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A little share of joy and celebration for Shimla’s street children

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street-children-shimla

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:7)

SHIMLA: It’s a rare scene to watch someone inviting little kids, who are begging on streets, and buy whatever they demand like chocolates, ice-creams juices or anything. It’s rare, but everytme I come across such people, it does strengthen my belief in the existence of true human values and humanitarian perspectives. Sometimes, these perspectives have real faces. I encountered one who stirred my routine perspectives for a while.

Last week, I came across such a face and witnessed a delightful sight. A lady invited all the street children see saw on Shimla Ridge to a shop (HPMC) and bought them eatables like chocolates, juices, momos, ice creams etc. I clicked a few photographs before I interrupted the lady about her reasons to spend on these street children. I clicked all the photographs without her noticing it. She held an expensive Samsung smart phone in her hand and her personality and attitude was telling that she has a well to do lifestyle.

street-children-in-shimla-ridge-hpmc

While I approached her, I noticed that the kids were making demands even after she had bought them the snacks and chocolates. Two of them had got momos, chocolates, and juice in their hands, but they came back to her asking for ice cream as well. Instead of being thankful for what she did for them, these kids were indifferent to the emotions and appeared to be making most of the offer by perusing her to buy even more. It was an annoying sight for me and I predicted that it might annoy the lady as well.

help-street-children-in-shimla

But, to my surprise, she was negotiating with them like parents do with kids when their kids are trying to grab all the candies. However, her negotiations weren’t working well and she was buying them what they were asking for. It was the party time for these poor kids and they did enjoy it.

negotiation

Then, all of a sudden, a thought of the mental conditioning of these innocent minds justified their behavior. They grew up in insensitive environment and all they have learned is to survive somehow. “We reap what we sow” and these kids signify that.

One thing was clear that she wasn’t doing it for the first time. The kind of tolerance she displayed is impossible to create when someone is just pretending to be a compassionate and generous self.

ice-creame-in-shimla

After she had paid the bills, I wished her and tried to enquire about what was going on there. Her eyes saw the camera strap on my shoulder and followed it to the device. She said, “please, no video clips and personal details, I don’t do it for publicity”.

street-children

I took my hands off the camera and respected her wish, but I did have a little chat with her without names and personal of professional details. She told me that it was ‘Ashtami’ on that day and she was celebrating it by feeding these kids as it’s a traditional practice in India’s religious culture to invite people to home for meals on the day or organize a Bhandara (Lungar). She further added, “I do the same whenever there is a festive occasion. I don’t give them money, because, it mostly goes into the pockets of their parents or guardians for their bottle of Desi, Beedie’s, Gutkha, Khaini etc. Rather, I give them an option to make choices from eatables only. That ensures all of it goes to them.”

angel-in-shimla

Not keeping her for long, I just expressed my respects for her compassionate act and wished good bye. It did not sound to me a god like act, but evoked a debate on what does it mean to be a true, benevolent, and compassionate human. I have more respect for people like her than I have for pieces of stones worshipped in huge temples. In no way it makes sense to donate to temples, bath idols with milk and butter, offer fruits, and eatables to gods. God does not have any form, and certainly, He isn’t humanoid. He isn’t a human who’ll get flattered or lured by our offerings. He isn’t material, but only through his creations, He manifests His will. Religious annotations to stones are mare a man made tradition, based on fear of God’s wrath if we don’t please him. Asharam, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, and religious politics by parties, that’s what religion creates. Religion is the creation of our feeble minds, which were condition to fear the fury of God instead of knowing Him. Contained by convictions, no one talks about spirituality, the real virtue, because, spirituality will free human kind from frightful religious fears.

beggers-on-shimla-ridge

She reminded me of a couple of my friends and HW members. One of them would go to the orphanage on her birthday every year to share her celebrations with less lucky kids. It’s her way to show gratitude towards the almighty for what he has given her. Then, there is another friend of mine whom I saw handing his new umbrella to a crippled beggar as it started to rain. Third one is a student at HP University and give some of his time to teach little kids near campus. I doubt, whether God will get angry on him or her for not going to a temple and waste food and money on posters and statues.

It doesn’t matter who these people are and why they do it. I only see the real manifestations of God through these people. To conclude with, I would suggest you to save a little share of celebration for deprived and needy around you. Donate your old clothes, shoes, toys, books etc. Don’t throw them to be dumped in landfills. It’s a bliss, which only true contentment can achieve.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Weeklong Harassment by Shimla’s Electricity and Water Departments

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harrasement by hp govt departments
    If you have a property (house) in Shimla but you don’t stay here, you could end up paying a price for it. Price not only in monetary terms but in terms of undue stress and pain.

    I had been living in Rajasthan for a few months now, leaving home in Shimla only to return for the surprise of my life.

    In today’s technologically advanced system, I could be considered liable for a moment, but what transpired because of my negligence (if you may) is something I don’t want anyone else to go through. This is why I’m sharing my bitter experience with the electricity board and water department in Shimla.

