Summer in Shimla

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When we visited Shimla, we did so with the optimistic and desperate hope of escaping the intense summer which was unleashing its wrath on the whole country. But when we arrived, I realized that Indian summer is an affliction few can be spared of; scorching even our beloved hills. The drive from Patiala to Shimla was hardly the breezy affair we expected it to be and we entered the hill station glistening with sweat.  The air was far from crisp as the sun danced openly on the compact, tapering streets. The throng of tourists strolled languidly with a slightly palpable disappointment of having to abandon their sweaters. The charming little cottages, neatly arranged into pyramids appeared as if they were simmering away in the juices of the hills they were perched atop.

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But the hills turned out to be nothing short of a consummate showman and every bit of a charmer. Whenever I visit Himachal Pradesh, on more occasions that one, I find myself thinking about Ruskin Bond. It was through his eyes that I took my first trip to the hills and truly appreciated nature. No matter when I read his works, it almost sickens me with an inexplicable longing and grips me with a raging urge to rush to the mountains and simply gaze at them. This time too, I could not take my eyes off of the magnificent hills before me which were awash in golden hues. Mountains have a strange quality to them; they are as much a symbol of might as they are purveyors of beauty – a perfect blend of menace and magic cloaked in enigma. Once you have seen them, you are forever in the grip of their echos. Their sight never leaves you, haunts you in the most enthralling of fashion. They hold the sweet comfort that everything is pure; the very epitome of clarity.

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Shimla is a busy tourist spot, especially during summer when people from all over India come here seeking an escape; an escape from their routines, an escape from the heat, an escape from the world in general. The whole town crawls with humanity; eating ice cream or steaming momos, taking pictures, shopping for nick knacks or just taking in the sights. Despite the constant deluge, Shimla manages to retain its quaintness and continues to be a window into a simpler, unhurried pace of life.

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This church is located on a slope in the heart of the town. Colloquially called as the Shimla Church, it was built by the British in 1857, when Shimla served as the summer getaway of British officials. It has survived many upheavals and still stands and elegantly watches over the bustle of visitors as they lose themselves to the trance of the hills.

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Himachal Pradesh is one of those enchanting states where arriving at a destination seems inconsequential. One can just drive along the hypnotic, curvaceous roads for weeks and be thoroughly content. It has the majestic Himalayas to boast of but what is most striking is its mystical aura of utter simplicity. The hills are unflinchingly seductive, be it in their endless allure or their promise of tranquility. Most of all, they seduce with their silent vow to never leave your memory, to come to you whenever you need a balmy reminder that there is beauty in this world.

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Nepal Quake

Nature is the greatest equalizer. Every accomplishment, every virtue, every vice becomes inconsequential when it strikes. All that is left are hapless men and women, scampering to protect themselves from the cruelty they did not know was simmering underneath their feet. No one deserves to watch their city reduce to ruins. No one should have to dig up their family from the rubble that was once their home. It is the most terrifying thought, isn’t it? Someone going by his day as usual, acutely unaware of the fact that his life’s work will be gathering dust in the next few minutes. How does one overcome this kind of utter, thorough loss?

Our neighbor, Nepal fell prey to a horrible destiny last week and I am still grappling with the magnitude of devastation in that beautiful country.India is no stranger to natural disasters by any means. She has endured her fair share of loss of humanity. But there is something about this earthquake that refuses to leave my thoughts. A few hours after the news of the quake reached, it struck me that I had a school friend living in Kathmandu. I hadn’t seen her in over a decade but the thought of someone I knew trapped under a collapsed building filled me with unimaginable dread. Thankfully, I later learned that she is now safe and back with her family and I couldn’t be happier. Sadly thousands of others were not as fortunate. Earthquakes frighten me the most, mostly because they strike without any warning and take everything with them. Everything vanishes; exposes the stark vulnerability of human life.

When I was younger, I experienced a few earthquakes, although of low intensity. Even at that age, the panic it created shocked me. I could not believe that everything I was and knew could end so unceremoniously. Growing up on Bollywood movies perhaps gave me unreal expectations that life was a like a theatrical production which would never be deprived of a proper climax. Well, now I know that is not and it is quite unfair, isn’t it?

I am very proud of the relief efforts carried out by our government in Nepal. They are not alone in this time of need and India does stand with them. I request everyone to donate to the relief efforts in any way they can. Nepal is staring at a onerous task of rebuilding the nation and they deserve every help.they can get. I really hope the wonderful Nepalis get back on their feet soon and show that there is nothing that can suppress human will.