Last year, when terms like a pandemic, lockdown, and corona were new to most of us and everything was in a state of chaos and uncertainty, the only hope (light) at the end of the tunnel for me was to reach my hometown, one of the smallest district of Himachal Pradesh.
Reaching here became more like a distant dream during these testing times.
As it took a whole lot of permissions and grants to reach the place along with passing the hurdles at various State check posts.
And it’s been a complete one year now, that I packed my bags and landed at my hometown in ” Hamirpur” from Delhi.
This place is associated with my childhood and deeply embedded in my thoughts and memories. A place that brings back truckloads of memories and locomotives juggling and chugging through the times gone by.
A place that had acted as a backdrop for one of the most exhilarating and exuberant phases of my life.
There were times when as kids we roamed freely on this little piece of heaven. When terms like concrete, overcrowding, and commercial establishments were alien to us.
But not anymore, as now the long meandering walks leading to various quaint and quiet pedestrian routes along the pine forest, are things of the past.
Over the years, the pristine wilderness and untouched beauty of this place like many other hill places in our country are on the verge of extinction.
Things have changed so drastically in the name of a facelift or upgradation that no familiarity can be seen with the past, it seems as if familiarity breeds contempt here.
This little picturesque idyll is now disoriented and submerged due to the overloading of slopes.
The rampant consumerism of the hills by the local and tourist sector has put this abode in peril. The overstretching of the local resources and gentrification has only made things bad to worse.
Each time I try to reconnect with the place, I’m confronted with more changes, and this has diminished my excitement of revisiting this place. At times you feel crippled and debilitated to see so many changes.
You feel like a stranger in your own native place.
As a child, I always envisioned making this place my permanent home but that appears more like a childish thought now. As perceptions change, so does the place.
Now it is a small simple town in my distant memories only. Reminiscent of the simpler yet contented times.
The nostalgia associated with distinct childhood memories of coming to my hometown during vacations has now radically changed.
The small rural town has now graduated to an urban concrete jungle on the hill, but this doesn’t stop here, the mini hill station is fast turning to a landfill, the dump yard is growing by leaps and bounds. Though the growth is in reverse.
The smell of the breezy pine trees has disappeared behind the dust and smoke emanating from the construction sites of the multi-story houses.
Once thickly wooded area abundant with wildlife and untrammeled beauty is now choking for breath, as the urban town prospers, fulfilling the criteria for the metropolis, and almost touching the finish line in the race to urbanisation and facelift.
Each and every house is in competition to prove its superiority and magnanimity, but how to reach there is a riddle in itself as broad pathways shrink to narrow lanes.
To own a piece of land in the sylvan surroundings of the hills has been a desire of many. Even the city lovers dwelling in the high-rise buildings want to own a piece of land in these calm and serene surroundings with conducive climate and sky-scraping trees in the background.
But in recent years one thing that has overwhelmed the landscape is the ever-growing monkey menace and litter problem.
Door-to-door garbage collection initially came as a relief for many but off late one only finds the unflattering trail of refuse along the roadside. And this whopping amount of waste is just ever-growing and so instead of trees we have the trash growing.
The situation is alarming and precarious.
And now, one cannot escape to constant surveillance of nature or well-meaning neighbours, as there is no place to go.
The ever-growing waste and land prices give stiff competition to each other.
The land prices here have catapulted and increased manifold, despite the pandemic the investments have only increased and rates have only escalated.
The increase in construction activities has resulted in the felling of trees on large scale. Illegal encroachments have put the ecology and open spaces into jeopardy.
A small town to big city transformation has turned this childhood place of mine into a city struck in perennial traffic jams, toxic cutthroat work culture, dysfunctional lungs in absence of trees, and bustling maddening lives.
This ” Himachal Day” 15th April, it’s time to retrospect and contemplate.