Shimla is the capital of the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and enjoys the reputation of being the erstwhile summer metropolis of colonial India since 1864. Its landscape is marked with quaint Indian and European bungalows. Among the many monuments of yore, that dot the city, is the stunning structure of Christ Church, located on Mall Road, which accommodates other places of historical importance as well and each has a narrative to divulge.An inscription adjacent to the church traces the epigrammatic history of the Mall: ‘as the town of Shimla grew through the nineteenth century, its Mall steadily developed as the core street and the hub of its social life. The road, which is some five kilometers in length, starts in the West at the gates of the former Viceregal Lodge, the present-day Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and ends at Chotta Shimla, ‘small Shimla’, in the East. The core of the Mall is the row of shops and public establishments that take the approximate mid-section of the stretch and traverses about a kilometer and a half along its length. The earliest shop buildings are regarded to have been constructed on the ‘Northbrook Terrace’ below the Post office. Today, the Mall forms the core of the town’s notified Heritage Zone’. Municipal Corporation of Shimla is among the oldest in India whose chronicle reflects on an inscriptional stone placed on the Ridge: ‘Municipal governance in Shimla dates back to 1851 and this makes it one of the oldest municipalities in IndiaThe church is a veritable treasure trove of copious demographical details and records some remarkable engravings; a few of them are worth quoting here: Winifred, baroness Hardinge of Penshurst. C.I., born March 17th 1868, died 11th July 1914 (this tablet was erected by her husband, the Viceroy and Governor general of India); Major Frederick Loch Adam M.V.O., Scotts Guards, military secretary to the Viceroy, died at Calcutta on 31st March 1907 (the plaque was placed by the earl of Minto, Viceroy and Governor general of India); Lt. General Julius George Medley (Royal Engineers) who died at sea while returning to England on August 12th 1884, aged 55 years 24 days; Sir Gerald De Courcy Morton, K.C.I.E., C.V.O., C.B., born 7th February 1845, died at the Curragh 20th April 1906 while commanding the 7th division, after services of marked distinction in the East, particularly as Adjutant-General of the army of India; William Henry Edwards, Captain I.A.R.O., Lieutenant, I.M.L., 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), aged 49 years, ‘whose summons found him at his duty on 28th September 1922’; Philip Talbot Wilkinson, 11th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, died in action in France on 30th May 1916, aged 30 years; Arthur Pearse Howell, born 1834, died 1911, late scholar of Tonbridge School and fellow of St. John’s College – Oxford, he entered the Bengal Civil Service in 1858 and retired as Resident at Hyderabad – Deccan in 1890; Lt. Colonel Ernest Russell Howell, I.A., son of the Late A. P. Howell, I.C.S., born at Simla on November 17th 1868, lost in the S.S. “Persia”, torpedoed off Crete, December 30th 1915; Colonel Arthur Wilson Chitty, 2/10th Baluchis, Indian Army, died at Algiers on 24th May 1924, aged 52; Arthur Bruce Wilson, born at Simla, 5th August 1875, died at Japog, Sambhar (Rajputana) by the accidental discharge of a gun, on 7th December 1897; Captain Peter Douglas, died in action in Mesopotamia, 25th February 1917, aged 31 years; Frederick Charles Maisey, General, Bengal Army, for many years a Resident of Simla, died at Eastbourne, Sussex, on 2nd September 1892, aged 67 years; Bertie Edgar Arthur Pritchard, Captain, 83rd Wallajahbad Light Infantry, ‘an intrepid explorer, who was drowned on 6th May 1913, in the Taron river on the north east frontier of Burma in a gallant attempt to swim the river to secure a means of crossing for the remainder of his party’; George William Cornelius Hickie, Lieutenant, Royal Artillery, 32nd Mountain Battery, ‘who met his death at Tank, North West Frontier, while attempting to capture an armed Mahsud Fanatic’, he was born on 7th February 1885 (Ash Wednesday), died 12th April 1914 (Easter Sunday); Alice Henrietta Wilkinson (Late Head Mistress, Cathedral Girls School, Lahore, 1897 to 1900 and for 33 years Head Mistress, Mayo School, Simla), died 16th November 1937, aged 76 years and 11 months; and Colonel A.C.W.C. Rookshank C.B., Commandant, 34th Pioneers, who died on 24th October 1888 from the effects of a wound received in action during the Hazara expedition.The fresco on the sanctuary walls was painted from a design by Mr. Lockwood Kipling, father of the renowned author Rudyard Kipling, by pupils of the Mayo School of Art in Lahore, of which he was the Principal – Gazetteer of the Shimla District 1904 appends. The school is presently known as the ‘National College of Arts’. Across the church is the prominent Ridge ‘that once held a substantial portion of Shimla Bazaar which was burned down by fire in 1875. Following this, the commercial establishments were relocated to Shimla’s southern slope, substantially expanding the Lower Bazaar. The Ridge was opened out to create a central plaza which was lined by Christ Church, the old Town Hall (which held the Gaiety Theatre) and the old Band Stand (now, the Ashiana Restaurant). Shimla’s main water tanks are still located under the tarmac of the Ridge’.Municipal Corporation of Shimla is among the oldest in India whose chronicle reflects on an inscriptional stone placed on the Ridge: ‘Municipal governance in Shimla dates back to 1851 and this makes it one of the oldest municipalities in India. In its heyday, the Shimla Municipality supplied piped water to Shimla as early as 1880 and initiated one of the first hydroelectric power schemes in the early twentieth century. Using half-round dressed stone, exposed timber work and grey slate roofing, the present Town Hall and offices of the Municipality were built