ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Paradise Lost

The capital of Himachal Pradesh, once the summer retreat of the British Raj, has been transformed from the historical, colonial “Simla” to the contemporary, urbanised “Shimla.”

What was once a Himalayan township of magnificently regal government buildings and English-style cottages set in forested open spaces has mushroomed into a gigantic swath of hideous, concrete, multi-rise commercial buildings. As our chauffeur negotiates the hairpin curves, I see to my left rocky mountains and valleys hundreds of feet below, while to my right teeny-weeny hutments cling to the slopes. Ironically, Coldplay’s much-loved track “Paradise” plays in the background, as I gaze at the horizon where the mighty Himalayas stand like equilateral triangles, row behind row of snow-capped peaks.

Once the summer capital of the Raj, Simla is where the British civil service and military brass exchanged the sweltering heat and dust of the plains for the cool, breezy, wooded slopes. Spread across seven hills in the North-west Himalayas among verdant valleys and forests of oak, rhododendron and pine, today the erstwhile summer retreat of colonial India is an affordable holiday destination for the average Indian middle-class family who roams the Mall Road in scorching summer and toboggans down the snowy slopes of Kufri and Mashoobra in chilly winter.

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