Himachal- Present & Future

hemji.jpgConversation with Pandit Hem Chand Sharma, retired teacher, social worker and traditional family priest (Purohit) of Dr. Y.S.Parmar (1st Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh)

You have been traditional family priest (Purohit) of Dr.Y.S. Parmar and spent lot of time with him. What has been your experience?
My father was treated as a family member. He was his trusted astrologer and my-self his trusted priest (Purohit). Even today I get respect as a family member. Dr. Parmar’s religious beliefs were not pretence. I never saw him doing Prayer (Puja) except on occasions of marriage, Dashahra and birthday ceremonies. One day, I saw a small room while going around the rooms in his official residence Oakover. I enquired one of the attendants what is this. When he told me that this is Puja (Prayer) room of Dr. Parmar, I was surprised because from my long experience I knew that he never performed Puja (Prayer) in isolation. I opened the door. There was a mat strewn inside. In front was a portrait depicting Lord Krishna and despondent Arjun in the battlefield. Alongside was kept a packet of incense sticks, an extinguished lamp, and two books nicely kept there. I picked them up and found one was Srimad Bhagwad Geeta and other one was Yogi Kathamrit by Maharishi Yoganand. I was dazed to see that both these books were written in English. I had read these books in Hindi and Sanskrit. Some of my doubts were solved like how he used to remain rock solid whenever faced by political and economical calamities of huge proportion. I understood that Geeta and Yogi Kathamrit were his two pillars of strength. He had faced all problems while following the path shown by Geeta’s sermon that if one does work without worrying about the result will in the end get the result and the message of Swami Yoganand that one must keep on doing his work and not bother about whatever is happening as it whatever is happening is predetermined I had not one but many occasions to see the effect of teachings of both these great thinkers in his life.

drpar2.jpgDr. Y.S. Parmar is known as a great architect and leader of Himachal but little is known about social and family aspects of his life. What have you to say about these aspects of his life?
His family life was not that good, reason being that after studying law he was appointed judge by king of Sirmour but his jealous opponents did not like this and told the king that he is associated with Satyagrah (freedom fight). This resulted in king ordering Dr. Parmar to leave Sirmour within 24hrs. Dr. Parmar left behind his family and children and joined the freedom fight. After formation of Himachal state and becoming the Chief Minister also he could not give much attention towards his children. Consequently he could not build a house for him in his lifetime. Although he paid full attention towards education and well being of his children, still he had to stay away from his home for most of the time due to political engagements. Even then his married life and family life was beautiful. His children lived a simple life and never took advantage of being the children of CM.

Dr. Y.S. Parmar was a great personality and one could see in his eyes glimpses of development of not only Himachal but all northern hilly states. When hills were said to be mound of stones and life in hills was considered as hell and miserable, he used to refer hills as abode of gods and the region’s cultural traditions as incarnations of godly traditions. He used to see art of life in the songs and dances of the region and used to say that hills will remain alive as long as songs and dances remain alive in hills. He used to like Himachali food and never tired praising delicacies like Ghainda, Sidku, Askali, Kanjan etc. He used to say that lot of ghee is produced here but he did not himself eat fried food. He used to participate in the songs and dance of the region and used to say that not only people but the region’s god also dance here. Shiva was himself Nataraj. He used to say that hill life is not miserable life but a blessed life. It is true that modern machines, road facilities and new technologies need to be made available to the hill people.

Not only did he get the whole Himachal surveyed for roads, he also got roads built to a great extent. He used to say that roads are lifeline of hills. Not only he used to himself eat Himachali food, he also used to serve Himachali food and explain its benefits to all foreigners who visited him during his tenure as CM.

drparm.jpgWhat was his opinion on development of Himachal? Do you feel that Himachal is marching ahead on the path shown by Dr. Parmar?
He used to say that Himachal will become India’s best and developed state. With this aspect in mind he used to have discussions with Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, President Radha Krishnan and Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. He used to keep reading books about development of hilly areas and have discussions with his ministers and officials. He liked Switzerland and wanted to see the similar development in Himachal. Ideas about development were always generating in his mind and he used to try to convey the same to concerned officials. As a result orchards and production of un-seasonal vegetables started in the state and farmers of some districts started becoming prosperous. He also made plans for power generation. It was his belief that Himachal will not only produce from it’s rivers and be self-dependent but also become India’s frontline state. The Horticulture and Forestry University established by him is the world’s second university which makes available to the people the research in the filed of forestry and horticulture. He did not want that hills be plowed and soil be lost and forests be destroyed. His slogan was that plowing in the hills is a sin. If there are no forests then soil will wash away and hills will become just a mound of stones. As long as rivers Satlej, Beas, Ravi and Chenab flowing in the hills remain full with water, India will remain prosperous. He fulfilled many resolutions in his lifetime. Had he lived for 10-15yrs more, perhaps the state would have moved forward in the direction shown by him, although today’s leaders have also lead the state on the path to development by following in his footsteps. The current power projects are a living example. But still work needs to be done to further grow and preserve water, forest and land. Lot of soil is being lost due to forest depletion. He was very sensitive towards trees. Whenever he used to go in forest, he carried a scissor in his hand and used to cut any branch obstructing the growth of trees. May be he feels happy in heaven seeing prosperous Himachal but surely he must be crying to see the destruction of forests.

