Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

25 February 2008

Edgar Lee Masters

I saw this machine lying abandoned (in fact, it's been lying on the same spot for at least a year now...) and was reminded of Masters' poem "Abel Melveny" from the Spoon River anthology:

I bought every kind of machine that’s known—
Grinders, shellers, planters, mowers,
Mills and rakes and ploughs and threshers—
And all of them stood in the rain and sun,
Getting rusted, warped and battered,
For I had no sheds to store them in,
And no use for most of them.
And toward the last, when I thought it over,
There by my window, growing clearer
About myself, as my pulse slowed down,
And looked at one of the mills I bought—
Which I didn’t have the slightest need of,
As things turned out, and I never ran—
A fine machine, once brightly varnished,
And eager to do its work,
Now with its paint washed off—
I saw myself as a good machine
That Life had never used.

A special prize for anyone who guesses what this forlorn little machine is(was) meant to do?

24 February 2008

There's something about post offices!

I wrote about one of my favourites on this blog in March last year. Here's a picture of another, my all-time, no. 1 favourite, located on Chaura Maidan:

In honour of post offices, bearers as they are of my favourite form of communication - letters - here are some Urdu couplets I've read and liked over the years....
Qaasid ke aate aate Khat ik aur likh rakhuu.n
mai.n jaanataa huu.n jo vo likhe.nge jawaab me.n

(Alok, remember this one?)

Gair phirataa hai liye yuu.N tere Khat ko ki agar
ko_ii puuchhe ki ye kyaa hai to chhupaa_e na bane

And no post on letters can be complete without a sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!
And yet they seem alive and quivering
Against my tremulous hands which lose the string
And let them drop down on my knee to-night.
This said,—he wished to have me in his sight
Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring
To come and touch my hand … a simple thing,
Yet I wept for it!—this, … the paper’s light …
Said, Dear, I love thee; and I sank and quailed
As if God’s future thundered on my past.
This said, I am thine—and so its ink has paled
With lying at my heart that beat too fast.
And this … O Love, thy words have ill availed
If, what this said, I dared repeat at last!

An inescapable part of the Shimla scene:

Only you won't always find them in such supine poses!

Kipling wrote about them in the Civil and Military Gazette (May 1885): "The hillside is alive with their clamour, and presently they assemble in force on the lawn tennis court; despatching a deputation to warn me that the babies are tired and want fruit. It is impossible to explain to the deputation, that the sayings and doings of their descendants are much more important than theirs".

Don't get me wrong. I'm an animal-lover to the manner born. But I draw the line on our simian friends in Shimla. They're a menace. The walk to Jakhoo Hill used to be fun once upon a time, but now, the thought of being frisked by a monkey is a bit much! You cannot go food-shopping on the Mall without running the risk of having your bags snatched by a horde of monkeys. Walking to the Viceregal Lodge is an exercise in risking rabies, should, God forbid, a monkey scratch or bite you.

And I'm not the only one concerned. The 90-odd kilometre highway from Kalka to Shimla is dotted with hoardings put by the state government asking tourists not to feed the monkeys. If that is not all, even the Prime Minister has been briefed about this issue! The Chief minister has demanded that an amount of Rs. 1.5 crores be granted to his government to deal with the monkeys.

23 February 2008

A lazy Saturday morning,

a cup of coffee in a favourite cafe, a favourite poet for company. Who knows where my thoughts might lead me....

This poem by Sahir Ludhianvi is dedicated to a friend who asked me about it only yesterday:

Taaj tere liye ik mazahar-e-ulfat hii sahii
tum ko is vaadii-e-rangii.n se aqiidat hii sahii
mere mahabuub kahii.n aur milaa kar mujh se!

Bazm-e-shaahii me.n Gariibo.n kaa guzar kyaa maanii

sabt jis raah pe ho.n satavat-e-shaahii ke nishaa.N
us pe ulfat bharii ruuho.n kaa safar kyaa maanii
merii mahabuub pas-e-pardaa-e-tashhiir-e-vafaa

Tu ne satavat ke nishaano.n ko to dekhaa hotaa
murdaa shaaho.n ke maqaabir se bahalevaalii
apane taariik makaano.n ko to dekhaa hotaa

anaginat logo.n ne duniyaa me.n muhabbat kii hai
kaun kahataa hai ki saadiq na the jazbe un ke
lekin un ke liye tashhiir kaa saamaan nahii.n
kyuu.N ke vo log bhii apanii hii tarah mufalis the

ye imaaraat-o-maqaabir ye fasiile.n, ye hisaar
mutal-qulhukm shahanashaaho.n kii azamat ke sutuu.N
daaman-e-dahar pe us rang kii gulakaarii hai jis me.n s
shaamil hai tere aur mere ajadaad kaa Khuu.N

merii mahabuub! u.nhe.n bhii to muhabbat hogii
jinakii sannaa_ii ne baKhshii hai ise shakl-e-jamiil
un ke pyaaro.n ke maqaabir rahe benaam-o-namuud
aaj tak un pe jalaa_ii na kisii ne qa.ndiil

ye chamanazaar ye jamunaa kaa kinaaraa ye mahal
ye munaqqash dar-o-diivaar, ye maharaab ye taaq
ik shahanashaah ne daulat kaa sahaaraa le kar
ham Gariibo.n kii muhabbat kaa u.Daayaa hai mazaak

meri mahabuub kahii.n aur milaa kar mujhase!

