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....

31 December 2008

Reflections nn the threshold of a new year....

There is a kingdom of the spirit’s ease.
It is not in this helpless swirl of thought,
Foam from the world-sea or spray-whisper caught,
With which we build mind’s shifting symmetries,
Nor in life’s stuff of passionate unease,
Nor the heart’s unsure emotions frailty wrought
Nor trivial clipped sense-joys soon brought to nought
Nor in this body’s solid transiences.

Wider behind than the vast universe
Our spirit scans the drama and the stir,
A peace, a light, an ecstasy, a power
Waiting at the end of blindness and the curse
That veils it from its ignorant minister,
The grandeur of its free eternal hour.

- Sri Aurobindo -

28 December 2008


There is an unalloyed joy in discovering the name of a plant you saw & went bonkers over! This morning, I understood for the first time what Archimedes would have felt on discovering the principle of buoyancy!

Calceolaria, also known as ''pocketbook plant'' and ''lady's purse'' is a quaint little plant. It is shaped like a little purse and, in S's home, was found in two colours: a very vivid yellow, speckled with red and a bright red. It is soft-stemmed and about 6 inches in height. FV's vade mecum says it is a native of Chile and Peru and can grow up to 3 feet in height. My vade mecum says the plant is a native of Mexico and identifies the Himalayan species as calceolaria gracilis.

Extreme close-up:

26 December 2008

Chimneys redux.

This chimney can be seen at the top of the Gorton Castle:

This white pair stands atop Oak Lodge, which is a little below Vidhan Sabha, the state legislature building:

This beauty graces the roof of Yarrows:

20 December 2008

The chimney of the tossing dream....

A chimney is a structure for venting hot flue smoke from a stove or fireplace to the outside atmosphere. Shimla has a few funny-shaped ones. mostly relics of the Colonial era, because houses here no longer have fireplaces or open stoves. Such a pity, considering that they add a je ne sais quoi to our skyline.

Although it has a slightly grim end, I've always liked this poem "Loud and Low in the Chimney" by Robert Louis Stevenson:-

Loud and low in the chimney
The squalls suspire;
Then like an answer dwindles
And glows the fire
and the chamber reddens and darkens
In time like taken breath.
Near by the sounding chimney
The youth apart
Hearkens with changing colour
And leaping heart,
And hears in the coil of the tempest
The voice of love and death.
Love on high in the flute-like
And tender notes
Sounds as from April meadows
And hillside cotes;
But the deep wood wind in the chimney
Utters the slogan of death.

14 December 2008


[kawr-uh-ler-ee, kor-; especially Brit., kuh-rol-uh-ree]
  1. A proposition that follows with little or no proof required from one already proven.
  2. A deduction or an inference.
  3. A natural consequence or effect; a result.
[Middle English corolarie, from Latin corōllārium, money paid for a garland, gratuity, from corōlla, small garland]



13 December 2008

A Saturday Ramble.

The blunder is estimate -
“Eternity is Then,”
We say, as of a station.
Meanwhile he is so near,
He joins me in my ramble,
Divides abode with me,
No friend have I that so persists
As this Eternity....

12 December 2008


No paeans. No praise. No panegyrics. No homage. No hurrahs. Just two poems....

बे यारो मददगार ही काटा था सारा दिन
कुछ ख़ुद से अजनबी-सा, कुछ तनहा उदास सा
साहिल पे दिन बुझा के मैं लौटा था फिर वहीँ
सुनसान सी सड़क के इस खाली मकान में

दरवाजा खोलते ही मेज़ पर किताब ने
हलके से फडफडा के कहा -
''देर कर दी, दोस्त!''


रिश्ते बस रिश्ते होते हैं
कुछ एक पल के
कुछ दो पल के

कुछ परों से हलके होते हैं
बरसों के तले चलते चलते
भारी भरकम हो जाते

कुछ भारी भरकम बर्फ के से
बरसों के तले गलते गलते
हलके फुल्के हो जाते हैं

नाम होते हैं कुछ रिश्तों के
कुछ रिश्ते नाम के होते हैं
रिश्ता अगर वो मर जाए भी
बस नाम से जीना होता है.....