How many years you have been in service? What would you like to say on education and educationists?
I have taught for about 41 years. Teacher’s role in social life is very important. One also sees an aspect of teacher’s role when a child does not agree on being told by his parents that 2 plus 2 is four and says that his teacher has told him 2 plus 2 is six. Evidently, teacher must have told that 2 plus 2 plus 2 is six but the child has fixed 2 plus 2 in his mind and even after being corrected by his parents is not ready to disbelieve his teacher. It is said that a child is like blank slate. In his student life whatever gets imprinted in his conscious and unconscious mind, it remains with him all his life. So, it is very important for a teacher to be talented, conscious, and communicative. Today’s teachers are by and large Government servants and not Gurus (teacher). Guru (teacher) means one who eliminates the darkness. A teacher should not be like the person who performs sentry duty at night and shouts “be awake” all through the night and when a theft takes place he simply says, what can he do? if theft takes place despite his showting all through the night. Teacher not only teaches, he also shows the path. Tulsidas has said (“Guru kumhar shishye kumbh hai gadhi gadhi kadhai khot bheetar Hath shar de bahar mare chot”) Guru is like potter and student like an earthen pot. Guru painstakingly removes the aberrations just as potter smoothes the pot surface by giving support by his hand from inside and hammering from the outside. Alas, teacher and student could realize their honour and brighten the nation’s future by living an honourable life. A teacher is one who not only reads the books but also the mind of his students. Though there is no dearth of teachers today only if their percentage had been higher. I am now approaching 74 years but still I run and speak a lot and travel all over India. Some people ask how you can do all this at this age. I tell them that whenever I meet my students any where, they shower their respect on me which gives me strength and vitality which enables me to roam around joyously.

You have had special involvement in Literacy Mission. What have been your experiences? Are such missions meaningful?
Literacy Mission itself became one of the reasons for me becoming literate. To be literate does not mean to be able to read and write. It also means to be able to awaken the consciousness by way of discussions, debates and dialogue. To be able to read & write meant only knowledge of alphabets and counting numbers whereas meaning of being literate meant one’s being self dependent in totality. Regarding seeds and fertilizers we used to say which seed needs to be planted in which season, which fertilizer is to be used in what proportion. All this, one can remember only be reading and writing. Without reading one will get entangled in seeds and fertilizers. People understood this and they paid attention to seeds and fertilizers alongwith their studies. Not only illiterate but literates also gained with this mission. Those who knew nothing also gained new insights from the Literacy Mission.

One respected Collector Sh.Tyagi had gone for literacy rallies in Rajgarh, Nohra, Haripurdhar and Sangrah. While returning from Sangrah he told me that he gained a lot from literacy mission and that he also became literate. He said that he realized there is lot of distance between ordinary people and the officials. Just like literacy mission, other missions can also be meaningful provided there is participation between workers, officials and the leaders. Otherwise people movement will just remain a mission on paper.

hemfa.jpgIf we talk about village level development, what in your opinion needs to be done?
Rivers, rivulets and lakes have special importance in the development of Himachal. But if development is to reach each and every home, we have to complete more projects with sincerity. Here, most people are in farming. For farming, adequate water, forest and land is required. But the way forests are being destroyed, it is not less horrible than the thought of doomsday. If the farmer of this state is able to show to the outsiders the vegetables grown here in organic manure, he will not only be self dependent but also lead a comfortable life. The state also has huge potential in tourism. Farmers in the state should have permission to independently generate power as in Japan. They should establish small scale industries and expand like Chinese their presence not only in the state but also in foreign shores. Like Gujarat, there is lot of potential for milk production in the state. Once I had privilege of visiting dairy farm in Gujarat. At that time 9lakh liters of milk was collected daily. About 110 small organizations were attached to it. We were taken to the homes of people there. After seeing buffalos there we told then that you advise us to keep cows whereas you yourself are having buffaloes. They looked at my cap and said you look Himachali and said if we had evergreen forests like Himachal, we can provide milk to half of India.

Some people allege that Dr.Parmar could not do much for his area which he could have done or he should have done ?
This question is itself giving the answer that he could have done much more than what he accomplished. He could have had bungalows and cars for himself while occupying the CM’s chair but he could not even construct a home for himself although he had immense hold and authority. But he could achieve for himself and his people as much as he could achieve for any ordinary Himachali. That was his greatness because of which Himachal came into existence and Himachali’s bestowed him with the honour of being creator of Himachal. He had come to Nahan after resigning from the post of CM. he did not have a house of his own. His second son had rented a small house near Kalisthan. Dr.Parmar was staying in that house. His youngest daughter Promil Kumari had come from Jammu. We were both in a discussion in the room. Promil was extremely sad with the thought that her father is not having a home of his own. Police band was playing the tune of “Thandi Thandi Hawa be chaldi cheeda thay dalwe” in the Chamba chaugan ground. At that instant Dr.Parmar entered holding shaving brush in one hand and shaving kit in other and swinging to the tune of Nati. Seeing us in depressed mood he asked “What discussion is going on between the brother and sister ?”. I said Rabbo is feeling sad upon coming to Shimla and seeing that father is himself making tea and also doing purchasing of vegetables. He immediately said Rabbo, Himachal was not formed just like that, lot of sacrifices had to be made. Actually this was true. In those political conditions an intelligent and knowledgeable leader like him could only give a heap of stones an entity of ideal hilly state of Himachal. He believed that he will have equal development of all the districts so that representatives of other districts also in future did the same but this could not materialize. It is unfortunate that according to the government statistics of under development, his home district of Sirmaur is in second place behind the most underdeveloped district of Chamba and because of this poverty thousands of Sirmauris even today are working as labourers in and around Shimla to sustain their families.

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  1. says: Dinesh Singh

    Thank you for informing us about Dr. Parmar. Its apathy from government side that till date there is no place to learn about the person who created Himachal. Not only this, there is very little information about Dr. Parmar in books. Please feed us more about Dr. Parmar.

  2. says: Sanjeev Awasthi

    Thanks MR. Singh
    We will keep adding more & more information on this blog about Dr. Y.S. Parmar & his life including many pictures.
    Please keep reading & advising

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