"--Indo-Asian news Service"
By Vishal Gulati

Shimla, June 26 - Serene environs, wooded deodars, Raj-style structures or chuckling peaks on the horizon of the Queen of Hills, as Shimla was fondly called by the British, may lure you but it's not an easygoing night out in this Himachal Pradesh capital.

While the day checks in here lazily, the silence of the night envelopes markets, shops and hills rather hastily, feel tourists who are more used to the nightlife of the metros.

Now, the state tourism department will add some colour to Shimla's nightlife by illuminating heritage buildings located on the Mall Road and the Ridge, the city's most famous promenade.

It's just 8 (p.m.) and the roads and markets are deserted with only a few couples ambling along on the roads. It is rather a depressing sight as one would expect the Ridge and the Mall Road to be swathed in lights with some good eating joints open for those wanting to grab a quick snack, said Toshan Vaid, a tourist from Chandigarh.

Another tourist, Charu Singh, said: Walking on the streets of Shimla late in the evening is like watching a black-and-white movie. There is no colour in the city's (night) life. For city slickers it's really strange to see all the shops and restaurants start pulling their shutters down by 8 p.m.

Added newly-wed Neha and her husband Tushar Miglani from Delhi: What to talk about a discotheque or going for a night movie! You won't even find any good eating joint or at least a place to have something hot like coffee or soup late in the evening.

The night experience was really boring in 'Unforgettable Himachal', the catchline of the state tourism department, the couple added.

But Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the town would soon get a different and magnificent look at night with the illumination of the Gaiety Theatre, the Town Hall, the Scandal Point and the Christ Church.

Launching two Asian Development Bank-funded projects worth Rs.30 crore ($5 million) to restore and preserve the traditional glory of Shimla earlier this week, Virbhadra Singh said the illumination of buildings is part of the restoration project, which includes maintenance of parks and facelift of the Mall Road, besides restoration of the Town Hall, built in 1908 with stone and timber.

Not satisfied with the tourism department's facelift plans, Richa Thakur, a student of a local college, said the government should also promote food streets near the Mall Road to add spice to nightlife.

Food streets at night will be a boon for not only the tourists but also the locals, especially teenagers, she said.

From the Christ Church - built in 1857 in a neo-Gothic style - to the Telegraph Office, the most famous half-kilometre promenade, the entire area will be re-surfaced with high density macadam bitumen, director of tourism Mohan Chauhan said.

Himachal Pradesh's economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydropower generation and horticulture.

A state tourism survey says famous hill stations like Shimla, Manali, Dharamsala, Dalhousie and Kasauli were preferred by both Indian and foreigners.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])

--Indo-Asian news Service

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