Expecting the Unexpected in India Day 254: Going Bollywood

Even though I planned to only spend one night in Shimla, I figured quickly enough especially after last night in its shining wonder that it deserved better than that so I decided to give it a full day’s go. On my to do list, I planned to buy my way out for the following morning to Kalka on the famous UNESCO toy train, visit the Viceregal Lodge which was written about as a slight spitting image to something pulled out of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter world, climb to the topmost hill nearby where the monkey king statue resided with his own temple and his wild bandits at play in the woods, and watch a Hindi Bollywood film at the cinema located conveniently next to the YMCA. After doing a scavenger hunt just to find the railway station and subsequently buying the ticket, I repeated the process to get to the Viceregal Lodge which is actually the old British name for the building and thus did not have its own sign amid this well mapped out city the Brits used to use as their summer capital during their reign of colonialism on the subcontinent. The locals were quite accommodating with their directions and I enjoyed the search more than anything else peeking into shops or hotels along the way to make sure I had the good way marked. Near the entrance I found the rare pack of shy white coat monkeys dancing on the fence tightrope. In my efforts to make sure I had the right building in the complex, I made a friend from Mumbai who we jointly decided to stick together for the day as we were both traveling solo. On the road, friendship almost seems to easy at times especially when on your own. You almost have to purposely avoid it to stay lonesome. Although Quidditch wasn’t being played on the grounds, the building definitely had its touch of wizarding world magic with its high ceilings and deeply brown Burmese teak wood adorning the entire inside walls while the outside had its given Old English look fine tuned to its tradition. On the well rolled out greens and gardens Adrian and I talked mostly about India and its interesting subtopics based on my own intrigue. After joking about the Indian discount for tourist attractions since foreigners pay an inflated rate, I had to ask him about the Indian head nod/wobble that even he couldn’t put together, the way Indian men so affectionately hold their same sex friends hands in such a way they even dangle their pinkies (even he said that was made fun of by Indians themselves), and the way English is such a part of the language circus of India (even villagers that comparatively wouldn’t know much beyond ‘Hello’ in other countries that I have visited would know how to put some kind of sentence together). After some cheap street food momos, the two of us walked the long steep but pleasant 4km road downwards amidst the forest I could always see from above on The Ridge (on a clear day which wish washes between the inconsistent patches of fog that swallowed the city) to Annadale which was the old British playground for polo and other activities but now resides as an outpost and training ground for the Indian Army. We surveyed its few museums highlighting Indian patriotism and valor before looking at each other as if there was no way we would walk back up the street figuring we likely would crumble in the early stages. Luckily I benefited from Adrian knowing Hindi which helped us find local transport in the nearby village for a share jeep back up into the clouds. From there we continued on to the long winding road that led up to the monkey temple we could not currently see thanks to the overcast skies. I had carried one of my trekking poles the entire day just for the sake of this adventure knowing that I may have to smack a monkey or two to reach my goal. In my zealous innate pursuit for exercise I jogged up the steep road and strode longingly up the staircase with Adrian using the pole instead. Once at the top I had to ward off intrusive monkeys, those cheeky, sneaky bastards, on my own mostly with a forceful stomp in their direction but I think that only antagonized them further with a teeth revealing howl and hiss. Once Adrian joined me at the top we continued the last lengths to the temple and the tall orange statue of the half man, half monkey god with his minions always a nearby threat. I was in constant paranoia whether while walking or taking a picture unsure of when the next assailant may attack. The statue was an incredible presence. I have seen many religious statues but for whatever reason this one came of interest probably due to my now mixed love of monkeys. After touring the spread out religious area we descended back down of course through the rain while ducking under roofs until we found a cafe as the weather abated and against all odds cleared up for the first sighting of the sun all day. In the time Adrian had to spare before he would leave back to Mumbai, we chatted for awhile over momos and hot steamy chai. After saying our goodbyes (he another random acquaintance that turned into a friend), I went to the Ritz Carlton cinema to watch a film initially hoping it would have English subtitles. Unfortunately it would be all Hindi from here on out but it’s not like I had a lot else to do for the rest of the evening plus a balcony seat would only set me back 100 rupees (50 rupees for the lowest level seating). After getting some popcorn I went into the theater and of course upon appearance, one Indian was curious enough of me to ask about myself because how often do you see a white person at a Bollywood before I got to my chosen seat. The film is title Brothers and was essentially a remake of sorts of a Hollywood film. With the exception of some random rare words/phrases of English, my mother tongue couldn’t cope with this foreign complexity but this didn’t stop me from generally knowing what was occurring and having a good time. The acting was mostly good with some occasional over dramatics. I did love the necessary dance and song bit that had no practical need in the development of the story but a Bollywood film wouldn’t be as it were without it. After the movie ended, the one guy and eventually some of the other Indians asked more about me as a traveler and whether I knew Hindi to have any concept of what I just witnessed. After a short stroll on The Ridge to let my eyes wander across the cast of lights shed upon the rolling city, I headed up to the YMCA where I had a fairly long chat with two girls I met earlier who were here in India as part of some work/volunteering at a village war camp. The night was old by that point and so went back to my chill cave for the night.

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