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Himalaya

Day 34: Shimla

Shimla, India 
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One of the ubiquitous monkeys of Shimla on his way to loosen another roof tile.
Michael Palin - HimalayaAn index board showing where books can be located still uses vice-regal descriptions like State Lounge and Fan Room. Social Sciences can be found in the Ballroom, the Tibetan Collection in the Pantry, and copies of The Muslim World and American Scientist sit side by side in the Dining Hall.

Modesty and earnestness has replaced display and grandeur. Entertainment has given way to enlightenment. This bastion of British certainty has become a place of enquiry, curiosity and debate. Three very Indian preoccupations.

The imposing site on which Shimla is built can best be seen from the Ridge, a long, thin, open area that stands at the narrowest point of the bluff. It's a watershed, with rivers on one side running east to the Bay of Bengal, and on the other, west into the Arabian Sea.

This afternoon it's thronged with holiday strollers eating pizza and ice cream. Though the milling tourists are almost entirely Indian, the centre of the town still lives up to its description as 'a little bit of Cheltenham in India'. Statues of Mahatma and Indira Ghandi are overshadowed by the tall Gothic Revival tower of Christ Church dominating one end of the Ridge, looking yellow, blotchy and feverish with plants pushing up out of holes in its red, corrugated-iron roof. A little way down the hill is the Arts and Crafts Style Town Hall, about the only building in town with a slate roof (Raaja tells me that corrugated iron is preferred because monkeys pull the tiles out).
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 34: Shimla
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Shimla
  • Book page no: 76

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  • Around the World in 80 Days
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  • Pole to Pole

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