I Wore Socks!

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Flag of India  , Himachal Pradesh,
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Posted by Kian.

Shimla is cool.  2200m above sea level, the buildings go straight up out of the mountain side - like big mushrooms sprouting out of the forest.  It's hilly as heck, too.  I was feeling the burn in my calves all week.  The place used to be the summer capital for the British during their rule here in India.  It was too hot for them down on the plains (I can relate...), so every year they would move up here.  Indeed, the sign stated that, at one point, "1/5 of the world's population was ruled from Shimla."  

And you are not even allowed to spit and litter!  It would have absolutely made my day to see someone getting fined for spitting or littering but, alas, it was not to be, as the spitting and littering continued apace.

Our first night there was actually a bit chilly.  Planning to wear my shoes, I reached into the depths of my bag and pulled out a pair of clean, machine-washed-in-Canada socks.  I selected a fine cotton-blend, calf-high pair.  Carefully, I separated the socks and stretched out my right leg.  With a sense of wonder, I slowly, carefully, lovingly put the sock over my foot, wriggling it around as you do, and pulled until the material was fully extended up my leg.  Congratulating myself on a job well done, I repeated the process with my other foot.  It had been a solid six weeks since I had worn socks, so I was savouring the moment.

After the Monkey Temple which Genevieve "I Love Monkeys and Have to Take 5000 Pictures of Them Every Day" Weber will be writing about, we spent a day walking to The Glen, a picnic place where the British used to go because it reminded them of Scotland.  It was very nice, quiet, natural, and steep.  I’m not sure that any of my past lives involved me being a mountain goat for, as mentioned above, I was feeling the burn.  But it was great to go on a day hike out in the woods, and I can now safely say that I've "gone trekking" in the Himalayas.  Oh yeah!

The following day we set out to the Institute of Advanced Study, a home originally built for Lord Dufferin, who was Viceroy of India from 1884-88.  As Wikipedia says, "many historic decisions have been taken in the building during the Indian independence movement. The Simla Conference was held here in 1945. The decision to carve out Pakistan and East Pakistan from India was also taken here in 1947."

You are not allowed to go inside the building unless you go on a guided tour, so, after the requisite photo-op with total strangers and pushing to get the security guard to rip your ticket before the next person, we went inside.

It really was a beautiful old building.  And full of history, with pictures of Gandhi and the rest of them when they came up here to talk.  It's always kind of cool to be in a place where such history was made.  Plus Genevieve took a sweet picture of me pontificating in the conference room.  Whoop!

Speaking of Gandhi, I must go on a tangent here.  I am currently reading his autobiography.  It's been a bit of a slug at times, as it goes into some pretty minute details of his existence, while simply referencing other books that have been written about the more key events in his life.  However, there have been some interesting passages.  For example, of Rishikesh (where we were earlier) he wrote:

"The way in which men were using these beauty sports was far from giving me peace.  As at Hardwar, so at Rishikesh, people dirtied the roads and the fair banks of the Ganges.  They did not even hesitate to desecrate the sacred water of the Ganges.  It filled me with agony to see people performing natural functions on the thoroughfares and river banks, when they could easily have gone a little farther away from public haunts."

I had been hesitant to make this criticism, because, really, who I am to be an ethnocentrist?  But, with this passage fresh in my mind, we were walking down the main road in Shimla.  There I saw a man helping his little boy take an enormous pee DIRECTLY INTO THE ROAD when he was only metres from a hotel entrance door.  And while I was hopping over yet another river of urine, I could not help but think, surely, there must be a toilet about somewhere.  And to hear Gandhi making similar remarks about the sanitary conditions in India 100 years ago certainly gave me something to think about.

Nevertheless, we did not let any of this ruin our plans to go... golfing!

So, the following day, we hopped on the bus and went to the course.  The bus was full when we left the station, but we stopped to pick up a few more people along the way.  The bus was now very full, but still we stopped and picked up a few more people.  My bubble was now being clearly violated on several fronts, but no matter, as we stopped to pick up a few more people.  The bus could now literally not accommodate another person unless sweaty buddy in front of me sat in my lap, but, no matter, as we stopped to pick up a few more people, who simply climbed up for safe passage to the roof.

