Walk with a Local Writer
Who can explain you the history of any place better than a local. Everyone loves his city and his birthplace. And if his city is his first crush then there is no one better than him to go for a walk with.
Shimla is one of those places in India that provides everything that includes history, architecture, nature, wildlife, culture in one platter. If your companion is a local writer and a published author who keeps the knowledge about these topics on hand and like to share with you everything about his town, Your holiday becomes a memorable holiday for ever.
Sumit Raj Vashisht
Sumit has a vast store of knowledge of Shimla. He started working here as a Heritage Tour Guide in 2000 and has Studied in detail the Origin & History of this British Himalayan Town. This 190 years old town was entirely set up by British Officers. They arrived here in 1815 and decided to use it as a Summer Capital of British Empire in future. Interestingly my clients are those British who come to see the old houses built by their parents and Grand Parents. Many of them were born, grew up and studied here. Sumit maintains most of the records available of Shimla that helps him finding the Old Houses, Churches, Cemeteries where their forefathers are buried, Nursing Homes where they were born, Records of the Churches where they were Baptized, The roads on which they walked and the offices they worked
Sumit is deeply associated with the Tourism industry since 1993. Having travelled extensively in India he considers it privileged to introduce himself as a Professionally Qualified and an Experienced Tour Organiser and a Companion. After completing his Graduation from Maharishi Dayanand University – Rohtak in 1990 in two major subjects, Geography and Military Science, he found that his passion lay in promoting nature. His future lied somewhere in the hills. So he owes debt of gratitude to a close family friend of his who had retired from the Tourism Department of Himachal Pradesh. He suggested that Sumit should first earn a Diploma in Tourism Management from Delhi University which he completed in 1992.
Thereafter, there was no looking back for him. Sumit returned to Shimla, his hometown in 2000 and began to work as a freelance Tour Escort and Heritage Tour Guide.
Shimla – A British Himalayan Town
This is the first Coffee-Table Pictorial coverage of Shimla which Sumit has authored. The book tells you the complete history of the town and the present lifestyle through its various chapters. This is his first book and he spent a long time of five years to complete it.
It’s a tale of Village Shyamlaya’s journey from a nondescript village of 10 to 15 houses to Shimla, a world known heritage tourist destination, in just under 200 years. The book titled as “Shimla – A British Himalayan Town” by Sumit Raj Vashisht, is a tribute to Shimla’s history. …….Hindustan Times
It is a painstakingly compiled account of the glorious bygone British era and the journey of this fascinating town from the quaint little hamlet of Shyamala to present day Shimla…..The Tribune
Sumit calls himself a Nature Writer as he writes Short Stories collected from Nature and incidents involving daily life of people, which provides spice to the reader . A book on short stories, which he has authored, is on shelves.
The book “Shimla Bazaar” is a fixation which talks of the tough life in the hills, the beauty of the snow, about the monkeys and ghost stories about eh Queen of Hills……..The Tribune
Simla – Lanes & Trails
This is his third book that replies to a very strange question of every tourist who arrives here, ‘What is there to see in Shimla?‘. With this book in hand you may walk through the Lanes and Trails of Shimla and know the town in a better way.
The book “Shimla Lanes and Trails” was a treat for Shimla lovers as it provided valuable information about heritage walks, nature walks, history and architecture of the historical landmarks in the town. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal that the text had been supported with excellent pictures adding to the value of the book. It would certainly help in giving a boost to tourism as it answered queries of visitors………The Tribune.
Shimla Days is a collection of Sumit’s observations. Once again this Master storey-teller has come up with a bunch of some real tales from his hometown. The book talks about the characters of some of his days in Shimla that he spent during his childhood. He, once, as a child had got lost at the Mall Road. And now he writes, ‘That was nearly forty years ago and now when I walk through this busy street, still meant only for the pedestrians, twice or thrice a day and every time I get lost’. Shimla has been famous for some of its interesting but eerie figures – the Ghosts. Sumit has a different opinion about them, ‘I never heard them harming anyone except one or two. They either asked for a help or extend some help to those who were in trouble. Those who asked for help actually made people nervous with their sudden appearance and finally they had to melt away’. Shimla has always attracted various writers, painters and artists. Many of them moved out of it and reached the starry heights. But, ‘There have been some people in Shimla with an unusual spirit. They were famous for their different character; funny, miraculous, artistic, strange or mysterious. But surprisingly no one ever mentioned about the characters of modern era. Those were simple, and some of them even belonged to the labour class or the lower class of the society but they earned great fame among the residents of Shimla that they simply can’t be ignored’. How could he forget the wandering leopards of Shimla hills. So a chapter is dedicated to their interesting incidents. ‘Although Kaana Biraagh had never attacked any human but, was a terror in that region. Well that was his forest and we were the intruders, so we had to be careful. A chapter is dedicated to the tales about the Mall Road and at the end Sumit awaits for your response on his book. So he does not forget to tell you how to send him a word of thanks.
