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By Mr. Kumar ALFA
   
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Nainital: Interface with Nature
 

While braving present extreme winter of Delhi (two days being coldest in 40 years), memories of time spent in Nainital and Mukteshwar in September – end, 2011 prick my mind. There is nothing unusual in attending a training in diverse settings but a village attachment with same is like an icing on a cake. One such opportunity was availed of in Sunderkhal village of Dhari Block. It is 55kms. from Nainital on Bhatelia – Dhanachuli road.

 

Consciousness about ecology and environment in the village could be measured from the fact that out of 189 hectares, 113 hectares were placed under Van Panchayat and that majority of 1009 villagers were reported involved in community managed forest. The practice of Van Panchayat Samiti had begun way back in October 1932. Extraction of fuel and fodder was taking place as per established norms. Thus, valuable and important varieties of trees were getting conserved with a sustainable bent of mind. The JFM had also played its role in building the capacity of community members and bringing awareness about proper use of forest resources. Interaction with the villagers revealed that three years ago they had also setup a Surveillance Committee to check open defecation and other unhealthy sanitation practices. Inspiration and support came from the CLASS programme initiated by Uttrakhand Academy of Administration.

 

As per Panchayat Members, the Committee was regularly testing the quality of water in the existing sources (we saw one or two) and was also keeping a close watch on overall sanitation standards. Open defecation attracted a fine from the Committee. As a result, almost all households had constructed pucca latrines. In addition, the Mahila Jagriti Sangh was maintaining its own truck for transportation of village products to the nearest market. Same was also utilized for carrying patients and accident victims, whenever a need arose. The whole thing reflected tone and tenor of a success story and good partnership between a scheme of the Government and the will and commitment at the cutting edge.

 

Subsequent to a quick bite and tea with the villagers, we were shown patches of beautiful Pine forest maintained and protected by the community. What a zeal and enthusiasm they displayed in this land of Chipko Movement! The setting was relatively flat with a narrow but unpolluted rivulet flowing in between. It provided a good photo opportunity specially for the couples on the wrong side of fifties. Knowing my skill and inclination, I too was roped in. At personal level, I ventured little bit into the deep forest having discovered some similarity with the road side meadows of Lachen and Yumthang Valleys.

 

Lush green forest always attracts, mesmerizes and relieves. What a rich growth of Oak, Pine, Deodar and Rhododendrons one saw over the last two days! Somewhere it was virgin and pristine, elsewhere traces of biotic interference were clearly visible. It was encouraging to see prevalence of thick, healthy forest. It is essential for human survival, more so, for those living along the hills. In sum and substance, the Uttarakhand hills appeared more stable and sturdy as compared to young geological formations of the Eastern Himalayas.

 

Once we hit the road, it was a pleasure to come across attractive hamlets at varying heights. Flowers would refreshen us every how and then. Water appeared scarce as compared to the East. May be, rate of urbanization was swift. Soon the quality of road deteriorates. There was an absence of parapets even at sharp bends. Hardly any sight of mile stones was possible. Low volume of traffic was the only plus point. After an hour and a half of slow and dull drive, we descend to a small township with captivating houses. Though its name is out of mind, simplicity of people and their way of life left an impression during our brief halt.

 

Following a drive of 5 kms, one touches Bhimtal, a mammoth water body, supposedly quieter and bigger than Naini Lake. One is reminded of a visit to this enchanting place in September – October 1996 in the lovely company of Late Ankoor, who was in 2nd class at that point of time. We had thoroughly enjoyed our halt and taken some memorable pictures, still kept in an album. The previous evening, we had Teej Puja at Nainital Club (now State Guest House), an occasion when D.T, on complete waterless fast, could not change her dress on account of extreme cold conditions.

 

Another drive of 6 kms and we are at Naugachia Tal, an extremely huge and picturesque water body, surrounded by serene forest. The first view itself, even in semi-fog conditions was awesome. Local officers convey that the lake derived its name from its nine corners. One was in a photographic spree at the drop of hat. Soon we enter the Lake resort building of Uttarakhand Tourism. Once belonging to the legendary G.B. Pant, it had 12 spacious rooms, a very eye catching reception, a dining room, beautiful verandahs and lawns on three sides, abounding in Arocaria plants. But what it lacks is a proper Drawing Room. One has to manage with the casual sitting arrangement in the verandah after negotiating a long que to the rest room (but natural, after a long drive). The flight of wooden stairs enable one to see more beautiful, well maintained and immaculately polished parts of the villa and view of the lake from two other directions. A couple of snaps taken from the rooms and hexagonal balcony on the first floor were going to be etched in memory. Halt of one and a half hours was rounded off beautifully by a sumptuous buffet lunch in the lawns.

 

By 17.00 hours, we were in our temporary abode at Nainital Academy. Hectic activity since dawn justified the rest followed by a sleep for almost two hours. The grand finale came in the form of a Cultural Extravaganza organized in the magnificent wooden paneled auditorium. A Woman Assistant Director, dressed all white with a printed Rajasthani Chunni, who anchored the show, did everything professionally. Song and Dance sequences, mostly from Uttarakhand, entertained and appealed to one and all. From the side of participants, Shri Jawahar from Tamil Nadu and Mrs. Devanikar from Maharashtra sang songs in their regional languages. More requests were set aside for want of time. Shri Kalita of Assam led everyone in dancing impromptu from audience. I too joined the spree with Kalita, rather reluctantly, after a long time. It was definitely for the first time since losing Ankoor, four months ago.

 

Dinner in cold conditions at nearby Heritage Hotel had also its own flavour of ‘warmth’, ethnicity and music. Another two hours passed by in taking snacks, food and not to be forgotten, a fresh bout of dancing and singing. Thanks to Kalita yet again, I attempted singing a duet, ably supported by a synthesizer and a light band. When we called it a day, Joshi was about to finish his intake of brown water. In his true inimitable style, he was seen ordering a late dinner to his room, far away from the madding crowd. The penultimate day at Nainital thus came to an end.

 
 
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