Sunni is a little taluka place about 45 kilometres from Shimla. Plenty of people visit Tattapani, but few seem to stop at Sunni which is home to a lovely architectural gem, home to R, her husband M, their cute little puppy, Naughty and her venerable father-in-law, the old Tikka-saheb.
The drive from Shimla winds past Mashobra, Baldian, Badmain and Basantpur. A river runs through it all. Now you see it. Now you don't. Mountains form boundaries of sorts. In big-brotherly fashion, Shali, the tallest of them all, towers above the rest. The road which once tried your nerves as well your bones is today almost as smooth as Hema Malini's botoxed cheeks.
Take the hairpin bend where the road says Basantpur/Tattapani, and you're on your way to Sunni. The first thing you notice is the perceptibly higher temperature. R & M like to frighten potential visitors by talking of the horrendous temperatures. For sure, Sunni is not Shimla. (And thank God for that!). It is warmer than Shimla, but not as warm as, say, Delhi, or Agra!
A walk around the town reveals a multitude of temples, almost an embarrassment of religious riches, so to speak! The visitor sees godmen of various hues and persuasions. One or two look quite dubious, given to the ways, alike, of man and mammon.
Turn another hairpin bend. Puff your way up a little slope. If you stop to wipe your brow and happen to look up, you may see this little "palace". The residents shrug in acceptance of breathless praise. Perhaps, for them familiarity has bred contempt. But to the first-time visitor, the Bhajji palace is a breath-taking sight. On an empty stomach, it has reminded me of rich, scrumptious black forest pastry! But on a serious note, I drink every quaint little detail and never tire of this droll building which, though well-embellished, is not so rococo as to sate the eye.
I lack the knowledge to comment in an informed fashion about the architectural details of the palace. Suffice it to say that I find its combination of mud, plaster and wood ideal for the local weather.
The wood has aged well: you see a range of colours: terracotta, russet, tawny, auburn, chestnut, hazel, fawn and puce.
The setting sun bounces off the palace windows. But Naughty the little puppy pelts around the house, creating waves of energy that don't let you settle to some melancholic and sombre associations. This is a building where you rest your oars and humour an unusually meditative mood.