Life in the hill stations of India has been almost similar for everyone, during the Raj. Most Brits moved up to the hills during summer and moved down to the plains when it came winter. Without money, it was difficult to survive and manage those big houses. Although the land and the materials were almost freely available to them but still moving up and down every year was still difficult. This movement was the result of the hot weather of the northern Indian plains and the cool weather in the hills. 

Brits in the Hills of India

A few of them continued living here around the year, managed their life, and died here. They are resting in peace in various cemeteries in Shimla. Many of the graves are in good condition. People have taken away the slab stones and the details of the grave are not traceable. The cemeteries in Shimla and other hill stations are facing the problem of encroachment.  It is interesting to learn about their lifestyle and their behavior in society. They had nothing to do with casts, religion, or politics. They were here because their parents or grandparents arrived in India. These Brits who continued living here even after the independence of India were either compelled by the circumstances or just because they loved India, never wanted to go away from this land. This was their motherland because they were born and brought up here and had never even seen Europe.

Old Houses in the hills

When I walk around Shimla, I see many old houses, which once upon a time Brits occupied. Later, they came to the hands of some Indian families. Many of them are now completely abandoned and are waiting for someone to come repair them. But people are waiting to pull them down and erect a new building on the land. Most of these properties are under dispute. The families are fighting to claim their rights on them and the cases are going on in the courts for years and years. This is a bad period for these types of buildings because there is no one to take care of. The weather is playing a lot with them and gradually they are falling apart.

The vandalizers   

Sometimes I walk into some of these old houses. I feel very sad about their falling condition. Many of them are completely ruined and have become dilapidated only because no one is using them or maintaining them. Even some part of their rooftop has also fallen. The vandalizers have taken away their tin sheets, and their walls are losing plaster. The flaps of doors and windows are also missing. Some fallen trees have blocked the access to the houses and because of this blockage; the houses have not seen anyone, for ages.

These houses become a shelter for many in the hills

I always manage to reach them to enter. They are interesting for a writer to find a story. There could be a wild animal inside. A flying fox, some stray cats, or a panther can easily find shelter in these houses. Sometimes a dog with her pups starts living there in peace or some birds make their nests. These houses also attract honeybees to set up their hives. Insects and wildflowers also find their way to such ruins and sometimes they become hideouts for people with drug addiction. It is sad to see them in this condition. They are the ones who initiated modern life in this part of the world. When they were built and designed there were hardly any architects here. There were no hard norms for getting approval for building a house. These old buildings are the witness of the growth of the area.

Who owns them in the hills?

Now no one comes to them, accept me. No one looks at them, except me. People living in the vicinity say that it has been abandoned for many years. No one likes to enter these houses as they may collapse at any time. The owners are least interested in repairing them because these properties are divided among many people in one family. Everyone claims to be the real owner and no one owns them officially. These stunning buildings have seen good days when they were used and maintained but now they are towards the end of their life. One day they would be swept away and a new structure would be erected on the same land. Read More about Shimla here.

By. . . . . . . . . . .  Sumit Raj

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