    Living away from hometown, I should have paid water and electricity bills for my home in Shimla. I should have; but, due to negligence or over involvement in personal chores, I was unable to pay the bills online.

    All the while, I had it in the back of the mind but I thought I will pay the bills (with whatever penalties) in person the next time I am in Shimla.

    I thought it would be easy. Instead, I was for a week of mental trauma.

    When I came back to Shimla, a few days back, there was no electricity and water supply to my home.

    Worried not bewildered, I lived with it for the night and planned a visit the concerned departments the next morning, to clear the pending bills and have the water and electricity supplies restored.

    To my surprise, it wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be.

    When I went to pay the electricity bill at Lakkar Bazaar ( the area where my house is), I was asked to go to the main office of the electricity board in Sanjauli. I went to Sanjauli, where I was told that electricity connection to my house had been cut, and I needed to apply for a new connection.

    I was told a fresh file, for a new connection, had to be made.Now I was certainly bewildered.

    From then onward, I was sent from one electricity office to another for different papers. To the DC office for affidavits– all the procedures had to be done from scratch.

    It took almost a week (six dark days precisely)to complete the entire procedure afresh. All this while I didn’t find one person in the electricity board who cared for the mental trauma I was going through or how my family would be living without electricity.

    Finally, after innumerable visits to various offices of the electricity board, I took the file to the JE office in Snowdown hospital.

    Here, I was meted with a shock. The courteous JE informed that my family didn’t have to stay without electricity for so many days, neither did I have to go through all the pain. JE said ‘power supply could have been restored to my home in matter of few hours after the bill payment and the process for new application could have been followed thereafter.’

    He then sent a person from his office along with me to the concerned office in Lakkar Bazaar. Finally, we saw a bright night at my place.

    JE was the only person in the entire electricity board who talked nicely, gave me correct guidance and helped solve my problem.

    My worries were not just limited to the electricity board. I was all this while simultaneously running pillar to post to pay my water bill and have the water supply restored.

    The issue was an elaborate water bill, which was beyond anyone’s understanding. For us, we should have only been charged the meter rent because we had not used water for months.

    This is when I learned about plugging connection. When you are not at home and would not be using water for months, the water department requires you to plug the connection.

    This ensures you’ve only billed the meter rent and not for the usage (though, how do you end up using water when you’re not home stays an arguable story for me).

    During the weeklong process, I was not only without electricity at home, there was no water too.

    Considering myself a defaulter, I silently kept doing what the office bearers in the department were asking me to do.I was ready to follow the procedure but it was such a pain to see that no officer was considerate enough to help resolve the issue soon. Instead, I was made to run from one office to another with documents that were not even required.

    It took me eight long days to pay the pending bills, apply to have the water meter plugged, and to have water supply restored to my house.

    This was it, I couldn’t have taken anymore but the water department wasn’t done with its lackluster attitude.
    After a month of submitting the application to get the water meter plugged, I again received an inflated bill. I called the water billing office for clarity.

    After making an infinite number of calls, I was finally informed that the water meter of my home was still not plugged.

    Alas! What had I done wrong to deserve this?

    Immediately, I called up Mr. Laxmi Thakur (the person) responsible for plugging the water meter. He said ‘Madam, I plugged your meter the same day you asked me to’.

    The linesman was a helpful fellow.He took it upon himself and went to the billing office to check why I was still getting huge bills despite the meter being plugged.

    Post inquiry, he informed me that my file had reached the water department from Mayor’s office the same day I submitted it but people in the billing office didn’t update the same on their computer systems.
    With Mr Thakur’s efforts, my bill was recreated with the correct amount, which I then paid off instantly.

    Awareness tips

    •If electricity connection to your house is disconnected for non-payment of a bill, go directly to the JE of your area. The JE will escalate the matter and power supply will be restored. Now, follow the formalities, as guided, and get a new connection

    •If you have property in Shimla but you’re out and not using IPH water supply, get your meter plugged to avoid rentals above the meter rent

    By Rajni, Shimla

    Photo: Sk-bent ex

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Public Opinion

Sensitivity where art thou, Shimla cries for you

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Urbanization of shimla

Times are changing alright; we are progressing with age and time has come when pace of Shimla is matching the pace of most developed cities in India. Time was when modesty, selflessness and compassion flowed through the heart of residents of the Queen of Hill. With development and large scale urbanization, the mindset of the town is changing – and the change is demeaning the basic culture and charm of the city.

Development and urbanization are slow poison to say. Initially they taste refreshing – refreshing to the extent that humans are lured so magnetically to them. Culminating effect is fatal. Shimla is sipping on this slow poison and is headed for self destruction.

Who is to blame? Finger pointing comes naturally to Indians, so when I ask this, all of us will have our fingers pointed at the administration.

Constitutionally this is correct – and why not, the administration and public representatives we have voted to power are responsible for it all. If there is uncontrolled urbanization – government policies should have been framed to avoid it. If there is unmanageable garbage on roads, pollution in the air and contaminated water in the taps – administration should have strict measures in place. But, considerable citizens are we the main contributors to this?