9 December 2008

And yet more roofs.

I have decided to stop being apologetic about my love of Shimla's rooftops. They exist, they are varied and I love each and every one of them. For good measure, I have placed an old, old favourite, sung by Carole King. The title? Of course, "Up On The Roof"!

The roof and frontage of Himachal Emporium is rather interesting, even if defaced by the ghastly board advertising the name of that worthy entity.

I was walking past Chaura Maidan yesterday, when I happened to look up and noticed this rooftop. I stared. I squinted. I rubbed my eyes. Couldn't believe what I was seeing. Was that an urn placed in a shelf??? I zoomed in on the object. Yes! It was an urn with some pretty blue design on it. And now, looking at the photograph, I cannot but help marvel at the sheer blueness of the sky....

(See image below).

The questions that now plague me day and night: Who put it there? Does it contain anything? How does it stay up? Is it glued in place? If not, then what if there's a strong gust of wind? Will it blow off and fall on Praveen who sells me my daily bread? (I sincerely hope not).

This wonderful rooftop is a part of the Railway Board Building. Isn't the contrast of the red with the blue of the sky behind simply lovely?

En fin, the roof of the Himachal Tourism Corporation's office on Scandal Point. Interesting, in its own little way. I clearly belong to the wrong era. I should have been born in the era when government buildings were constructed aesthetically in our country. Alas.

And now, the promised ditty...
When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I’ll climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space

On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below don’t bother me, no, no

So when I come home feeling tired and beat
I’ll go up where the air is fresh and sweet
I’ll get far away from the hustling crowd
And all the rat-race noise down in the street

On the roof, that’s the only place I know
Look at the city, baby
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on the roof

And at night the stars they put on a show for free
And, darling, you can share it all with me
That’s what I said
Keep on telling you

That right smack dab in the middle of town
I found a paradise that’s troubleproof
And if this old world starts a getting you down
There’s room enough for two
Up on the roof...

8 December 2008


Not so long ago, a friend and I were discussing the joys of blogging, when, unexpectedly, this friend turned on me and accused me of making my blog on Shimla ''isolationist''. He said that I had, with the exception of perhaps one picture and one post, never really shown what was - to him - the most interesting aspect of Shimla: its people.
I am not certain that this was not a conscious decision on my part to exclude the wonderful denizens of my adopted home-town. A large part of my Shimla experience has been defined by the people who inhabit it - their warmth, their lack of prejudice in welcoming a relative stranger to their midst and the simplicity which marks the human interface here, has added a richness to my life which my other adopted home-town Bombay could never do.
That said, I must also rush to add that I have a natural aversion for the ''human zoo'' approach: of photography which becomes a sort of "'ethnological exposition'' emphasising their difference from all other human beings due to a difference in race, or clothing or culture or something like that.
It was this dilemma that has stopped me from taking and posting photographs of people in Shimla, and nothing else.
My ideas on this are still in a state of flux. Let us see if this quandary will find resolution.
Children are a fascinating species. Observing them is a thoroughly enjoyable activity, principally because they haven't yet learned to wear masks or haven't yet developed facades or pretensions which will 'protect' them from the world. For me, the greatest quality of childhood is the sense of wonder with which it looks at everything around. dewdrops are miracles, butterflies are adventures to be chased, flowers are to be smelled and left behind in a jiffy...
So, placed below are two pictures I took recently. I hope they will speak to you as they did to me. I would love to hear your reactions....

5 December 2008

Jorge Luis Borges

The sight of these umbrellas in S's house reminded me, inexplicably, of the poem ''Instants'' By Borges. Could be because of obvious association of brollies with security, protection, and therefore, caution!
Anyhow, this poem contains a cautionary tale for all of us....

If I could live again my life,
In the next - I'll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect,
I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full - than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygenic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places - I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I'll have more real problems - and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives -
each minute of his life,
Of course that I had moments of joy - but,
if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

If you don't know - thats what life is made of,
Don't lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,

If I could live again - I will travel light,
If I could live again - I'll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live - but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying ...

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