In the old world Shimla used to be Simla; A beautiful hill station with a tiny population, leisurely walks, the Mall Road, quietness and a scent in the air that comes from pristine pines that were to be found everywhere. You could enjoy four seasons and it would be a white christmas.
If you wanted to a moment of solitude, this is where you would come. Sometimes a doctor would recommend that a few months in Shimla is what it takes to get your lungs and heart in order.
Not any more.
The tourist boom that happend with the advent of terrorism in Kashmir meant people started flocking to Shimla instead of heading to Gulmarg and Pahalgam . In the years that followed saw the death of the erstwhile capital of the British Raj and undisputed queen of the hills. Un-planned construction, hotels everywhere with no taste or class, millions of tourists, traffic, fumes and chaos that comes when we Indians arrive in masses.
So today when people complain about Shimla, I can understand. Born and brought up here I have seen all of this decay up close and personal. Its just too much of everything- too many people, too much money, too many cars and just too much of things that takes the soul out of a great city.
My only refuge now are the midnights in Shimla
It is during the midnights in Shimla that this city transforms itself to its former glory. Take a walk along the Mall road in either direction- towards Cecil or towards Circuit house and you will see your self doing time travel to a era that is bygone.
So one of these nights armed with my faithful Blackberry Curve tiny megapixel camera I slipped silently in to the light of the night to witness Shimla in all its former glory. It was magical.There was church standing with aplomb, Gandhi Je and the old wild chestnut tree having a conversation, the library, the Gaiety theater, Town hall all shrouded in a blanket of mist.
This is the Shimla I grew up in.
So next time you are here. Leave your hotel room by 10pm, grab a light pull over and a torch and indulge in some time travel.