Maggie and I returned home yesterday after a brief journey in Shimla and nearby places of tourist interest. A full day has passed after the visit and I am not able to write anything worthwhile about the visit. It was not at all inspiring in any way. Except for the mountains and their natural beauty. But nature alone cannot satisfy any tourist. The people matter.
|Child in Chail|
And here is one person who caught our interest. Our driver had stopped the car on the way back from Chail to Shimla in his own village market to talk to his people. Maggie and I continued to sit in the car. We saw this little girl sitting all alone on the veranda of a nearly-dilapidated building. She was eating a tiny piece of watermelon. Maggie called her and smiled at her. She didn’t care two hoots for smiles. In fact, she looked more indifferent than scared. Maggie went out of the car and approached her. She asked some questions and eventually managed to extract a smile from the child.
|Hanuman lords over the Mall Road in Shimla|
The child remains my metaphor for the whole of Himachal Pradesh I managed to see in two days. The place extracts much from tourists. The people don’t give anything in return except what you pay for. The mountains give. The mountains give their natural beauty. The rest is business. Religion plays a great role in that business. Hanuman rules the roost – standing humongous atop a peak, amid the vast jungle. The entire people of Himachal Pradesh (that I saw) seem to think that tourists are silly devotees.
Every mountain has a number of temples dedicated to various deities. Every temple has a priest waiting to force some prasad on you in return for some monetary offering, of course.
Our driver was like any of those priests. As we were driving around in Chail he told us that the Kali ka Tibba on a peak was not listed in our package but he could take us there for an additional Rs500. I told him to skip it since a religious place was not worth that much for me. Moreover, I was sick of seeing so many religious places already. Then he stopped the car at a particular bend on the road and said, “Sir, look at that.”
“What’s it?” I asked. “Kali ka Tibba,”
he said. It looked grand against the
shimmering light of the late afternoon sun.
But it didn’t fascinate me enough.
Then I noticed that it was one of the tallest peaks in the area. The view around from there would be
majestic. I must have said that loud
because the driver echoed my thought: “You won’t forget the view from there,
sir.” The distance from the main road to
that peak was a mere 8 km. “Why don’t
the tour operators include this place in the itinerary; the place is easily
accessible?” I asked the driver as we
were driving down the peak. “The place is private, you know,” I could
easily see that he was bluffing just as he had earlier bluffed about the relative
inaccessibility of the place. “It’s a
temple built by our village people and only a few drivers know about the place ...” I knew he was lying throughout. I had already noticed the inscriptions on the
temple’s walls which said that certain commercial enterprises had erected each
part of the temple.
|A view from Kali ka Tibba|
See closer shots of that building below
I decided to cut short my visit to Himachal Pradesh by one day and spend the saved day in Chandigarh, the heat in the plains notwithstanding.
I hope tomorrow will inspire me better to write about the rest of my visit to Himachal Pradesh.
|Who stays in such a place?|
|Maybe, a new god is waiting to incarnate to occupy a new temple, a new tourist attraction!|
There seems to be a lot of sankat to be relieved all over Himachal Pradesh. In the picture above you see only a fraction of what you will actually see in the vicinity of any temple in the state.