I once read “your character is what you are when you are alone”, and it has stayed with me ever since. I bring this up to validate my point. We citizens are primarily responsible for the rumpus we confront in the town of late.

Himachalis, the residents of the abode of snow, are by virtue sensitive to change, sensitive to our culture and sensitive to the surroundings. Thus, for Shimlaites this sense of sensitivity comes by default.

Change is the only constant. Change we must and so we are steadily. We are more literate, more monetarily concerned and at near prime of a standard of living. Culturally we are still rooted – probably our previous generation has instilled this sense in us. Concern looms on our sensitivity to the surroundings.

We are literate, but our education has defaulted somewhere. We are concerned but our sensitivity is lost somewhere. We blame but our self-conscience has gone astray.

Back in school (this would be some 20 years back) moral science and civics was taught to me. Back then I never realized how my consciousness towards little civic duties and efforts towards betterment of my surrounding would make a difference. Today I realize it, but my neighbour makes me believe, I am in the wrong part of the world with an unwanted conscience.

How justified is it then to be the run off the mill? Is what your neighbour doing the correct way to do things, I often ask this to myself. I don’t get an answer – an answer is difficult to find because ‘this is India and nothing is going to change here ever.’ This cliché must have reached your ears a number of times. I am growing old listening to it.

Certainly this is not how it should be, at least that sensitivity instilled in me by being part of the hill state, tells me so. Calling out to all who follow – Change we must!

Change to ask questions, why my rights are being murdered by incapable, narrow sighted governance. Change to come to terms with my sensitivity to question that neighbour who stays and feeds on my city’s resources but fails to do his bit in return. Change to question my own acts when I’m in public or when I am walking down the road by myself.

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Your Story

Ticket Dikhao!

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SHIMLA- I really wanted to share this experience of mine I had last week. I am not able to get it off my mind. Most logical conclusion I could reach was that it was a rare kind of co-incident, like one in one million. You better read it first.

So, I took an HRTC bus from Old ISBT to Dhanda, like always. I am living in Shimla for past 17 years, so it was like any other day. The bus was going toward Ghannatti and suited me best. I took a window-side seat. It was a normal ride and I had a Rs. 10 note in my hand for the fare. The conductor approached me and I instantly offered Rs.10 note. To my surprise, conductor asked me, “aap ke pass 9 rupay khulle ni hain?” That was ridiculous because the fair was Rs. 9 and I was offering him a Rs.10 note. I gave him an agitated look with expression of confusion on my face. He returned me Rs. 2 and moved on. He didn’t give me a ticket. It’s not that I never traveled without ticket. In private buses, it’s no big deal. Conductors rarely give tickets to local passengers.

But lately, I had decided not to take any chance with HRTC and I always ensured I get a ticket. It would help me in many situations, especially in legal ones, if they ever arise. Secondly, it was an HRTC bus and the conductor charged one rupee less but didn’t give me a ticket. So, Rs. 8 went to his pocket and not to the HRTC, where it was supposed to go. I would be a part of this corrupt act if I didn’t ask for ticket. Then, I thought what if ticket-checker raid situation arise? It would be an embarrassing situation. I was so desperate to ask the conductor for ticket. I waited for him to come back, and meanwhile I kept thinking about it. It was a lazy afternoon of April, and I don’t know when I felt asleep.

After that, what I remember is hearing a loud voice saying, “ticket dikhao” , which woke me up. It was like worst nightmare of my life. The bus was on Totu stoppage and a ticket-checker was asking passengers to show tickets. I thought, may be, I was still asleep, but it didn’t seem so. I felt a wave of anxiety across my body. The conductor was near my seat and I poked him silently, telling him that he did not give me a ticket. He was as scared as me and he started to behave defensively. I just asked him to give me a ticket from any station before it’s too late. He, too, quickly gave me a ticket from Power House stoppage (Rs.3). The checker had noticed it but he wasn’t sure so both conductor and me came out clean.

I was still half-asleep and was experiencing a sort of trauma when I got off the bus at Dhanda and came straight to home. I just crashed on my bed and fell asleep. When I woke up, I realized, I was dreaming. But the emotional impact of the dream was quite heavy and I could remember it clearly, rather, still feel it. I made coffee, switched on the TV and tried to relax, but still couldn’t find out whether it was a dream or it really happened.

Then, I realized that there is a way to confirm it – the ticket. I had put it in my purse (even if it was a dream). So, I reached for the purse. I found a ticket and it said “Rs.3”. It did really happen. I felt like I was in some TV serial scene. Later, it started amusing me. What really confused me was that I felt asleep while I was still thinking about disadvantages of traveling without a ticket and unfortunately it was not my lucky day.

One thing is sure that after this incident is that I would never, ever travel without ticket.

Posted by a reader in HW Your Story

Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this post are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & views of the Himachal Watcher community as a whole.

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