Penning hill life his first love
The following article was published in The Tribune on 20th October 2009.
Shimla, October 20
Notwithstanding the fact that he has poetry and literature in his genes, it’s his love for the hills and the simple life of the people, which inspires him to not just imbibe more and more of this natural beauty but also to pen it down.
Sumit Raj Vashisht, basically a heritage guide and manager with a resort here, has come out with a short storybook having 24 tales about Shimla and its surroundings. The book “Shimla Bazaar” is a fiction, which talks of the tough life in the hills, the beauty of the snow, about the monkeys and ghost stories about the “Queen of Hills”.
Born in Shimla in 1967, Sumit left Shimla as a teenager but the vivid and fond memories always beckoned him to come back, where he returned in 2000. “Mountains are ingrained in me and I am only made for them, as such I could never adapt to the culture of big towns despite spending most of my life there,” he says.
After having completed his postgraduation in tourism from Delhi University, he got associated with the tourism industry in one way or the other. It is based on his close interaction with British tourists that he was inspired to write about “British-time Shimla” and where the town stands today. “Hearing these tourists talk so fondly about Shimla and the tales related to them by their forefathers, who served here during British rule, inspired me to pen my second book,” he says.
His father, Janab Talat Irfani, alias Tilak Raj Vashisht, was a renowned Urdu poet, who as a railway engineer was posted here. He penned two Urdu poetry books- “Suraj Khayaal” and “Daryaaft”.
His second publication, a coffee table book with some rare pictures dating back to the late 1880’s is due for release in November. The book also has some letters written by high-ranking British officials to their families back home in London, giving vivid details of Shimla in the late 19th century.
He has been provided some rare and old photographs by his British friends, who come here looking for the houses their forefathers lived in or the cemeteries where they have been laid to rest.
He intends continuing his love for writing as he has already started working on a book “Shimla in Snow” which depicts the winter life in Shimla, its beauty, harshness and the joy of enjoying snow. With a keen sense of observation, his works are laced with personal experiences, which could include walk through the market in the wee hours.