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Himalaya

Day 34: Shimla

Michael Palin - Himalaya'Ghandi disliked it,' says Raaja. 'While everybody else came in rickshaws, two men pushing and two men pulling, Ghandi walked.'

Mountbatten, the man charged with giving India its independence, met the leaders of the Princely States here, reminding himself of who the most important ones were by using the mnemonic 'Hot kippers make good breakfast'. Hyderabad, Kashmir, Mysore, Gwalior and Baroda.

The fact that the monumental Vice-Regal Lodge still stands is hardly surprising. It would probably need some controlled nuclear device to take down these massive walls, but the fact that it is so well maintained, with gardeners sweeping immaculate lawns and carefully raking the gravel on the forecourt, says a lot about the attitude of the Indians after independence.

'There was no wholesale desecration of imperial buildings in Shimla,' says Raaja. 'Everything was left pretty much as it was.'

The Vice-Regal Lodge has been reborn as an Institute for South-East Asian Affairs. The Ballroom is now a library. Functional shelf stacks fill a floor that in its heyday had hundreds of dancers swirling across it, themed perhaps in Chinese or Regency fancy dress. Though chandeliers still hang from its ceiling, the spot where the orchestra played is now marked by a large sign that reads 'Silence'.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 34: Shimla
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Shimla
  • Book page no: 75

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