Shimla

Kalka-Shimla railway track

Kalka-Shimla railway track

It was the first time when I visited Shimla and I was so excited for this visit as I was going for vacations after a really long time and heat was just killing me in Varanasi and the weather was really nice in Himanchal Pradesh. We took an overnight train from Varanasi to Delhi first and then took another train from Delhi to Kalka in the evening and stayed overnight in Kalka because we wanted to go to Shimla by a toy train and the next train was only in the early morning time. We had tried to book the tickets online for this toy train but all the seats were already booked.

The world heritage train

The world heritage train

There were other options also but we wanted to take this train only because Kalka-Shimla train route is world heritage site and we wanted to experience it. We showed up at the Kalka railway station in the morning time and they told us that there were seats vacant in the train which would be leaving after only ten minutes.  Our hotel was at least five minutes walk from the railway station but we decided to take a risk by buying the tickets. We ran to the hotel, packed all of our luggage and showed up at the railway station within ten minutes.

Open compartment of the train

Open compartment of the train

We had to do everything very fast because the railway officers told us that the train was going to leave within ten minutes but the train left  after an hour. Anyways, we were able to catch the train. We were told that it would take about six hours from Kalka to Shimla but it took about ten hours, but still we enjoyed it actually. I was amazed to see how the British had built this railway line on the mountains. There were 102 tunnels and 988 bridges only during the small railway track of 96 kilometers. Some of the bridges just shocked me. I have heard that many photographers come from all over the world just to photograph those bridges and engineers come from all over the world to see those bridges to learn about the construction.

Vire from the train

View from the train

The nature was just awesome all the way starting from Kalka till Shimla. The train was running all the time on the mountains. It was green everywhere. There were several stations in between Kalka and Shimla where the train would stop. I tasted a lot of different kinds of fruits which are available only on the mountains. Finally we arrived in Shimla after eleven hours of tiring but nice journey. We decided to leave all of our luggage at the railway station and go looking for hotels. As we started walking out of the railway station, one porter asked us if we need a hotel.

Beautiful bridge

Beautiful bridge

We told him that we would find the hotel on our own but this creepy man did not want to leave us alone. He was following us continuously. We went to a few hotels but could not get any room. This porter was still following us so finally we decided to give him a chance and asked us to take us to some hotel. He took us to a few hotels and all of those hotels were expensive and did not want to sell the room alone and they said that they would give us a room only if we take the taxi from them. It was crazy. Then we decided to go to any travel agent to book the hotel and taxi both because we wanted to hire a taxi next for the couple of days.

Such writings were everywehre on the train stations

Such writings were everywhere on the train stations

Then we went to a travel agent and this guy was asking just too much money. Actually before leaving Varanasi once we had contacted a car rental service in Chandigarah and they wanted to charge Rs. 14,000 for the taxi and these guys in Shimla were asking for Rs. 24,000. This porter was continuously following us and we started feeling uncomfortable with it. I told him several times very politely to leave us alone but he was just too much. Once I got angry and started shouting at him but he still wanted to chase us. It was getting late and finally we decided to get cheated and buy the hotel and taxi from a travel agent.

Another writing

Another writing

The major problem in Shimla with us was that neither the hotels nor the travel agents wanted to sell the room alone; they all wanted to sell the room, the taxi, sight seeing and guide all together. You ask them for a hotel room and they tell you rates for all those services. It was a very well organized crime by the hotels and travel agents. Finally we paid Rs. 22,000 for the taxi for five days and two rooms for one night in Shimla. The travel agent showed us a video of the hotel room but once we arrived there, we realized that the room we were shown was different than the room we got.

Shimla

Shimla

After all these problems we decided to get out of Shimla as soon as possible.  We slept in the same hotel and when I woke up I found that my glasses were gone somewhere. I searched for my glasses everywhere in the room but could not find them. Then I called the hotel reception and asked them if they knew something about it and their answer was really shocking. They asked me if the room’s window was open and I said yes and then they said: monkey took your glasses. I was like how is this possible? I asked him why did he not inform  me if there was such problem in that area or why did they not screen all the windows but those crazy people had no answer.

Look at this word

Look at this word

I bought some new glasses in Shimla, took the taxi and left Shimla immediately. We just did not feel like staying there even for a few minutes. I just hate Shimla because of the people working in the tourism sector there. They are criminals. But there were a few good things also. There is a place called Mall Road in Shimla which had the cleanest street I had ever seen in all of India. Even vehicles are also prohibited in Mall Road. The architecture was completely British. Attila and his wife Dora told me that Shimla looked exactly like European cities. Especially the architecture of the buildings and the English word they were using in Shimla were complete British.

People also looked different

People also looked different

This always strikes me that although British updated themselves but we still follow all the British things. The buildings were nice but what about their crazy rules that were never updated? We had to come back to Shimla after visiting Manali and Tirthan valley. I left for Chennai to work and Bunti, Babu, Attila and Dora stayed in Shimla for two more nights because they wanted to see nearby places. Attila looked for some hotels in lonely planet and we found a really nice and honest hotel in Shimla called Hotel White. The location was just awesome, it being hardly 2 minutes from the Mall Road. We asked our driver to take us to the Hotel White but he did not know about this hotel. We asked a few locals and somehow reached the hotel.

