||The Ridge, Shimla
The Ridge road is a large
open space, located in the heart of Shimla, the capital city of Himachal
Pradesh, India. It runs east to west alongside the Mall Road, and joins
it at the Scandal point on the west side. On the east side, the Ridge road
leads to Lakkar Bazaar, a wooden crafts market. The Ridge houses a large
water reservoir which acts as the main supply of Shimla town.
The Ridge road is also
the venue for Summer festival, government functions and local celebrations
during the New Year's Eve. Prominent landmarks on the Ridge are a neo-Gothic
structure of Church from 1844 and a tudorbethan styled library building
built in 1910. There are at least three statues on the ridge; that of
Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, and Dr. Y.S. Parmar, the first chief minister
of Himachal Pradesh.
Proud capital of a proud
state, Shimla finds it hard to wear an official look, filled, as it is,
with holiday crowds that come to savour the delights of this year-round
vacation spot. Covering an area of 18 sq km (7 sq miles) at an altitude
of 2,206 metres (7,238 ft), with gurgling brooks, solemn forests of deodar
and towering pine and green meads of asphodel, hyacinth and celandine,
Shimla retains still, the glories of its perennial splendour.
The biggest hillstation
of the world, at one time the base ridge of Shimla had the thickest forest
of the area, now the green slopes are covered with firs, pines, the Himalayan
oak and carmine rhododendron trees, among which are dotted red-roofed chalets,
half-timbered houses and Gothic Government buildings.
The vast, levelled ground
at the ridge, the famous evening rendezvous spot-the Scandal point, where
people still gather to air
or hear the latest gossip,
be it political or otherwise, got its name over 50 years ago. It was at
this very spot that the beautiful young daughter of a top British official,
member of the Viceroy's household, eloped with a dashing young Indian prince.
They were both fond of riding and one fine morning, after meeting at this
predetermined spot, went off for, what Robert Browning might have called,
"The Last Ride Together". After the lapse of a few days, the girl was talked
into returning to her chagrined parents and the prince was forbidden the
It was said that no girl
could resist his equestrain charms. Of course the 'prima donnas' of British
society were shocked at the scandal which died down after many years, but
the story of their escapade will live on immortalised by concrete, stone
and the fragrant air of the pines.
North of Chandigarh, approached
from Kalka, a broadgauge terminus, by a toy train, or hill railway, using
diesel engines, Shimla is 96 km (60 miles) away. The train passes through
105 tunnels and beautiful rail-road stations built to look like Swiss chalets
nestling in the hills. It is also connected by an all-weather metalled
road which goes up for 90 km (56 miles) winding its way through a succession
of hairpin bends till it reaches the Cart Road terminus. Half way through
the journey, after Solan, the lights of Shimla glow in the distance, looking
like glimmering jewels studding the dark green of the mountains. The train
which takes six hours, twice as long as the car, is much more romantic;
the holiday begins at Kalka as the train chugs its way through hills, clothed
with forests of chir pines; apricot and walnut and fields producing corn,
paddy and the famous Shimla green peppers, or capsicum, while the crisp,
clear fragrant air instantly revives dropping spirits crushed by the wilting
heat. At every stop on the journey are smilling faces giving a warm welcome.