S, if you're reading this, remind me to translate it for you!

21 February 2008


Snow folds our neighbourhood in a silence deep and white.

Every cedar, every pine, every fir tree wears a soft downy cloak of silver. The fences are laden with snowy pearls. As flurries of snow rush to the earth, it is a silent business. Snowflake after snowflake: some hover, some hurtle, some drop swiftly, some settle in slowly. They zig-zag. They whirl. They dance.

As, myriads by myriads madly chased,
They fling themselves from their shadowy height.
The fair, frail creatures of middle sky,
What speed they make, with their grave so nigh;
Flake after flake......

They transform the world. Old familiar sights take on strange shapes: garden fences, brush-piles and electric poles look like strange domes and towers. A flower-pot looks like an ice-cream cone. A clothes-stand becomes a sheeted ghost.
Our tiny sphere is traced with nature's geometric lines.

10 February 2008

Some architectural structures in Shimla

Some well-known. Sone unknown. All attractive.

The Municipal Library:
The spire of Christ Chruch:
A building that extends out of Cecil Hotel: note the windows.

The front face of the Viceregal Lodge:

Street food in Shimla

Mehru's. Eat here & you'll have to diet for a week afterward! My favourites? Hot patties made of boiled potato with a sweet & sour filling of some sort of spices, cashewnuts & raisins, deep-friend in ghee. Also, hot jalebies, deep fried in ghee. Sinful and scrumptious. Sweet milk, thickened to a perfection, laden with cream, pistachios and cashewnuts: a magical amalgam of flavours and textures; liquid & solid, crunchy and viscous at the same time.

Mmmm. Hot corn on the cob, roasted on coal. A slightly smoky flavour enhanced by a squeeze of lemon & a dash of salt & red chilli powder. A bite of paradise for only ten rupees.

Some vital statistics!

For the benefit of those who do not know Hindi:
Distance of various places from Kaza (in kilometres):
Poh: 37
Tabo: 47
Sumdo: 74
Pooh (Kinnaur): 130.
Rampur: 285
Shimla (via Rampur): 412
Jogindernagar (via Shimla): 618
Kibber: 20
Lossar: 50
Kunzum La: 76
Rohtang La: 150
Manali: 201
Kullu: 242
Keylong (via (Koksar): 187


Magical, mystical Chandrataal. Enchanting. Breath-taking. Giver of epiphanies. Depriver of adjectives. You-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it Chandrataal.

At Lossar, through Kunzum La, I crossed over from Spiti to Lahaul. The destination was Chandrataal. The walk is not long, but is alluring in terms of sights & the crispness of the Himalayan air refreshes not just the lungs, but also the soul. It is not possible to have walked on this route and not have run out of adjectives!!

Given its supply of crystal-clear, sweet water & lush grass, this area is rather a favourite with shepherds. Seen below, some interesting strcutres by the lake-side. Wonder what these were....

Legend has it that fairies can be seen dancing on the surface of the lake on full moon nights. But alas, a freezing midnight vigil did not yield any success!


Lcated at a height of 14,200 feet from sea level, Kibber is alternately touted as the highest village in the world & in Asia. Whatever may be the truth, this little place was interesting. For one thing, there must be less than 100 households here (a rarity in India, surely?). For another, there were fields upon lush green, marking a strange contrast to the aridity of the mountains in the background.

Here is an interesting group of objects seen outside the otherwise unremarkable gompa at Kibber:

The view from Kyi

is, in a word, breath-taking (but those are two words, right?!)

And, so, to Kibber.

Kyi gompa

You have to travel all of 12 kilometres to the north of Kaza by bus to reach Kyi. Looking at the gompa from a distance, I felt a sense of deja vu: it reminded me forcefully of the Thiksey gompa that I'd seen in Ladakh some 20-odd years ago.
This monastery, the largest in the region I'm told, has much to fascinate the visitor. Little winding stairways that seem to criss-cross each other. Tiny doorways lead into dark-lit prayer chambers that seem to spring out of nowhere. There's a large-ish kitchen where you find all manners of kitachen implements and two friendly lamas who brew hot buttered tea constantly.

While the presence large brass plates & the funny-shaped ladles made sense, I wonder what that pair of binoculars was doing in the kitchen! Maybe the lamas on cooking duty use them to spot stragglers?!

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