Quenchers of British Raj Are Thirsty Today is the story of Heritage Water Hydrants in Shimla
Heritage water hydrants in Shimla – Does anyone remember these? Once upon a time they used to be the identity of this lovely hill town. It was a common site in Shimla to see a local drinking water from these heritage taps or some tourist filling his water bottle from these water bearing nozzles.
The British designers of this town were clear in their mind that the town was going to be a walker’s paradise. Not always but mostly during summer, the walkers required water. So these water hydrants were installed, almost everywhere in the town. These hydrants provided water to the residents of middle bazaar and lower bazaar, to the visitor, to the office goers, to the rickshaw pullers, to the palanquin carriers and of course to the general public. Also in case of some fire incident they were the easiest approach before the arrival of the fire-brigade.
Water in these hydrants never dried up. People, for whom it was not necessary to drink water also got delighted on having water from them as obtaining water from the design of the lion’s mouth, was amusing.
In seventies of the last century no shops would sell water bottles. I remember that in those days of my childhood when, from my father’s railway quarter, many a times I walked up to the Mall with my father and to quench my thirst during the peak of some summer’s day, I drank water from these hydrants. Either we had to carry a water bottle with us from our house or we would drink water from the public taps. And these water hydrants were the most conveniently access.
My father was always kind to allow me to drink water from these road side water bearers. He would, very kindly, take me to the tap and would rotate the knob saying that he would turn on the ear of the lion and the lion would bear water for me. I would make a bowl of my hand and would attach that to the mouth of the lion against the hydrant. These water bearing figures of lions have brought many smiles not only to my face but to many kids of Shimla.
That time I did not know that one day these thirst quenchers shall become a story of the past and shall be forgotten forever. Now when I walk through the lanes of my lovely British Himalayan Town I see these tiny iron pillars suffering the ignorance. The have dried up, become weak and remain with no power to quench anyone’s thirst.
Most of them have lost their top cover and have got turned into a dustbin. Now no one wants to drink fresh water from them as water is now sold in plastic bottles. People, when have emptied their plastic bottles through them in these “dustbins”. Shame!