After two days of rest rest rest, saying Oms, eating momos, admiring dreadlocks and watching eagles next to the mountain, it was time to head back down.
But first, we were going to Shimla, the summer residence of the British Raj.
What a weird place it was, not like India at all, but more like Southport. On a hill. We took a semi-deluxe bus there that was even more beaten up than the ordinary bus we’d taken to Dharamsala in the first place, and sat on it for ten winding hours, stopping twice for three minutes for the toilet, and once for fifteen minutes to buy some street food from a random street side shack. So far neither of us had had Delhi belly, so we figured that we might as well go in for a penny and nosh up. It was delicious – daal, pakoras, fried onion, rice and some kind of yoghurty pudding – all for less than a pound.
Arriving in Shimla we could understand why the Brits wanted to be there – it sits on a ridge with the most amazing views out, and it was lovely and cool.
But there didn’t seem much too it, and walking back to our hotel along a pedestrianised road after dinner that night, we decided we’d probably try and leave the next day and get to Chandrigah… Just after we passed Scandal Point, the ‘centre’ of the town, a car came passed us (obviously unexpectedly) and the passenger in the back seat grabbed FF’s bag from off her shoulder.
We’d been robbed.
Obviously this was a huge shock, but immediately the people walking behind us rounded the corner and called the police. The next couple of hours were hysterical.
We went first to a police outpost in the town centre to report the crime. Every word we said was repeated two or three times by the two officers there, who then carefully noted the details down in a huge ledger.
One of them then walked us down through the lower bazaars to the police station and the reporting room. There a youngish hotshot type guy, looking after the night shift, made us give the whole story again. After about twenty minutes, an older man arrived in his pyjamas, and all the other staff leapt to attention and saluted him. Turens out the boss had got out of bed for the incident. We were the first tourist victims of a crime in Shimla. EVER.
The pyjamaed chief returned a few minutes later with perfectly pressed trousers and gradually the room began to fill up with police, all asking us the same questions -white car? three passengers? did you see the number? And lots of head waggling and ‘this has never happened before in Shimla’ chat.
The young night shift guy then stood up and in hindi said what I imagine to have been – ‘Mohammed you take the upper west side. Ahmel, you’ve got the lower east side.’ And so on and so forth – they all piled out in their cars to scour the area for the stolen bag.
And so we had to stay an extra day, making statements, collecting crime reports, all so that FF could make a case to her insurance company and get an emergency passport issued from the embassy.
Fortunately, on our way to Shimla, we had met a really lovely couple traveling the same way as us, and so once we’d finalised everything with the police they became our traveling companions for the next fifteen hour epic train journey back to the swelter of a Commonwealth cleaned up Delhi.