Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
December 1st – 3rd 2010
I’ve never seen a torn-up dead body before. Until today.
Leaving my guesthouse around 5 am, I took an auto-rickshaw to a train station that had my train to Kalka, which would take around 5.5 hours. From Kalka, I would take a ‘toy-train’ to Shimla, which is about 2000 m above sea level, another 5 hours.
(“Toy train” to Shimla from Kalka. Named so because it’s skinny and really like a “toy”.)
The journey was pretty smooth 4 hours when we hit a bump in the road. The train stopped and it turned out, the engine had problems so we had to go back to the previous station and swap the lead car. We were back on the road again after a 1.5 hour delay. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to catch my 12:10 pm train to Shimla but a passenger assured me the trains are linked; if the first train is delayed, so will the second train.
At the Chandigargh station however, our train stopped again. After another delay, I asked a fellow passenger what was going on, having seen her get off and get back on the train. She told me a few cars down, there was a dead body. Someone had apparently tried to get off the train while it was moving, an all too common occurrence in India. He fell into the crack onto the tracks where the train ran over him, severing his arms and legs. Apparently he was still alive, crying for help, but no one helped him. He died from his injuries. I went to see the body. It was gruesome. His left arm was broken and twisted in a sick angle. His right arm and his legs were in pieces. I saw bone. I was a little shocked. I always thought if I came across any gruesome scenes like this, I’d just imagine it was a movie — but it’s really not the same. It’s a senseless way to die.
Arrived in Kalka but thought I was going to miss the ‘toy-train’ but it was still there, waiting for our train to arrive. The train track is a UNESCO World Heritage item. It took another 6 hours to get to Shimla. The view was scenic but the route was littered with trash thrown by people from the trains. There were plenty of homes along the hill-slopes and multitudes of pine trees. We rose and rose in altitude, going to about 2000+ meters above sea level. It was dark by the time we arrived and very, very cold, practically near freezing. I took a pre-paid taxi to the bottom of the city elevator, and then took the elevator up to the main streets of Shimla. After finding the YMCA and getting a room, I took a nice, hot shower and went to get dinner.
(The Himalayas in the background.)
(A typical alley in Shimla, full of shops. Many levels.)
(Porters doing the heavy work. Most tourists hire porters to carry their stuff to the top because it’s a steep climb.)
(Christ Church. Nothing special but it’s a landmark here so I’m posting it up anyway.)
The next day, I wandered the shop-lined streets, stopping by to get some gloves and a beanie. I was pretty sure it would be useful for Dharamsala, which had similar temperatures, as well as Nepal. Not much to do in Shimla besides wandering. I wasn’t interested in going on organized treks in areas near Shimla, nor was I interested in climbing up to Jakhu Temple that day. Nick-named the ‘monkey temple’, Jakhu Temple is populated with many mischievous monkeys, ready to snatch your food or bags if you don’t pay attention. In fact, around Shimla, it’s very common to see monkeys everywhere.
(Giant Hanuman. Read about its legend here.)
(Himalayas in the distance.)
(Monkey doing some dumpster diving…)
(Success! He scored some chapati. All in a day’s work.)
I did end up climbing Jakhu. It was indeed, steep. There’s a sign board at the foot of the hill that said if anyone “Under 30 years old” could get to the top in under 30 minutes, they are “Absolutely fit”. I hit the 30 minute mark, barely. I felt quite proud, as borderline as my time was. Anyway, at the top, there’s a huge orange statue of Hanuman, the monkey god. From afar, I thought it was a giant Buddha statue but it wasn’t. There were plenty of monkeys, as expected. It was nice to just wander around at the top but I thought the view would be better. There were just too many trees in the way.
(Inside an Indian restaurant/coffee house.)
(I wanted to watch Chronicles of Narnia when it came out (I was uh…bored…) but look at all the movie posters of a Hindi movie…”OBAMA”)