A Journey to Shimla – by Toy Train
Before the road from Kalka to Shimla was constructed, in the middle of the nineteenth century, it was difficult to travel to Shimla with all the paraphernalia loaded on camels or country carts. One family would carry all their clothing, plate chest, bonnet boxes, boxes containing books, folding chairs, cane chairs, saddle stand, mackintosh sheets, books, iron cots, tea table, pans, other utensils, screens, lamps, lanterns, hanging wardrobes, house linen, casks containing ornaments, ice-pails, door mats, crockery in the casks, filter pardah, bamboos, tennis poles, hot cases, milk safe, baby’s tub and stand, sewing machine, fender, irons, water cans, pitchers, boxes containing saddler, kitchen utensils, carpets, drawing room sundries, servant’s cots, iron bath, cheval glass and plate baskets.
All the above was divided among nearly eleven or twelve camels or could be loaded on four or five country carts. More than four bullocks were required to pull one cart for the uphill journey. Cows also accompanied the family and every morning the journey would start after milking them.
In 1891, the railway line to Kalka from Ambala was opened but it took a couple of years more to begin work on the Kalka Shimla Railway. The burning heat of Indian summers made people sweaty during the whole of the journey from Calcutta, now Kolkata, to Kalka. The wooden box like railway compartments which had no fans fitted and air conditioning was just a dream, creaked, rattled and bumped while moving on the steel rails and puffed hot wind through its window openings, keeping the travelers humid.
Building a railway track in the hills was a great challenge for the Scottish Engineers. But it was nothing in front of their attraction for the hills.
Featured by Fox History Channel for their program – “It Happens Only in India” narrating the story of Kalka Shimla Railway.
Lonely Planet : See here for more details.
About.com : See here for more details.
Tanyamunshi.com : See here for more details.
In his own Words, ‘ Guiding is a challenge, a big challenge. One cannot be a Tour Guide for the entire country. I would like to be a Tour Guide before I become a Tour Operator. Guiding is a challenge, a big challenge. One cannot be a Tour Guide for the entire country. I fail to understand when people say that he or she works as a Guide in his country. How can this be possible? Only a local can be your best Guide. And even every local does not know his own area very well. Every local does not want to be a Tour Guide because this is not his ancestral profession. He/She has to carve out a unique, intelligent and informative friend for the tourists, out of him/her. And this is a long process. No one can teach you this skill. You may try to follow the footsteps of other Tour Guide but you have to create your own talents.
‘We the Tour Guides are the animals with four limbs. These limbs carry our personality and they, your personal grooming, your knowledge about the area, your language and your manners and etiquettes’.
He Says :
‘A visitor who comes from a far away place to see our country, deserves to be given an insight into the knowledge of everything he wants to see, know or visit.’
Since 1993 Sumit has accompanied and assisted a number of Tourists from different parts of the world. He believes that escorting or Guiding is not only Accompanying Tourists, Helping them Check into hotels, Coordinating with the Local Agents, Guides & Cab Drivers, Buying Entrance tickets for visits such as to Museums / Monuments and other sightseeing attractions or Looking after the meals being served in time, but it is also to interact with them on topics such as Religion, History, Lifestyle, Culture, Cricket, Politics, Judiciary, Education, Military, Police, Marriages, Society, Partition, Militancy, Tourist Arrivals, Old Age Homes, Heritage, Challenges of Tourism, Traffic Problem, Maintenance of Roads – The list is endless.
Tourists want to know more and more and they deserve that too. Guides are available only at the Monuments and other sightseeing points where as an Escort remains with the tourists all the time.
A Tourist’s mantle makeup resembles that of a child. It is difficult sometimes to understand what is he looking for or what is his basic reason for his coming to India. In a new place he is unaware as to who is he meeting and what type of treatment he shall receive from his Travel Agent, Tour Escort or his Guide. He always expects the best and prefers to forget the problems of life left behind in his parent country. So he wants to unwind and relax and enjoy his visit to the utmost. He comes armed with a lot of information about the country he is visiting regarding weather, terrain, currency exchange, postal service, banks, timings, hotels, sightseeing, monuments etc.
He arrives full of expectations and wants to return much informed about the people and their customs & traditions, way of life and heritage / modern building, progress made and so on.
Sadly at times he experiences unfortunate happening such as being cheated, los of belongings, misbehaviour by the Guides and Escorts. We have to understand that he is a guest of our country and has to be informed or guided and treated in a same way as we inform, guide and treat our personal guests at home.
At times the visitor himself reacts rather strongly when he experiences lack of service or complains even when served well. So we need to exercise patience and respond coolly. A Nature Guide / Companion needs to read the requirements of his client and deal with him with tact and restrain. His preferences should be assessed and met to the extant possible.