is a marvel of interior decoration using wood! Cedar and Walnut wood have had borne the lustre over the years (and so have the German Switches, which are still being used, unrepaired for 90 years in running!!!)

Irony! German within the British Domain. No wonder, Indians and Germans have had good links!

What followed in the 20 minutes of guided tour, well narrated by the trained scholar of the institute. The pack of 30 odd tourists tried to grapple the history, (thankfully known by me), and hence I could indulge in my minor clicking! I guess you all can understand as to why I mentioned a word of Thanks for knowing the History by Luck! It was not snobbish!!!

The Viceroy's General Meeting room. Now a days used by the IIAS students as seminar room -

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011: Viceroy's meeting room.

The next room that followed, made me shiver once, down my spine. Within minutes I found myself standing infront of that great round table, that had smooth boundaries, but had played the crucial role in making a country's border; rough... Pakistan was carved out from India. And I was standing just behind where Mr. Jinnah sat!!!

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011. Replica of the Partition Table.

The artifacts were great. Had taken some great snaps, but its useless to share all of them here. So, just shared my pieces of emotions!

Emotions... being an Indian, its always high to see such places where the beautiful (geographically) Pakistan is now unreachable. More so, because it had taken away the Indus Valley Civilization with it! Lines of thoughts plagued my heart... when I encountered a beauty of a situation, which made my soul happy... Hence I have named it: Beche Thakar Akash.. Translated to English from Bengali, it means; The Sky to Live For!!!

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Story of a Little Indian State: Himachal Pradesh (Part 2)

From my previous snippets of the trip, I had reached Shimla, with my mom. The day was 1st October, 2011. Back in Kolkata, Pujas was just starting!

From the station, we hired a cab. Still skeptical about the choice of the hotel, because it is for this place, I had quite a bitter experience with, with whom I had initially booked, but they let me down. Firstly, they couldn't confirm the hotel of my choice: Hotel Gulmarg. Secondly, they provided us accommodating with another Hotel, Hotel Sun n Snow, but there too they failed to confirm our stay. Pissed off and after uselessly spending over 500 rupees for the Mumbai STD at the Travelguru office, I cancelled the booking. I found their representatives rude and un-proffessional  bunch of hooligans!

Anyways, after a history of dallying around, I booked a room in Hotel Doegar (Click here). Pretty nice hotel. Bit expensive, but the people are really warm in behavior! I paid a part of our stay as a token of booking from their designated bank account and wella..they had all the information! In fact, they arranged for a pick up as well. Mr. Raju, the driver was a great company as well which we realized on the third day of our stay at Shimla and then following that, the car ride to Manali.

Exquisite. It is the only word, I could describe the hotel view from our veranda! The morning had a magical viel upon the several red-green-blue tiles against the green backdrop of the Himalayas! The contours were mystic, "V" the Holy Grail... In one word, with a different flavor, I would describe it marvelous!

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011: Good morning Shimla.

It was a simple Mall Road trip on Day 1 (1/10/11). My previous experiences with the Mall had been great. Thrice, to be precise. First time it was in Darjeeling, second time it was Gangtok (both in 1994) and the last time it was in Rabong (Sikkim, 2011). This is the fourth time, and as far as my imagination chips in, The Mall at Shimla is the most clean one that I have ever seen. It was a table top, with ridge on both sides, where the capital of the state expands its wings! It was cloudy, without doubt, but each day, the Mall posted its own beauty. From Gloomy to Sunny...

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011. Shimla Municipal Office, Mall Road.

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011: Christ Church, Mall Road. Shimla.

Day two at Shimla, beckoned me to rethink the journey as well as the finance. Initially, a Rs. 20000 trip budget looked like it would be escalating by another 10K, soon. But, it was after the bus trip on day 2; incidentally, it was bright and sunny morning and also the date was 2nd October, 2011. Although I was in Shimla, I could bet that the birthday of the Father of our Nation was marred by the Puja madness; it was Sasthi...

Being a holiday, the Mall sounded high pitched. School students in their uniform paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi. There were baloons, soap bubbles and candy floss. In between them was a whole India. being a hill station, several famous boarding schools are in Shimla, where children from all over India use to come  and pursue studies! But among the smell of the Candy Floss and the ring of the bells, announcing the Indian Fast foods namely PapriChaats on offer, I could smell the Mahogany, the Cedar and the Pines... Sun, weaved a nice picture upon the mountains, bringing the dark cloud shadows upon the lush green!

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011: Hide n seek!

Before boarding the bus, for the day's trip to Fagu >> Chail, it was a nice view. Hopeful, I boarded the bus with mom! But then, this ride would determine the next 8 days!!

Anyways, I moved on with my mom....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Story of a Little Indian State: Himachal Pradesh. (Part 1)

Little as it may look, the undulations of the lower Shivalik Range makes it a tall order... Tailor made but God Himself, Himachal Pradesh is all but boring!

It is a learning trip for me. The first time ever, I ventured with mom, all by ourselves. No relatives, no touring companies... unknown of the fate as to whether we will ever make it happily. Thank god, we did!

As the Cleartrip would say: Every trip has a reason, my reason were two; to mention. After 2007, it will be the first major trip for mom, who had been getting bored at home. Secondly, I wont get any more spans of such holidays in near future, thanks to PhD commitments, so it would be a good exercise for my Nikon D5000.

The planning started well ahead. In the month of June, 2011 for the October 2011 trip. There were several choices, like Madhya Pradesh; Rajasthan; etc... even thought of Arunachal Pradesh. Looking at the time leave of just lucky 10 days, it was impossible to browse through these places without an expert guidance (Touring companies) or a group! I had neither of the two options. So, thought of the Himachal's most stepped in places: 1) Dharamsala-McLeodgunge from Amritsar (Punjab);
2) Shimla - Manali.

It was tough, but thanks to the internet. It was smoothened!

Before I go into the intriguing beauties of the mountains, I would like to put forward certain points to be kept in mind. May be, this first post, as any other posts might look total travel planner, but heed you amateurs. Its a helpful advice.

1) Go to the nearest tourism office and get to know about the travel routes.
2) Book online, at the notice of 91st day..keep trying from the 91st one!
3) Cleartrip is cool and all things are done on time. is a cheat and they have all the lollies to harass you! DONOT GO FOR TRAVELGURU!!!!
4) Plan your trip, taking help of Google Maps. Its cool!

 My plan was simple and initially made online:
1) Boarding Kalka Mail from Howrah to Kalka. The journey is 36 hours long, and in the middle would seem lagging. But, this mail, luckily for us entered the terminal station on time.
2) From Kalka, we boarded the Toy train upto Shimla. Its a journey, which made me remind of Kirandool Express Journey, from Vizag to Araku Valley (AP). It had tunnels, sounds, views and chilling beauty!
3) We stayed on in Shimla for the next two days. ( reached on 1st October, 2nd and 3rd stayed at Shimla).

Let me get into the main stream of good writting....

There was a third hidden reason behind moving out to the mountains, during the festive seasons in the plains. And that too... after identifying myself as a Bengali who loves Kolkata Durga Puja like anything! Actually, for the past three years, my habit had been spoiled by my beloved one... this year, she has been to States, so I thought I wouldn't enjoy... feeling lonely...which is the last thing I want to feel back, during the Pujas. So the escapade, under the mask of the deserved vacations for mom!

Reaching Kalka and smelling the cold breeze of the lower himalayas, the morning of 01.10.11 was as easy as the binary... 011011... Atlast the trip would be a lovely escapade from the humid plains! More so, the journey in the Sleeper class was not worth enjoying...except that the two nights, we got good company who did lend the lower berth for my mom...

IRCTC has had played its own joke! The morning ticket (connecting rail) of Shivalik Express had been confirmed for only mom was in the WL1. With 6 minutes for the second train to leave the platform, I rushed in mom to the Rail Motor coach...with one confirmed! But again...lucky us, we found a cordial Bengali family welcoming us and sharing their seats! The misty journey unveiled into a lovely sunrise, which my camera took as the first shot of the trip!

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011: Good Morning Himachal!

The bents and tunnels; 92 in all... made the lofty mountains reachable... touchable (like the iPhones)... the clouds seemed reachable... fluffy cotton making their way to noman's land... Looking at them, the pungent soul cleared it's thinking rays from the forehead... The soul now followed them...longing to be inside them! Himachal Pradesh has...something which I longed to absorb as a taught! a good taught!

The windings kept on!

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011: Windings twine towards Shimla.

Memories clouded my mind. I remembered the ride during such a November, 2005. B.Sc, Physiology. Araku. I also remembered the trip to Ghatshila with my M.Sc friends, in 2008 January... But I also hoped that 2011 will be a new beginning of the "Globe-trotter" Somnath Paul...

With this thought, I welcome all my Blog readers to Shimla,

(c) Somnath Paul, 2011: The Ridge View of Shimla.

.... the capital of the Little Indian State; Himachal Pradesh!!!

Somnath Paul Photography


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