in 1908. At one time, the Station library was also located there’. At a short distance away from Church is the imposing edifice of the Municipal Corporation Library which was constructed in the year 1860. A rusted Iron plaque mounted on its wall notes: ‘this building was constructed in 1860 and follows the neo-Tudor style of construction with sections of its structural woodwork left decoratively exposed. Various minor modification were carried out to this at different points of time and this housed the Shimla Volunteer Corps and the Health department till this became the station and then, the Municipal library – which has been re-designated as the State library’.Present-day Sidhowal Lodge is a stone’s throw away from church. A worn-out tablet on its gatepost registers that it was ‘one of the first houses to be built in Shimla in the 1820s. This was initially called ‘Ballyhack’ and later became Christ Church Lodge. It was renamed Sidhowal Lodge in the early twentieth century, when it passed into the hands of the Sidhowal family with whom this still is’.The history of Shimla and Lahore had been entwined, at least, since the British-era (former was the summer capital of undivided Punjab since 1871 and remained so until the partition of India split the state into parts) and it would be worthwhile to cite here the account of one Metropolis Works which traversed the two cities. One Mirza Ghulam Muhammad (who traced his lineage to Baltistan and Sri Nagar) had two sons, Mirza Badruddin and Mirza Hussain, who were later to emerge as one of the biggest civil and electrical contractors of the British India. After the demise of their father, both brothers tried to test their fortune in Shimla, and in pursuit of an affluent career, they borrowed capital from their friends and invested in their business of dye-manufacturing. The associates became fretful and started to demand their proceeds, which turned the circumstances of Mirza siblings from bad to worse and, finally, they resolved to leave the town in order to find jobs so that they could repay the borrowed-fund.They became laborers at a road construction project which was designed by an Italian engineer and being executed by a British Executive Engineer (XEN). The blueprint of the road had some grave flaws which could have led the overhead mountain to slither and damage the road. Observing his plans going haywire, the British Engineer attempted to commit suicide thrice (one Colonel Barog had committed suicide when he failed to align the Tunnel Number 33; later the assignment was given to Chief Engineer H.S. Harrington who too erred but eventually completed the work in 1903). Noticing the imperfections in the draft, Mirza brothers decided to converse with the Engineer during his regular morning walks; so, one fine morning, they interrupted the XEN Sahab Bahadur and tried to explain him the inaccuracies in the design and the solutions to alleviate the same. After much persuasion, he got convinced and awarded the contract to them.The siblings made the venture a successful deal and garnered huge sums of profit. They then decided to revisit Shimla after six years where their mother had already contemplated that the sons were lost for-ever. Upon seeing her kids alive, the mother blossomed with joy and breathed a sigh of relief. They paid off their debts and with the outstanding amount they formed a company, ‘Metropole Works’. Later, the firm appeared as one of the leading conglomerates in the sector of building and electrical works. Some of the projects that they accomplished were the construction of 6600 Feet Siphon in Joginder Nagar, India to Burma Road, Banihal Tunnel (which connected Jammu to the Kashmir valley), and five hydro electric power stations in Northern India, one hydel power plant in Mandi Pandoh, Metropole Fan factory in Amritsar and Metropole hotel in Shimla.By the time of the independence of India, Khan Bahadur Mirza Badruddin and Mirza Hussain were the owners of Sanjauli estate and their business of hotel and resort was booming with success. Their guests included who’s who of the country including Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Nawabzadah Liaquat Ali Khan of Karnal (first Finance Minister in the interim government of India, and subsequently the first Prime Minister of Pakistan). After the fateful partition of the country, the brothers migrated to Lahore where they resided at Bank Square, Mall Road. The Metropole Hotel passed into the hands of the government of India which converted it into a MLA hostel. Their families now dwell in Lahore and Islamabad, leading a quiet and prosperous life. One of the members of aforesaid family is closely acquainted with the present author who has supplied particulars all the way from Lahore.Though, apparently, there is no direct relevance but Lahore, for the namesake, has its own ‘Shimla Pahari’ which is blessed with the shrine of ‘Bibiyan Pak Daman’, who belonged to the family of Hazrat Ali Ibn-e-Abu Talib.Furthermore, Shimla boasts of being the cradle of former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer (his father Dr. M.D. Taseer – who was brother-in-law of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and himself a Urdu poet, writer and literary critic – worked there as a Deputy Director for War Propaganda in the Labor Department), economist Shahid Javed Burki and television actor Rahat Kazmi.Former Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, graduated from Sanatan Dharma Bhargva College and received his Masters in Political Science from the Himachal Pradesh University in 1983; and the ex-President of Pakistan, Zia-ul Haque, studied at the local Government High School. Muhammadi Begum, the first woman to edit an Urdu magazine – ‘Tazhzeeb-i-Niswaan’, died in the city in 1908 and was buried in Lahore. With the passage of time, the quiet ambiance and colonial charisma of Shimla dwindled, leading way to commotion and mechanization of urban life.Published in Daily Times, June 2nd 2018.