Shimla: No longer a walker’s paradise

During a recent visit to Shimla, I was shocked to see a large number of vehicles parked on the road near CTO building on the Mall . I was further shocked to know that all these vehicles had access to this sealed and restricted road and very proudly displayed permits stuck on their vehicles !

I couldn’t understand whether Shimlites had lost their stamina to walk or whether the long repressed inclination of Shimlites to display their financial status had overruled their good sense to walk on the roads of Shimla!

In order to observe the change in the pedestrian’s behaviour, I needed to sit and analyze the waiting-for-the-cab group closely. I also wanted to observe the vehicles that came to the CTO and dropped their precious passengers.

Crowding out the pedestarian

So I, too, took a seat on a bench and mind you, I have never had been so enlightened on the use or misuse of restricted road pass during the twenty long years having spent in Shimla as I was during those twenty minutes! I watched with horror the unending flow of Government vehicles, some with red, some without, beacons halting before my eyes.

If I waited for some Government officer, on official duty, to alight from the vehicle, I was sadly very mistaken as these vehicles carried the “Memsaabs” for their evening stroll on the Mall.

And as parking at this point is restricted, the vehicles would go away after deporting the passenger and would come back when “M’lady” had had her evening stroll on the Mall or may a cup of her evening coffee at her favourite place!

Mind you none of the privileged passengers alighting from the Government vehicles seemed sick or unwell, they were in best of their health and appearance, rather dressed too well!

Surprisingly it was not only the Himachal Government vehicles but the Army vehicles were also not left behind in this race and I could see some proud and patriotic army vehicles carrying the “Memsaabs” and “Baba logs” to this sacred point beyond which only the VVVIPs have access!

I wondered if in the last thirty years Shimla has changed so much and private and public vehicles have attained access, to this level, to restricted roads, the days are not far off when these vehicles of the rich and the influential would be parked on the Ridge itself! God save the Ridge, I prayed silently!

The Simla of yore, my own Simla, had sanctity towards pedestrian and was a walker’s paradise. The only vehicles that we saw plying on the roads of Simla were the ambulance, the fire brigade vehicle and the Post office van.

Only in name (Photo by Geetali Tare)

It was only the Governor’s official vehicle that could be seen plying on these restricted roads and that too not very often. But now we have changed. Simla of my days has changed to Shimla and from a walker’s paradise it has become a motorist’s pride!

And the fact that it is our money, the hard earned money of taxpayers, that is used to maintain these roads and to spoil the environment as well, I felt so sorry.

I know my lone feeble voice would be lost in the corridors of power and would remain unheard in the buzz of the vehicles but still I would go on raising my little voice till it is not muffled, albeit, by an official order!

Photos by Saroj Thakur

Saroj Thakur is a writer, blogger and teacher. Born (1956) in Shimla, Saroj was previously a fellow at IIAS Shimla (2009-2010). She writes on women, gender, mythology, and language studies. She has been teaching at National Institute of Technology (N.I.T. Hamirpur) since last 26 years. An active blogger, trekker and an RTI enthusiast Saroj Thakur presently lives in Hamirpur town of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Follow on : http://sarojthakur.wordpress.com/

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10 Comments

  1. says: rakeshmehta

    It pains to see that so called high society people including the super Babus have twisted the rules to their wishes and whims caring less for the common citizens sentiments.More worse that the mighty politicians weigh their reach in public at large by having no regard for such sentiments and even pushes their memsahibs along with red lights only to alight at The Mall with British flavour ,only to shame our good old system of walking with dignity and pride .

  2. says: Rohan Sharma

    Its a really a shame even the so called proud and rule abiding army officers are openly breaking rules, god please save our lovely little town getting sacrificed for lousy comforts and show off plus pollution because of all this and not to forget haphazard construction

  3. says: Devan Thakur

    Shimla has its own sancity, our home town, where we have lived golden moments of our life. No doubt, things are getting worse day by day, but it cant be allowed to become worst. All the citizens of this world famous city must rise to the ocassion and take stand against these so called influential politician/wealthy people. A step in this direction has already been taken by you, but this movement must taken ahead as”Save Shimla Movement” by everyone.

  4. says: viveik

    There are plenty of places and trails to walk on….without meeting cars and people…I do A 10KM walk and see only partridges , just have to be creative…there is a relentless pressure of population and privileges and like anywhere else the 7 billion are weighing in…more entitled people same infrastructure..

  5. says: rajeev parmar

    Very true and sad picture of today’s Shimla. Same is true for Himachal as a whole also. The state which could have been tourist hotspot of the nation has been turned into Cement Paradise cutting away the hills mercillesly and throwing away the roads at the mercy of big trucks and trollers. Clearly a lack of vision on part of the so called visionaries.

  6. says: Varun Walia

    Back in my days in NIT hamirpur, we used to say that Mall Road is one place which has not been influenced by power, money and status. There are few religious places where a BABA or a MLady could bypass the line and walk in because of the beacon power. Every one and any one from different walks of life would come to the mall road, stroll freely with ease and enjoy every word of their discussion. Times are changing .

  7. says: lovish

    I also feel that this place has lost its charm. Shimla has always been famous for its mall road where people took a breath of fresh air strolling on its clean paths. But with the number of vehicles increasing with the permission sticker stuck on the windows, a time will come where people would harldy find this place fascinating.

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