Monday, August 18, 2008

Yarrows forever ...

Its beautiful, its majestic and its charming ……and much better –its home. This place just declines to change ( and thank God for that!) . It’s a still moment in the river of time- a droplet that has frozen amidst the Shivalik ranges of Himalayas for ages to come and admire . Generations of my service officers have passed out of this place-Yarrows, our alma mater and much more .A place you can’t help falling in love at the first sight …and keep doing that again and again for after thousands sights too . I am here once again after 3 years of separation and this time I have a different role to play. But it was not the official work that was in my mind ever since this trip was scheduled. It was only and only , my memories of this place . Shimla –a city I love in all seasons and Yarrows- our royal home at Shimla. ­­­­
Its difficult to list out things and sights related to Yarrows, which I miss once I am out in the big bad world. I miss the serene smile of Buddha sitting calmly beneath the walnut tree, I miss the camellia shrub that will start blooming next month onwards, I miss the sunset behind the pines and I miss the chuk-chuk of the toy train passing from the glen valley. More that anything I miss the warm security I felt here during my probation days, the fun and gaiety of the place, the friends I made over here, my long walks to Annandale and to Viceregal Lodge and of course my very own room no.11 inside Yarrows.
When we came here first , some stories of sighting Mr. Jinnah’s ghost were passed on to us. Well, a ghost in a hill cottage is always welcome, it is almost a status symbol for any house worth its name in history books and most certainly Yarrows deserved one. Mr. Jinnah’s stature too is befitting our Yarrows’s glory but you may ask, why would Mr. Jinnah’s ghost would choose this far off place to haunt. Of course, this was once his summer house and it is said he spent his honeymoon with his beautiful wife Rati over here. But then, the late leader definitely inhabited many more beautiful houses in his lifetime. I guess his ghost would at best visit this place once in a while during summer months to refresh the memories of happy days associated with the place. It is more likely that there are ghosts of old boys and girls of my service visiting the place to relive the magic that once pervaded their lives.
And once in Yarrows what is one suppose to do but to take a seat behind the window and watch the beauty of deodars all around, the colourful play of sunrays and cloud formation and the gorgeousness of mountain flowers all around. If that is not enough for you the option of going out for a walk is always there (even in the midnight!). Yarrows is after all just 10 minutes away from ViceRegal Lodge the former residence of Viceroys. Another ritual marking my Yarrows-years is that of ‘mall-ing’.i.e. going to the mall. This we did religiously every other day. Mall, scandal point, the Ridge and the ever-beautiful Christ Church ……that was the pilgrim’s route. This was of course completed with mandatory stops at Baljees’ for hot Gulab Jamuns, Devicos’ for snacks and Beekays for soups and pizzas.
Its impossible not to feel nostalgic while in Shimla, each building has a history and a couple of stories linked with it. At every turn I feel the presence of Rudyard Kipling and his poetry …. and every sight seems to remind of a similar sight of a bygone age when India was ruled from this town. Almost half way from Yarrows to the mall stands the most impressive castle of the town(Ok…second most impressive…after Vice Regal Lodge) –Gortan Castle , the building that house our Shimla Office , looks like Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Castle , It is a picture just out of a biscuit tin . Then there is the Retreat, Knockdrin, Kennedy House, the Observatory hill , Strawberry Hill and many more places to visit and admire. There is nothing more interesting than going out for a walk. Those of us who have read the wonderful book on Shimla written by Rajaa Bhasin can even relate the place with history. I can just go to the Viceregal Lodge and spent an evening admiring the place. Its a pity that till date they are unable to arrange a full fledged tour to the place for tourists. The place is choked with History’s mysteries-few true and few made up stories about the building are always in currency at Shimla. The romance of the place is magnified by the lovely weather. This place is beautiful in all seasons and in all months but I love it most when clouds surround the valley in a white robe. Except for few days in the winter, Shimla weather is always pleasant. No wonder the Britons felt at home over here. "Like meat, we keep better here [in the hills].", said Emily Eden about Shimla . I can paraphrase this for the Yarrows probationers –“Like Apple blossoms we bloom naturally over here.” The probationers-God bless them, they are always the same. It is such fun to meet these ‘owner-residents of yarrows’. It’s a pity that this air of confidence, this twinkle of intelligence in the eyes combined with a blessed ignorance towards the world outside would be lost once they are out of the place. But perhaps, that is life. We learn and unlearn traits to keep the fine balance. Today I heard a horrid suggestion that this place should be taken away from probationers. Some committee of architect/preservers found half the things in furnishing and structure, not gelling with the place . Who can explain it to them that this is not just any heritage building but our home? We love its imperfections as much as one loves one’s mother even if she has a buckteeth.
I always quote this Beatles’ song for expressing my feeling about Yarrows now….for want of better words, here I go again .
There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All this places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all"


d SINNER!!! said...

He Atoorva, nice space!

Love the Yarrows and the nostalgia it brings...

A member of My Himachal ( we would like to have this beautiful piece on our site, with due credits to you of course...

do get back in touch! We would love to hear from you!

Gallimaufry said...

The funny thing about Yarrows is that one's affection for it increases, rather than diminishes with the passage of years. The commonality of experience (shared with people of different ages & personality) feels strange!
All I can say is, lucky us for having got the chance to stay in this gorgeous home.

telsto said...

How much do you enjoy the natural beauties! Even in Kolkata you found out some. Nowadays Simla-returned Bengalis are casually telling me that the place is not so beautiful anymore. Shame to them. Actally those who have not the eyes to fathom the beauty in its true sense are so unlucky !It is a pleasure to read your pieces.