It is March 6th, an important date for two reasons, it is the Hindu Holi Festival and it is Sanford’s and my 12th anniversary.
When I got up in the morning I was feeling recovered from the day before and
ready to take on the new day. The worst part of being in Shimla is the cold so I decided to do what I could and just go with it. I decided to dress as warmly as possible with what I had and wore virtually my whole wardrobe. I had on long underwear and pants, layered four T-shirts under my sweater jacket, and I wore my knitted slippers as gloves. This worked, I was warm enough, and as the day warmed up I was able to remove layers.
Shimla is built on a ridge in the hills and you have to climb either up or down depending where you want to go. Our hotel is quite a bit lower than the main touristy area, known as the mall, and further up from the mall is the hill ridge from where you can see panoramic views of the surrounding area. It is in the upper levels where many of the historical public buildings, restaurants, bars and sights of Shimla are to be found. So far we have only been on the lower levels but today are venturing up.
As we start climbing towards the mall, the Holi festivities are underway. This is a happy holiday celebrated with shouts of “Happy Holi” followed by the smearing of coloured powders on passerby’s face, hair, and clothing. There are large groups of teenagers going around laughing and having fun and smearing dye. Before long I’ve had at least a hundred people smear dye on me. I’m a mess and because I have worn my whole wardrobe it is all getting dirty. I don’t care though, I’m totally having fun and enjoying the festivities. I’m shouting “Happy Holi” to passersby as well. Sanford is trying to not get colour on his clothes and is getting increasingly frustrated as time goes by.
On the train in to Shimla we sat with some dancers who were to give a Krishna dance performance at the Ganj Hindu Temple as part of the festivities and they invited us to attend. So we asked around where the temple was, and set off up narrow steps and paths throughout the bazaar area to find it. We made it with a few minutes to spare. When we arrived a large number of dye-coloured people were loudly and happily dancing to music and there was a news crew covering the festivities. We were the only foreigners present and before long the news crew came over to interview Sanford and I. They started with Sanford who when asked how he was enjoying the festival complained about having colour on his clothes, so they quickly panned over to me as I started to enthusiastically tell them how much fun I was having, how we met the dancers on the train and how happy I was to be here.
Soon the dancers appeared in full fancy Ramayana dress and started to perform the Krishna dances. They were quite good and I was enjoying the performance. However at the same time I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable, my back is starting to ache, my stomach is starting to churn, and all of a sudden I feel quite nauseous. Sanford and I leave immediately and start to head back to our hotel which is a steep downward 1 km distance away. I’m getting worse with each step. About halfway back I have to vomit. I go off to the side and start throwing up. The force of the vomiting is causing fluid to escape from other parts of my body at the same time. Yep, I’ve pooped my pants again! Why is this happening to me?!
We hurry back to the hotel as fast as I can manage so I can use the toilet and then start all over again cleaning myself up. I’m worse than yesterday and just manage to crawl into bed. I am soooo cold; I’m shivering. I have all the blankets on plus a sleeping bag Sanford has brought with him. It takes me hours to totally warm up. I was in real rough shape and Sanford had to care for me by fetching me water throughout the rest of the day and evening. I virtually slept all day, all evening and all through the night.
By next morning I am completely better and for the first time, although the temperature is the same as always I am no longer freezing. I feel the best since we arrived.
This is our last full day here so we decide to spend the day sightseeing and to
do the steep 2.5 km climb from the ridge up to the Jakhu Hindu Temple dedicated to the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. As well as the temple there is a giant 33 m tall orange Hanuman statue that can be plainly seen from the town centre . The walk consists of steep switchback streets and then up through forest to the temple. It seems appropriate that this monkey temple is surrounded by hundreds of rhesus macaques. It’s fun to watch all the monkeys running around but unfortunately they harass visitors for any food and we saw a monkey snatch a drink from one. We did this climb in 32 minutes and according to a sign at the bottom of the hill, because we did the climb in less than 55 minutes for our age group we are both “absolutely fit”. Awesome!
After we made our way back down and wandered around the mall level for a bit, we decide to get some lunch. We went to the Indian Coffee House, a local icon, where waiters served us in white uniforms with Indian-style hats and the atmosphere was dark with wooden tables and chairs and the walls and ceilings were stained with a century of smoke. I had a bowl of tomato soup, which turned out to be more of a spicy tomato broth, and Sanford had the coffee. Coffee and tea are interesting here. It is served only one way; with sugar and milk. There is no double milk, three sugars, no foam, etc. The serving size is also interesting. I estimate the size to be between 4 – 6 ounces. I have never seen a larger size. I wonder what they would think of a Starbuck’s Venti or Tim Horton’s Extra Large. A cup of coffee or tea in India costs 20 – 30 cents.
Time to head back to the room to rest for a bit and later we decide to go out for our anniversary dinner. Sanford has been on the road longer than I have as he was previously in Nepal before meeting me in Delhi so he would like to go out for some western food. I’m fine with that as I’m having trouble adjusting to the spices. So where to go? Domino’s Pizza! Here we shared a chicken salami and cheese pizza in a warm dining area on the second level above the order desk. I had two slices and Sanford had the other 6, it was delicious! This was our most expensive meal to date. The pizza was close to $10. Most of our meals cost between $1 to $2 for both of us.
It was a good day all around. Best of all I made it through the day without pooping my pants, but it was colder today than other days and I went to bed with all my layers of clothing on.
Happy anniversary to us!
I’ve never seen anything like this in my travels. Not sure how effective that small amount of water would have on fighting a fire; all buildings are attached to the next and I think a fire would burn a whole block rather quickly.