And so it continued.  Genevieve and I were seriously considering getting off the bus and calling it a day when we reached a junction and a few people got off.  With the tiniest bit of breathing space, and the hope of a sign stating the golf course was less than 10km away, we persevered.  Not too long afterwards, we fell out of the bus at our stop.

We arrived at the pro shop to the disdainful look of the golf pro, who thumbed his nose and asked about our handicaps.  He also gave a derisive look at our feet, and asked whether or not we had proper footwear.

Genevieve, being crafty like that, had called the course the day before inquiring as to the specifics of the dress code.  She was told no jeans and no shorts, but was not told of any footwear requirement.  Informing the pro of this conversation (and telling him at one point that she was wearing “sport sandals,” which is surely a stretch of the truth if I have ever seen one...) while ensuring him we knew how to golf, the gentleman finally decided to accept our money and organized our club rentals, our golf balls, tees and caddy.

Now, of course, normally we would not bother to use a caddy.  I am built like an ox, with muscles that simply ripple out of my shirt, so carrying golf clubs around ain’t no thang but a chicken wang.  But we learnt that, once upon a time, the golf course was only nine holes;  however, it had recently been converted to 18 holes.  Unfortunately, this expansion of the holes did not coincide with an expansion of land, so the 9 extra holes were basically sandwiched on top of the original nine.

And this is why you need a caddy, otherwise, you would have no idea which green to shoot for, as there were often three or four greens within 50 yards of each other.

But no matter.  We skipped the first two holes on the advice of our caddy in order to get in front of what promised to be an agonizingly slow group of 4 children and 2 adults.  Our first hole was a tricky par three where you had to shoot over the water and over the road to the back green (not the front green or the green to the right, mind you). 

The road, which we criss-crossed repeatedly throughout our round, was made especially challenging by the presence of pedestrians, motorcycles, cars, buses and kids getting donkey rides.   Helpfully, the golf course employed a man in a uniform with a stick and a whistle, the latter of which he used to stop traffic from coming when a golfer was getting ready for a shot.  What was not so helpful about this man was that no one paid the slightest attention to his whistle, and he seemed a bit reticent about using his stick to dole out any punishment.  What’s more, this man seemed to have developed a knack for blowing the whistle right in the middle of your back swing, and, since the course was so small, you could hear him blowing the darned thing pretty much everywhere you went.

We soon realized that, of course, we could not expect a golf experience in India to mirror a golf experience in Canada, so we just rolled with it. 

So after walking around in the heat and up and down basically the same hill over and over again, we decided that maybe playing nine would be enough.  We got back to hole number one, a nice down-the-hill up-the-hill par 4 with a water hazard cunningly placed in the middle.  Yet, this was not a typical water hazard, because the extra caddies were wading around it in their underwear! 

We could not really believe our eyes.  Here we were, standing on the tee box, not only having to worry about the water hazard, but also having to worry about all these dudes IN the water hazard.  And they were in their ginch, for crying out loud!  We could also not help but notice the hypocrisy:  Mr. Golf Pro gave us a hard time about our footwear, but PEOPLE WERE SWIMMING IN THE WATER HAZARD, IN THEIR UNDERWEAR, WITH NO FOOTWEAR AT ALL!!!  Like I stated above:  Golf in India does not equal golf in Canada.

So we finished our nine and went up to the clubhouse, which was actually very nice.  From there, we had a cold beer and a splendid view of our caddy taking a leak against the fence not 30 yards from the first tee box.   

And with that, we were done.  But please don’t let my sarcasm fool you, because we had lots of fun golfing.  For the way back, we decided to skip the bus and splurged on a taxi.  The next day we were off early to catch a bus for Dharamshala. 

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Kristi on

Can't wait to see photos from Genevieve "I Love Monkeys and Have to Take 5000 Pictures of Them Every Day" Weber.

Ross & Lynne on

I'm glad to see that Kian is still regaling us with his keen sense of humour.
This is the portion of your trip I would surely find the most interesting, as it has its ties to history, politics' and of course the mountains. Also it sounds like your transportation tales will make for some lively discussion upon your return.

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