My association with Shimla dates back to 1942 when I was a student in what was then called Panjab. I would spend the summer vacation with my brother who worked there. It was during World war II and Shimla had the distinction of being the seat of the Army Headquarters. During the lunch interval and after office hours it was quite a scene to see military officers (mostly British) walking from the Army HQ towards the Mall Road with measured steps and grace as if they were going towards a parade ground. Nobody dared to cross their way. Discipline on the Mall Road was at its zenith in those days and an ordinary person avoided walking down the Mall Road if he were not property dressed.
People in Shimla were proud that their city was the only one where three Lords (laat sahibs) — the Viceroy and Governor General of India, the Commander-in-chief and the Governor of Panjab — were simultaneously stationed in summer. After Independence, the Mall Road continued to enjoy special status.
But things have indeed changed, as a recent visit revealed.
I was, no doubt, happy that the aam aadmi walked on the Mall road without any sense of inferiority. But their behaviour and the maintenance of the grandeur of Mall Road (especially the Ridge) leaves much to be desired. Scraps of dirty paper litter the place. What hurt us most was the horses on the Ridge providing rides to the children. The children were free to throw dirty papers and toffee wrappers down while riding the horses. Their guardians seem quite oblivious to this.
Surely, the aam admi has some obligations towards cleanliness? The government, perhaps, has to ensure compliance of these obligations, if the Municipal Council of Shimla does not perform these duties.
Such a situation would certainly hurt a person who had witnessed Shimla in the past. The city had a great past and it is our duty to ensure it has a dignified future.