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....

28 February 2009


What a colour!
Say "red", and you have a kaleidoscope of mental images: warning, passion, anger, guilt, sin, joy, communism, sacrifice, courage, blushing and above all, love.

In Chinese culture, it stands for courage, loyalty, honor, success, fortune, fertility, happiness, passion, and summer. For the Japanese, red is a traditional color for a heroic figure. Indians, specifically Hindus associate it with heat and fertility, with wealth and beauty. Many Central African cultures see red as ambivalent, better than black, but not as good as white. Indeed, red bears a connection with death in many parts of Africa.

A chilli, a sunset, a poppy, a bonfire and some strawberries - all red, all from Shimla. Isn't it a great contrast to yesterday's post on hazy shades?

27 February 2009

Hazy shade of winter....

Most people seem to associate spring with colours. But winter has colours too. Beautiful ones at that. There are shades and shades of grey and white and lilac and blue. I find this season enticing and full of possibilities, much more than any other season. When young, I loved autumn, for autumn in Kashmir is a swirl of red, rust, persimmon, coral, flame-orange and taupe. Winter, buried under a cover of snow, was mostly white, white and white. Or maybe, I wasn't looking at it as I look at winter in Shimla.
Shimla's hazy shades of winter as Paul Simon would call them.

Time, time, time, see whats become of me

While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please
But look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hang on to your hopes, my friend
Thats an easy thing to say, but if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend
That you can build them again
Look around, the grass is high
The fields are ripe, its the springtime of my life

Ahhh, seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Wont you stop and remember me
At any convenient time
Funny how my memory slips while looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka and lime
But look around, leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Look around, leaves are brown
Theres a patch of snow on the ground...

(Paul Simon, 1966, Bookends)

25 February 2009

Of the visage of things.....

This post is for the anonymous reader who asked me about "Willow Banks" on 14th February 2009. I dug around a bit (admittedly, only casually) and was unable to come up with anything solid other than its year of construction (1871). I found no photographs of the older building, no facts.
To a lay visitor's mind, the term "heritage" has special meaning . It has come to indicate those properties which have been lovingly maintained and/or restored by their owners to their original glory. It tells us that these buildings are, at least in large part, the same as what they were when first constructed. It says to us, "come step in, and savour history".
The owners use the word "heritage" literally: as something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth or something that has been or may be inherited by legal descent or succession! Yes, in that sense, they are right. It is a heritage property! But it is a bit tough to believe your eyes when you read that building was constructed over 130 years , for it has little to show by way of its undoubtedly rich history. If anything, someone should be prosecuted for having so completely despoiled the original in order to create this concrete horror. Looking at it is sheer visual masochism. One can only wonder what the interiors are like....

This is the frontage:

This is a view of the side that leads up to the Mall:

I'm tempted to quote Whitman when he says:
"Of the visage of things - And of piercing through to the accepted hells beneath
Of ugliness - To me there is just as much in it as there is in beauty"!!!

Aren't these two aspects seen below far more fascinating?

My apologies, anonymous reader, that I could not be of much help to you.

P.S. An unsolicited suggestion. Take a look at Chapslee Palace, if only to contrast.....

24 February 2009

Because he is beyond any Oscar....

A song he wrote, certainly not his best, won a prize in an alien land, in a country where few speak his language and fewer yet would understand his idiom. He is beyond awards and rewards and accolades. To read his poetry is to love him, because his words resonate within you....
मुझको इक नज़्म का वादा है, मिलेगी मुझको
डूबती नब्जों में जब दर्द को नींद आने लगे
ज़र्द-सा चेहरा लिए चाँद उफक पर पहुँचे
दिन अभी पानी में हो, रात किनारे के करीब
अँधेरा, उजाला हो, ये रात दिन

जिस्म जब ख़त्म हो और रूह को जब सांस आये
मुझसे इक नज़्म का वादा है, मिलेगी मुझको....

A humble offering from an old fan, Gulzar-saab:

Road signs.

Road signs. What is not to love about them? Especially if you're an avid walker living in a walker-friendly town?
The white road sign below the blue one is a recent addition. Added by Himachal Tourism, I am fairly certain it's got the distances to Glen & Chadwick Falls grossly wrong!

The typical green-and-white signs. You see these all over town. The new ones have "No Smoking Zone" painted on them:

This sign leans drunkenly.

One of the older ones. They usedn't to be politically correct back then. So the signs were only in English. This one's a favourite:

23 February 2009

The statues of manifold famous dead.....

This post is for my friend KT, a Shimla-ite who now lives in Bangalore. She chides me for prettifying Shimla and says I must be fair to those who follow this blog by highlighting equally my town's ugly aspects. My only excuse for the way this blog presents Shimla is that when I love something - a place, an idea, a person, I tend to focus solely on its (their) best features. The bad parts come to me a long while afterwards... So, K, here's another perspective of your old home-town. A not-so-pretty one at that! Happy??

Okay, so here's my question: what is it with Shimla's love for statues? They are all over the place. They are painted in funny shades of copper, or a strangely military grey. The expressions on the faces of the statues does little credit to the originals.
I have a theory: Indians believe that nothing (no object or person) should be entirely perfect or beautiful. That privilege, one assumes, belongs only to God, or the Higher Spirit or the Man/Woman-Up-There. Thus, if person looks too comely, we apply a small black dot on their person, to ward off the evil eye. The statues whose photos you see below do that for Shimla! Can there be any other reason for so placing these monstrosities that no one can pass them without having to look at them?

Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, noncommittal, near the CTO.

A sanctimonious Dr. Y. S. Parmar, the first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh on the Ridge.

A masterful Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister, unamused by the hordes who throng the Ridge & Lakkar Bazaar daily.

A strangely muscular Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, looks down disapprovingly at the doings on the Ridge.

Lala Lajpat Rai, patriot who died fighting colonial rule at Scandal Point.

Babasaheb Ambedkar, the author of our Constitution at Chaura Maidan. His statue is a favourite resting place with local monkeys, as can be seen in the bottom right of the picture.

14 February 2009

Reaching out.....

Bridge: a structure built to span a gorge, valley, river, railroad track or any other physical obstacle, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle.

(Hohenzollern Bridge at Cologne.)

This is precisely what the poem by Herman Hesse did. It created a bridge between my friend IH, a German who lives in the UK, and me, an Indian who lives in India. A shared inexplicable heartache spans across age, distance and culture....

Just as every flower wilts and youth
yields to old age, so blossoms life at every stage
so flourishes each wisdom and each virtue
in its time, and cannot last forever.
The heart must be ready to depart
and recommence at each life's calling.
To give itself to new bonds
courageously and without mourning.
In each beginning lives a magic
that shields and helps us live.

Lightly moving room through room, we should
cling to nothing for refuge.
The cosmic spirit restrains us not
but stage through stage raises us, widens us.
Barely settled in a way of life,
feeling at home, and indolence threatens.
Only the one willing to pack and leave
can shrug off paralysing habits

Maybe even the hour of death
will send forth new realms,
the call of life will never end?
Go on, my heart, depart and heal.

Thank you, I.

11 February 2009

At last! At long last!

It snowed last night! Finally. This year, Shimla has had to wait for over two and a half months for its first snowfall. This has caused much anxiety to local residents as poor snowfall directly affects the availability of water to the town. Poor snowfall also has a bad impact on the apple orchards, since, by acting as a thermal insulator, snow protects crops from intense cold in the upper regions of Himachal Pradesh.

This is how Shimla looks this morning:

Photographs taken while sipping my morning cuppa:

I'm reminded of lines from James Russell Lowell's poem "The First Snow-Fall":
Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an Earl
And the poorest twig on the elm tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl

10 February 2009

Spreading the love.

