A Tour of Shimla

سیر شملہ Translated by: Asiya Alam . Original language: Urdu
Shimla, India
1914

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Rafat Jahan

India
N.D.

Part I:

Today I give the descriptions of Shimla for the benefit of our sisters, who intend to come over here. We are for ten days. We took the train on Tuesday, 22 September in Bhopal. at 8’am in the morning and arrived in Kalka at 5 am the following day where the train for Shimla was ready to depart. We took that train and on our way were with several British ‘mems’ and while we were still busy in conversation, our journey ended. The train climbs on the hills like a snake. There are several tunnels through which the train passes, some long and some not no long. When the train takes a long time in the tunnels, the light is turned on in all the coaches. The light is turned off as soon as it comes out of the tunnel. There are several stations at short distances. Some stations are fully decorated with flowers; there is only one from Kalka to Shimla but at the station, the railway tracks are double so that while one train is standing, the other could pass through. The coaches are small in size with only two seats and the space for the luggage above. There is no permission for big luggage; you can take only small luggage. The big luggage and boxes are kept in the brake coach. The luggage is weighted and the seat is too small for three persons to sit comfortably. There is hardly any question of lying but luckily in these trains, one doesn’t have to travel for more than six hours. You get tea at Dharmpur station at 7’am in the morning and at nine, you get the day’s food fresh from the hotel. The train stops here for half an hour. My brother had his lunch at the hotel itself. But my mother and I remained with my father. The price of the food is one rupee and twelve anna for one person. There comes then a person from the hotel so that one is not in haste to empty the plates. That person disembarks at the next station with knife and fork in the tray.
We arrived in Shimla at noon. There was a man waiting for us who had been sent by my father’s friend. He helped us to get the rickshaw. There was only one maid with us and a ten-year-old child. We all sat in four rickshaws and five coolies carried the luggage on their back. I felt sorry seeing this. How difficult is the life of people! Men do the work here of the horses in our area. There are four persons to pull the rickshaw from ahead and to push it from behind. They walk slowly and are out of breadth. Upon descending, the poor things have to pull the rickshaw from behind. If it is not pushed forcefully from behind, there is fear that everyone would fall. On smooth streets, they run pretty fast with the rickshaws. If the passenger is heavy, then five persons instead of four pull the rickshaw. There are also some rickshaws where two persons can sit together. For such rickshaws, there are six coolies and sometimes also eight.
The coolies do not own the rickshaws. Whether you keep the rickshaws for the whole day or one hour, you pay the fare of eight annas for the rickshaw. But if you keep it for one hour, then you have to pay to the coolie two annas each, plus eight annas for the rickshaw totaling one rupee. But if you keep the rickshaw for eight hours, then you have to pay two rupees in total: six annas to each coolie and eight annas to the rickshaw.
People rarely go out in the morning here because it is very cold. They go out only after breakfast, and they return for lunch at 1:30 pm. If they are fond of walking or if there is something necessary to do, then they do not care for the tea. They leave immediately after lunch. They return before seven for dinner. Some go out for walks after tea at 4. Often those who have to go far away, they carry their lunch with themselves at nine and walk the whole day.
The custom here is that women generally take rickshaws and men ride their horses. Walking is also not considered bad but most men also take rickshaw.
We stayed in Longwood Hotel. The name of the hotel was written in white on a blackboard hung on a tree along the street. We are living in bungalow that is left side first as you enter the hotel. The hotel has several bungalows good enough for a family to live comfortably.

Part 2:
The larger part of the hotel is double storied where the manager of the hotel lives with his family: his mem and two children, one and half year old girl and 4 months old infant. There are different families staying in different parts of the hotel, which are adjacent to each other.
You have full view of one bungalow from the other bungalow. The bungalow in which we are staying has three big rooms, two small rooms and four bathrooms. All bungalows are furnished with carpets, beds, dining tables, chairs, full furniture for the meeting room, cupboards, closets to hang and keep clothes which have full length mirrors on their doors, dressing tables, tables with sinks, lamps, tub, jugs, towels, bedspread, blankets, tablecloth, pen, inkpot. In sum, you cannot of think anything for your comfort, which isn’t available in the bungalow and what isn’t available can be requested. Bearer, servant, washer man, cleaner, all are available in the hotel during working hours. The rate for the hotel is six rupees for one person in this hotel, which five meals and night stay. In the morning, the bearer brings warm water to wash the face, and you get warm water for bathing at 9 am in the morning. Tea is served at 6 am in the morning, and time for food is 9:30. There are four types of meals available at this time. All are English meals, and it is brought in English style, and the servant feeds you. The servant could not come into the room because of us. Therefore the boy that was with us used to feed like this only.
Lunch is available at 1:30. Like the meals in the afternoon, there are different types of food available. Tea comes at 4, and dinner, which is evening meal is at 8. In the bigger part of the dining room of the hotel, the mems arrive when the bell rings and they all eat together. Those families that live in separate buildings often like the arrangement that their food be brought to their bungalows. They get their food half an hour later. Only clothes are needed to come here.
Utensils should only be brought on the condition that you don’t want to eat in the hotel. There is a small market nearby where you get flour, sugar, wood, spices, oil, etc.- all is available and it is very clean. Our worker here brings their goods with the washer man’s son. Someone from here should always accompany the person on trips. Otherwise the streets and mountain roads are such that if the person doesn’t know the name of the hotel, they would be lost. Traders come here the whole day, and can take necessary things to the hotel.
You can see the crowd of the whole city if you stand in the verandah of this bungalow. On the one side is the road for the hotel residents, which people pass the whole day. But only those come here who live in the hotel, or they are servants or they sell goods.
The children of British play on this road and the mountain. The ayah brings the children of the manager sahib, doctor sahib and engineer sahib. Small as well as big, they are all very sweet children. They come after school break and they return to their bungalows during their dinnertime or sleep time. These children get very happy if you give them something to eat or to play with. If you feel lonely in free time, spending time with these children is a good activity. There is so much cleanliness in this city, home, servants, in all its things that one gets very pleased.

Further Reading

Source:

Rafat Jahan Begum. ‘Sair-e Shimla’ (Travel to Shimla). Tahzib un-Niswan, Volume 17, Number 43, 24 October 1914, 510-512.
Rafat Jahan Begum. ‘Sair-e Shimla’ (Travel to Shimla). Tahzib-un Niswan, Volume 17, Number 44, 31 October 1914, 526-528.