View of Shimla from the Hotel White

View of Shimla from the Hotel White

This was the first hotel we had been in whole Shimla that had mentioned all of their rates clearly on a board near the reception. I always try to get a discount in hotels by showing my tour guide ID card and did the same with this hotel also but they did not give me any discount but I was happy that at least I was not over charged. I asked them why not many people knew about their hotel and they said that since they do not give any commission to the drivers or travel agents, nobody knows them. I felt like staying for some time in Shimla after finding this hotel but unfortunately I had to leave because of my work in Chennai. I would like to go to Shimla again and stay at Hotel White in Lakkad Bazaar and explore the town.

Good people and bad people look for jobs

The title of this post is upside down because I have noticed a few things where quality is thrown out and garbage is being collected by our people and government. First off I want to talk about my brother who is an Italian interpreter and works for a very big travel agency in India. He lives in Delhi and has been working as interpreter and escort with Italian tourists and researchers for the last two years. He doesn’t have a tour guide license but he has very good knowledge.

A lot of Italian travel agencies recommend him for their groups. He started working two years ago and his first group was of only two people. His last group consisted of sixty people. It means that he progressed rapidly. He has to hire a government-authorized tour guide in all the cities he goes to with his clients because non-licensed guys are not allowed to work. The guides that he hires are supposed to be quiet and let him work. They are hired just to protect him.

A lot of government authorized guides don’t like him anymore because he gets big groups, and those guides have to be satisfied with small groups. Last week he went to Jama Masjid in Delhi with his clients but he was stopped by the licensed tour guides at the entrance gate. They asked for his license but my brother did not have it, but he had a licensed guy with him. Government authorized guides asked this other licensed guy if he knew Italian. This other guide was a English speaking guide and did not know any Italian.

Government authorized guides told my brother that he could not go inside the Jama Masjid because neither did he have a license nor the licensed guy know Italian. Even though they are not authorized to check the license but they did it. All the guides have same license, it doesn’t not talk about any specific language. You just need to have a license and then you can work. But those government authorized guides wanted my brother to have an Italian speaking guide. I am sure this was all done to disturb him.

At the same time another group of my brother’s travel agency came at Jama Masjid and they had an Italian-speaking government guide. My brother sent his group with this Italian-speaking guide but he could not work. Same thing happened with him in Rajasthan also and again he had to find an Italian speaking government authorized tour guide. Finally he gave up and has stopped working now. He says that he will work with a few groups that had already propositioned his travel agency to send him with them and then maybe not work in the future.

He is not working this year. Now he has switched to operations. He never worked in operations but now it is his compulsion to work in this new department. He says that maybe the government guides will never let him work in the future therefore he needs to learn something new. I am not concerned about his future because he is very smart and can get a job very easily but I think about the politics in tourism industry. A guy who has very good knowledge and experience has been thrown out and the other guys who are outdated and don’t know anything are given work and support. UPSIDE DOWN.

Another story is about one of my relatives. He is a twenty-four year old guy who never wanted to go to school. He always wanted to be a criminal. He has been arrested by the police several times for several reasons. He went to school for a few years but never as a student. His father works at a Sanskrit university in Benares. He arranged 10th and 12th class certificates for his son by bribing some school in the state of Bihar. Later he arranged a graduation degree from his university. Now the son has a graduate degree without going to school ever.

His father got him admitted in a B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) course somewhere in a university in Gujrat state. This was also done by bribing because the son never participated in any kind of admission test. The son still stays at home and is involved in the same kind of bad work that he has been doing for years but his record at the university is maintained properly. So after three years he will have a B.Ed. degree and will become a teacher. His father says that he can get a teacher’s job at some government school for his son by bribing government officers.

Last year I saw a news paper advertisement for peon job in the municipality of Benares. The requirements for this job were 8th class passed certificate and knowledge of bicycle driving because peons are supposed to visit the nearby areas and watch the illegal construction. But a lot of Masters and Ph.D degree holders had applied for this job. It shows that even Masters and Ph.D degree holders have no job here. Finally the municipality invited all the highly educated guys for the interview, and Masters and Ph.D degree holders got jobs as peon.

They said that since they were facing job problems, they decided to just start something. Now Ph.D degree holders will drive bicycles and watch the illegal construction and report it to the municipality. Their whole lives labor did not help them. I am sure they will be involved in lots of bribing because peons get very little money and usually they bear their expenses by getting bribe from the people who do illegal construction or do any kind of municipality-related work.

So a guy who never went to school will become a teacher in the future and the guys who have Pd.D degrees are working as peon in this municipality. I was wondering what my relative could teach to the students- how to loot people? or how to beat someone? And the guys who did research, did a lot of labor have the lowest job in the industry. UPSIDE DOWN.