My intention, when I started this blog, was to speak about Shimla. It was a simple, desultory thought: let me talk about my love for Shimla, show others the Shimla I see. Somewhere along the way, this blog took on a life of its own. Over the years and also while working on this blog, I visited other sites, and met some wonderful people.
I'd like to dedicate today's post to some of these wonderful people whose writing and/or photographs inspire me, offer me solace, galvanise my thinking, make me laugh and direct me to other perspectives which help to broaden my mental and sentient horizons.
  • Scribbler is one of the most creative people I have met in my entire life. More than that, she is a very intelligent and compassionate person with a wonderful sense of humour. Her writing reveals a very wise head on young shoulders. I am filled with awe whenever I read anything she writes, because it is usually deeply insightful.

  • Little Atoorva is my Alice in the bureaucratic wonderland. Her innocence, unspoilt by the nonsense that passes of as reality, constantly refreshes her readers. Her world is populated by beauty. By enchantment of thoughts, of ideas, of images.
  • Ann lives in the wonderful town of Sydney. Her meanderings in her town help me to explore a city which I have not visited so far, but would like to, now that I have seen it through her eyes!
  • I met Subrat in the course of work many, many years ago. I was (and still am) struck by his wisdom and his warmth. In today's world, where people have turned into emotional and professional cannibals, Subrat's remains a lone voice of sanity. Pity he doesn't write often enough.

  • Melanie is an old soul in Jimmy Choo shoes. Her posts on her life and loves are genial and deeply astute. She is very observant and has on more than one occasion, revealed great perspicacity about life's ticklish issues.

  • Mahanandi defies description. On the face of it, it's a food blog. Its author, Indira, shares recipes and photographs that would convert the most ardent anorexic into a foodie!What a great ambassador for Indian and Andhra food.

  • Dick Richards is my spiritual guru. I do not remember when or where or how I stumbled upon his writing. I sometimes feel as though I am the Eklavya to his Dronacharya! I keep going back to his words and finding new lessons in each thing he says. Wise, gentle and very, very humane. A great teacher.

Thank you, each one of you. You have made my life richer. Those of you reading this blog, please take some time to visit each one of these people in cyberspace and be prepared to be amazed.

7 February 2009


Today I'm going to break my self-imposed one post a day rule.... No special reason, except that I just feel like it!

''Hawaghar'' (हवाघर) literally translated from Hindi would mean ''a house of air'' or ''an airing house''. The Andamanese use this term to denote their local Met. Department office! In Shimla, we use this term for little structures that dot our town. These structures have been christened ''varsha shalika'' (वर्षा शालिका) or rain shelters by the local government. but no one uses the official term. Instead, the old one ''hawaghar'' still rules. These little structures are mighty handy in a town where almost everyone walks if they can help it. They not only act as shelters from the sun or the rain, but also as a resting place when you're out of breath or as you can see from the pictures below as a meeting point!

Other towns and cities would do well to emulate Shimla's example.

#1: the prettiest hawaghar, on the Ridge:

#2: the quaint hawaghar on the Mall:

#3: the little hawaghar near Oakover:

#4: the ugliest hawaghar in town, near the Chota Shimla crossing:

The sky’s the limit if you have a roof over your head.

The Khadi Gramodyog building. The frontage is somewhat ruined by the ghastly boards of Khadi and ''Honey Hut (partially hidden from view in this photo). Really quaint shapes and such funny colours! Still, Honey Hut's a good place to visit if you like vegetarian stuff (burgers, sandwiches, cookies) and honey-based products.

A nice combination of cream, beige and brown (with some assistance from Mother Nature!) seen on the Mall.

Saw this roof on the road which passes Viceregal Lodge and heads towards Boileauganj.

1 February 2009


''Susegad'' is a term Goans use for themselves. It is not just an adjective that identifies a laid-back , unhurried attitude to life. It is a civilisation. It is a whole way of life which demands that you relax, take your time, enjoy life, be happy. There has to be, after all, much more to life than speed and competition and the attendant greed it brings.

Shimla hasn't heard this word, but it lives it out. Shops open around ten a.m. and shut for lunch. They open again at three p.m. or so (depending on the owners' ability to rouse themselves from siesta) and shut in the evening at nine p.m.
Just look at the signs in the pictures. They tell you a lot about the Shimla businessman. Maybe the Ramalinga Rajus of the world need to take a leaf out of his book?

Even the newer and swankier establishments are not immune to the afternoon break!

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