We are fortunate to have a small summer getaway in Mashobra, located about 10 kms northwest of Shimla. It is an idyllic little locale of untouched natural beauty, perched at a height of 7,700 feet. A perfect escape from the unpredictable weather, noise and pollution of city life, it is a place to recuperate, perhaps introspect, slow down one’s fast-paced lives or simply soothe one’s wearied nerves.
One of the highlights of this little hill town is the Bekhalti drive or walk. It is an 18 km long level road surrounded by deodar forests and laced with occasional waterfalls that spring out of nowhere. Walking on it in the morning or evening under the pristine blue sky with nature’s very own background music—the sound of cicada insects—you cannot get closer to heaven.
Occasionally, you might even chance upon a pair of yaks with bells around their necks taking a shortcut to Kufri. Nature gives you all the heavenly ingredients to a blissful existence. From misty windows, divine sunsets and sunrises and to top it all, the rainbow—sometimes a double one after the rain—are some of nature’s wonders that we cannot get over.
The flora and fauna landscaping the area is such that there are always vibrant colours. The head-size hydrangeas are in full bloom May onwards and the blood red rhododendrons bloom before that. The hills covered by delicate daisies, geraniums and roses have the most exquisite hues. Most of the bare walls are covered with ivy, making them virtually living walls. In short, think lush green vegetation, pure fresh air and clear blue skies … and you think of Mashobra!
In Himachal, people take great pride in conserving their heritage. I was pleasantly surprised when a local person pointed towards a plastic bag that I was once carrying. He warned me that if I was even seen carrying it, I could be fined. I was surely impressed. The use of plastic bags is strictly forbidden and smoking in public places is a complete no-no. These are not mere warnings but are strictly adhered to by residents.
One morning during our daily walk on the Bekhalti road, we were quite taken aback to see garbage dumped down a hill slope. Not only was it an eye sore, it was the admonition of a great devastation that was to follow. Sure enough, that pile of garbage had swelled in just a few days. Human nature is such that if law and order is well enforced, everyone follows. But the minute someone crosses the line and gets away, all hell breaks loose. The garbage thrown was not near the main road and was so far concealed. But apart from nature lovers, no one had taken cognizance of the matter.
As a psychologist, I can say that once you ignore a threat it just breeds. If no one has noticed the garbage pile-up for a while, one gets a legal sanction to add to the mess. Not only is it convenient, one actually starts believing that it is alright to contribute to the disorder. Just how bad practices attract more bad practices—and in no time, there is utter chaos. Regulation, on the other hand, will draw more discipline and self-control, leading to more lawfulness.
The President’s Estate is in Mashobra and every year before the President’s annual visit, the whole village is spruced up. The chaos created by parked vehicles all through Shimla to Mashobra and beyond is cleared. I am sure this pile of garbage will be removed in time too. If we can create order for a few days, why not make it a practice forever? Undoubtedly, this would make it a better place for generations to come, for tourists who visit as well as natives who live in this paradise.
I hope the local authorities take cognizance of this serious hazard looming in front of them and nip it in the bud.