Chakrata Road, an island in crowded Dehradun’s vanishing greens

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Dehradun : Going down memory lane seems to have become about the best pastime for the senior citizens of the capital of Uttarakhand, carved out of Uttar Pradesh about 11 years back.

Vanishing greens, crowded Dehradun

And not without reason, as the free open spaces seem to have vanished and its famous green country sides taken over by concrete structures that have come up at every nook and corner.

Ruskin Bond, the famous writer of children stories and novelettes, whose works have also been transformed into the silver screen had once called Dehradun, the city of grey hairs and green hedges.

While the grey hairs may be amply visible the green hedges are conspicuous by their absence.

All the green hedges that formed the boundaries of bungalows have been replaced by boundary walls as the open spaces of the bungalows have been sold because of the booming real state prices.

Going round the city today is enough to depress any old Doonite. The city meant for 15,000 about six decades back today has over five lakh people.

While just a handful of cars, less than a dozen ran on the roads of the city, today their number is well over a lakh.

In those good days one could tell who the occupants of the car were by just seeing the vehicle, today even relatives cannot recognize family cars because of their large numbers.

In those days of yore, one remembers villagers from the adjoining areas of the city,within a radius of one km, approaching the rich who had guns to help them protect their crops from wild boars, porcupines and hare.

In fact many late evenings of these people were spent in the fields and tea garden over a bottle of booze waiting for the vermins to turn up before they were killed. It was almost a daily affair.

Sadly, neither are the fields with their standing crops, nor the tea garden seen any longer.

They have all given way to houses, apartment buildings and even Malls that seem to be springing up everywhere in the city.

Even a morning walk today is hardy rejuvenating as it is difficult breathing in the air heavy with the carbon of fumes of the large number of vehicles even in the wee hours.

The only grace in this depressing state of affairs is the Chakrata Road. It was virtual bottleneck even in the early sixties and heavy vehicles had been banned to make things easier.

But the congestion on the roads remained and invariable traffis snarl ups were the order of the day as it took a good part of almost half an hour to do the about 400 metres from the clock tower to the Prabhat Cinema.

But today, courtesy the only plausible decision taken by the state government, the shops and buildings on both sides of the road have been razed by bulldozers.

One does not believe the open spaces that one sees on the road today, though the bulldozing is still fresh and the road is yet to come up after the demolitions.

However, with the demolitions, have also passed some pages of the history of the valley.

Dr Durga Prasad, Dr Mitra Nand, Dr Kataria, Dr Goyal, the once renowned doctors of the city, are no longer but their clinics that were open to the needy as they were to the affluent are gone.

The cholle bathure that one enjoyed at the Sethi’s shop in the begniing has also fallen to the bulldozers as also have the number of well known chemists shops and photographers who were the best in the city.

Chankrata Road may now in the days to come no longer be a driver’s or commuter’s nightmare, but the broken shops have also taken away some of the finest pages from the city’s history for ever.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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