Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This Ain't No Switzerland!

I have been posting pictures of Khanyara and nearby areas since I moved here. Looking at these pictures, many people have commented on the beauty of the place. It has been called paradise, among other things. And why not? The pictures I post are of sights that take my breath away, the best this place has to offer.

But the truth is that these pictures show only one side of the coin. I capture what I like and ignore whatever bothers me. Beauty truly lies in the eyes of the camera-holder! Not much different from ads for Incredible India showing snippets of India that make it incredible! We all know India is a lot more (and less) than what is shown in these ads, but still we can't help loving the images. In reality, there are so many more dimensions to India, and to Khanyara, than its occasional incredible beauty.

Here, as in most of India, there is no concept of garbage collection and disposal. As a result, you will see garbage dumped along hills and on road sides. There is a particular spot where you see beautiful colorful flowers growing naturally on one side of the road, and equally colorful garbage strewn on the other side.

Roads are so bad that when by God's mercy we come across a good road, like we did near Palampur, we can't stop ooh-ing and aah-ing about it. Road repairs are done often, but using substandard material and very hurriedly, without use of a road roller. Everything is washed out once it rains, and potholes become even bigger than before. It is hard to conceive that making good roads and maintaining them would be so difficult in a country that routinely sends satellites into space!

An uncontrolled tide of development (!) seems to be overtaking natural order everywhere one looks. Lovely kulls, man-made many years ago and in complete harmony with nature around them, are being cemented in a hurry. High tension wires carrying electricity from Hydel Projects high up in the water-rich mountains criss-cross green valleys. Ugly multi-storyed buildings are popping up everywhere faster than you can say IPL!

Here, no one cares about maintaining the beauty, because this beauty is incidental and not really useful to those who live here and struggle to make a living. Just today, while conversing with our carpenter about the lovely view from one of the windows, he said that this view shiew is for people who come for a short while only- people living here are too busy making a livelihood to be impressed by it!

So how do you reconcile to this ugliness in the midst of this incredible beauty? Initially I did it by averting my eyes, by mentally photoshopping parts that I didn't like. by readjusting the way I saw things. But now, I accept ugliness as part of beauty of this place- Yin and Yang!

This doesn't mean that I am desensitized to what I see, just a little more understanding and accepting of the reality. Instead of getting tired just thinking of how to solve the garbage issue of the entire village (something NGOs haven't succeeded in doing for years), I am focusing on how I can treat our house garbage better. Instead of lamenting about the ugly building around us (including the one just next door to us), I am focused on making our environment closer to nature. Instead of tsk-tsking about the quality of environment education here, I am working out how to contribute to one school nearby. As for the rest, I take it as cost of development, something the poor people of this place need, and even if they don't, they can't escape it.

Here are some pictures of the other side of the coin. More pictures to come later today!

The ugly neighbors 
(The biscuit colored house is ours)

Garbage by the side of the road!
Unkempt housing board flats

High tension wires everywhere


  1. Great narration.only wished more people shared your views. That would have made the world a better place to live in.

  2. Ok so someone asked me why I wrote this post and won't it hurt my plans for setting up a B&B.

    Good question. I have been itching to write this post for a long time now. Telling the truth, it seems to me, would do more for my future plans than letting people have a false sense of the place.

    If one needs to be in pristine places with immaculate views and highest sanitation, then one needs to go somewhere else, like Switzerland. But if one wants to see the good with the bad, the Yin with the Yang, and discover beauty amidst the reality of India, then come here. What touches your senses is totally dependent on what's inside your head.