The House Tagore Lived In, Oak Forests, Doodh-Jalebi … all on a little walk through Boileauganj!

11-05-2018, Boileauganj, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India:

I live in Boileauganj, a small township that is a part of the city of Shimla. Said to be named after Colonel J. T. Boileau, Boileauganj is nestled between Prospect Hill and Observatory Hill (on which stands the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge). It is surrounded by dense forests on all sides with Oak trees being the most prominent followed by Deodar and Rhododendron. Colonel J. T. Boileau is well known as the designer of the famous Christ Church on the Ridge in Shimla, among other achievements.

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Most of the shops-cum-residences in the Boileauganj market place are more than half a century old; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

I was born in Boileauganj in 1988 and have lived here pretty much all of my 30 years; naturally, I have seen a lot of changes in the past three decades. While many old houses and shops have been brought down, restored or reshaped over the years, Boileauganj is still untouched by the rapid growth of infrastructure in the surrounding areas, as much of the land remains covered by forest.

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The Primary School at Boileauganj Chowk; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

Walking down the old alley ways, I can still vividly remember my childhood years. From taking the bus to school from Boileauganj Chowk every morning to coming back in the evening to the very same spot and buying an orange bar that used to cost a mere Two Rupees. And then, just running around the market with my friends like Neanderthals trying to discover the wheel for the first time!

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A very old confectionary shop in the market; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

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The Senior Secondary School, Boileauganj; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

While a majority of the shops and houses in Boileauganj were built 25 to 120 years ago, most of them have been renovated, restored, demolished or abandoned. Boileauganj also has two schools, one being a Primary School and the other a Senior Secondary School; schools that have been here as long as I can remember – I even know people 20 years older then me who have studied here.

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The Shimla West police station at Boileauganj; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

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The Krishana Sweet Shop in Boileauganj Market; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

Boileauganj is also home to the second oldest police station in Shimla. There is also a quaint Fire Station here, and the Fire Station always turns my attention to the Sweet Shop right opposite the Police Station – famous in this part of the city for the tantalising sweets and my favourite: Milk with Jalebi!

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Walking through the thick green Oak forest on Boileauganj Road has a unique charm; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

There are many walks around Boileauganj but you are unlikely to find them on any websites or books. But ask the local residents and they will tell you that the walks here are one of the key reasons why people really like living here. The road that extends from Boileauganj Market till Vidhan Sabha is restricted and used by vehicles with permits. Due to this reason there is less vehicular traffic on this road, and people can comfortably walk about breathing in the fresh air wafting through the Oak forest with huge trees all around and with birds chirping at every turn and corner.

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An old building converted into a government office; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

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Woodfield: This humble house along the Boileauganj Road was home to Rabindranath Tagore in 1893; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

You will come across a few old buildings along the way, most are residences, some are offices belonging to the Government or the Army. There is a particular house named ‘Woodfield’, where the famous Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore resided from October till November 1893 – the property was originally rented by his brother Shri Satendranath Tagore for eight months in 1893-1894.

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Commuters sitting in the rain shelter as the sun beats hard: Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

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The erstwhile Deepak Project building is now used as a parking lot; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

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An old abandoned building in the forest near Deepak Project; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

Walking ahead, one reaches a rain shelter built on the side of the road for people looking for a spot to sit and enjoy the beauty around them. Eventually you find your way to the Deepak Project Office which is the division of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). In 2014, this building caught fire and was reduced to ashes. Though nothing remains of the building now, it used to be one of the most beautiful structures around Shimla.

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Langoors and Monkeys are regular commuters on the Boileauganj Road; these Langoors get some respite from the heat under the cover of trees; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

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Old houses along the way towards Deodi; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

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The main entrance gate to the Indian Institute of Advance Studies; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal.

The road then winds its way to Deodi, where you will find the main entrance gate to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (erstwhile Viceregal Lodge). The open area outside the gate has now been converted into a parking space for tourist vehicles visiting the Institute. There was a time not so long ago when children used to play, folks used to gather for a chai and conversation around this place. Right up ahead , a little path goes up to the Himalayan Bird Sanctuary; and if we continue on the Vishan Sabha Road, we can go to Chaura Maidan and then on to The Mall … but those are different stories for a different day.

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