Shimla is unique in more than one way but only if you keep your eyes and ears open while walking the already well-treaded roads of Shimla, who knows that you may come across a thing of beauty that may be a source of life-time of joy for you!
While visiting a tourist place during vacation the real pleasure is in roaming around on foot, watching around with a childlike curiosity and unabashed interest in all things queer and simple. I am sad when people don’t seem to look beyond what is apparent to the naked eye and go back as ignorant as they were when they reached that place.
They might take a few pictures using the famous places as the background to impress friends but they lose a life time opportunity to rejoice in the local flavours and simple bounties of nature.
It is spring season in Shimla and the nature is at its best to shower surplus surprises to visitors. Buthow sad it is that so accustomed have we become to the surficial realities that anything beyond remains un-deciphered to us.
I found hordes of visitors to the famous Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) appreciating the historic monument. The flower beds smiling boldly with flowers of various hues, the verdant lawns, the walks around the terraced gardens! And they are not wrong as it is a scene worth watching.
Even I would do the same thing during my stay at the IIAS. So focused would I be on the top of the building that somehow my eyes would sadly miss some very fine gifts of nature that abound the vicinity of the Observatory Hill on top of which IIAS is situated.
Whichever way you select, you have to walk up to IIAS and to look around for wonders while walking up is a bonus point. I had this blissful insight one spring morning!
It was the rhododendron flowers, red and fresh, paving the way to IIAS that made me look at the wonder of nature. These flowers added a rare red hue to the metallic black charcoaled road as if soul was added to a body. I stood in a trance-like situation and admired the beauty lying scattered under my very feet.
For a moment I felt like a princess walking on a road strewn with flowers. Ah! What an adder it was to my ego. I felt and walked like a queen there after and somehow unconsciously was waiting for a bouquet of flowers coming my way!
And Lo and behold I could see a shy beautiful flower smiling at me from a nook in the stone wall that sided the road. I stood mesmerized watching how life can sustain even amidst the worst of circumstances. The nook held little mud in the cervices but that was enough to put life, shy and beautiful, in a seed.
I felt humble at the power of nature and looked down. The surprise of surprise awaited me—the various hues of flowers waited to be catching attention of lost onlookers and I was surprised to see violet banafsha flower peeping from the surface.
I remembered having collected handful of banafsha flowers during my childhood. We would bring back home small fistfuls of banafsha flowers as Amma used to say that the flower was used in concoction and was good for cold.
Instinctively I tried to reach out and pluck the flower but held my hand back and left it smiling shyly from behind the leaves so that it might fill some other trotter’s heart with joy as it had filled mine.
From behind the cracks in stones came out a amalgamation of ferns, flowers and various leaves, all unique and loving.
The Bittchhuputti plant still makes me shiver but the solace that antidote to it is nearby makes me assured of small wonders of nature where all things are balanced! It is a real surprise and a great lesson of life.
And the SaampkiButti with its red shining corn would make anyone run for a cover. As these plants are seen only at an altitude similar to or above Shimla’s and as these plants appear for a very short duration, they do deserve a second look. But sadly these creations of a lesser God don’t even get a much deserved first look.
When I reached IIAS, I found, as usual, groups of tourists admiring the well-kept green lawns and the flower beds and I rued remorsefully why human mind has been so conditioned as to look for readymade surprises instead of searching for surprises that nature so bountifully showers around us.
But then we are the cultured human beings capable for paying for retreats for our eyes and ears!
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/