Tuesday, March 27, 2012

British Colonial Dreams

Sunset on my balcony again, day 4 of my time in this magical place called Shimla. I’ve just
spent the last few hours walking from my hotel to the Vice Regent Lodge about 4 kms away. I can see it perching up on the hillside opposite my balcony, there in the distance, black against the setting sun. It’s a lovely old place, Scottish baronial they call it. Very majestic and reminiscent of the British
Raj days. Now it houses the Institute of Advanced Studies and is a quiet place for PhD students to research their theses. I took in the tour of the place, seeing the table where they partitioned Pakistan and India, and trying to imagine what it was like back then in the colonial days. Walking the gardens, I wondered who I would be if I lived back then. Would I be the
Viceroy’s wife looking out the window of this lodge at a rainstorm in the distance, or a civil servant diligently going over his books, or a military man trotting around in his uniform atop his mighty horse. Would I look at the Indians as people or as lowly servants that wait on me? Would they be my friends or just people in the back ground as I went about my business. Those
were my thoughts as I wandered through the woods on my way back slowly contemplating colonial matters as the soft afternoon colors painted the sky. A cold wind blew up and the skies turned grey, threatening a rainstorm but it seemd to pass Shimla and dropped its raindrops somewhere else. The mix of smoke and incense wafted through the air as I made my way along the Ridge, past the Kali Mari temple and up to Scandal Point, the peak of Shimla.
There’s an old decrepit house up there, abandoned, rotting, holding on to its former glory
that I like to stop and look at. It reminds me somewhat of Grey Gardens and I half expect the Indian version of Big and Little Edie to come out and talk to me as I stop to gaze in the broken windows and open doorways. I try to imagine what happiness was had in this house, the parties, the different people who lived in over the years and the last people who lived there and the final day they left. Was it hard for them to leave? Were they forced out for some reason? Did
the last person leave happily or sadly? Who knows, I guess I can research it and find out. But there are reports to write, essays and surveys to look over. Plus I like to imagine what happened there—it makes it more interesting.
The darkness comes and the hillside begins to sparkle. There are loud voices down below and I’m half tempted to tell them to shut up. Man some people are loud. So far I’m doing my best to tune them out but a young boy yelling for his mother and father in a harsh, demanding tone is
hard to ignore. I think he’s gone quiet for now—phew! Will I dine in this evening or go out somewhere. I mixed it up today and had lunch at Nalini, the vegetarian restaurant. Maybe I’ll dine at the Embassy or the Ashiana. We’ll see. The moon is about ½ full and the first star is
visible right below it (remind me which one is that?). I’ve just made my wish: Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may I wish I might on the first star I see tonight. Closing my eyes, I send my wish out into the world and hope it comes true. Simultaneously my Afghans are looking up back at home at the same moon and star. They’ll be finishing their evening prayers about now and I wonder if they’ll be looking up at the same moon and star, making their own wishes. It;’s the one thing that keeps us connected tonight. May my wish find its way to all of them and to the others that were included in that wish.

No comments: