Weird Shimla

nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 1230476715|%B %d

Shimla is going weird.

It all started the day after Christmas. In the courtyard of Christ Church, Christmas decorations continued going up! A large fabric entryway appeared at the entrance to the parish house, and two large sheets on either side. Sarah and I had only the wildest guesses as to what was going on. A film? A play? Apparently (according to signs erected later) it is a state handicrafts expedition. Hmm.

Meanwhile, in the large public square on the Ridge, a large team of people began nailing posts into the pavement at seemingly random intervals. It started with a couple here and there, then tens, and then finally the whole space was filled with them. This morning, they started joining the posts with long pieces of metal, creating apparently arbitrary segments of temporary fencing. There are, as yet, no clues as to what might be going on.

We thought that perhaps we could get some clues to what was going on from the government tourism agency, but they seemed just as in the dark as anyone. “Season,” said the man behind the counter, with a shrug. (That seems to be their explanation for everything.) The Himchel Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation seems perfectly happy to just sell tandoori to these variously motivated visitors with their widely-advertized tandoori festival, stretching till January 3.

We’ve managed to attract an admirer by the name of Shibu, who claims to be a lawyer and seems to have some kind of mental disability. Every time we run into him, he wants to hold hands and walk up the mountain to Jakhoo Temple. He is a nice guy, but he doesn’t seem to understand boundaries, or be able to interpret when we are feeling uneasy. We manage to politely decline on each occasion, but it’s always kind of awkward, and it always makes us a little uncomfortable.

As of Christmas, the number of policemen we see along the roads has been increasing steadily. We see them strolling down the Mall and the Ridge in twos and threes, occasionally holding hands and humming Hindi film songs. Every day, the proportion of be-moustached and green-bereted law enforcement officers we see along the street increases.

This morning, they began to cluster in groups of about fifty: one on the ridge by the fence, one in front of the bank by the tourist office, and one by the police assistance room in the old town hall across from the Barista. After church, we grabbed a coffee watched them loiter in front of the Times of India booth. They all stood in neat, but somewhat fidgety rows, as though they were waiting to have their A van arrived, and they unloaded about a hundred huge plastic shields, and several bundles of new sticks.

I think it’s time to move on.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be getting on the local sightseeing bus, and we’ll get out at Chail, some forty-five kilometers from the strange events unfolding in Shimla. There, we’ll be staying in a little log cabin outside an old palace. We’ll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the wide variety of birds and deer and see the world’s highest cricket pitch as we celebrate our first anniversary and ring in the New Year.

They say that after January 1 things calm down in Shimla, so hopefully we won’t have any problem on our way out. Hopefully. You never know what kind of shenanigans are in the works when they start laying random lengths of fence.

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