A sudden break of our jeep turned my attention away from tall beautiful mountains and deep valleys towards stains of white snow along the road and it became clear why we were shivering so badly when we got out of our bus in Dehradun.
It was a beautiful sight in front of us with green mountains flaunting a design of white snow in patches here and there as if wearing a green and white dress. It didn't take us long, or maybe it’s how I feel because I was so lost in the beauty of The Great Himalayas, to reach “Chakrata”. A small town that we visited many years ago during our college trip, back then it was a small town with very few staying and eating options , and one would not see a person in the streets after 6 PM.
With this image in mind we were proceeding towards the town through the road when we spotted a bunch of tourists playing in muddy snow by the road side and for that moment I felt that the snow balls they are throwing at each other are actually aimed towards the picture I carried of this place for so many years. With this little disappointment we reached to the main town and my eyes automatically spotted groups of people holding cameras and clicking their pictures in the streets and by the left overs of snow which fell from skies about a week ago.
I was not amazed on the number count of tourists there, because I know that Chakrata have that scenic beauty to attract people from all over the globe, what actually amazed me or rather disappointed me was the power of commercialism and how negatively it changes a place. Cola bottles, wrappers, and packets of edible items hanging in the branches of trees and lying along the road was not what I imagine about a place which is gaining popularity for its natural beauty. But standing there and looking at this I was realizing the need of Responsible tourism.
Although I could have given myself a little more time to shed tears for the shattered glass of the image I carried of this place, but our hungry stomachs told us to find a place to stay and get something to eat as quickly as possible in order to stay alive and fit to enjoy the natural beauty of Chakrata.
We automatically took the turn towards the hotel we stayed in during our college trip and there awaited a little surprise of price hike, but it is natural and understandable by the fresh inflow of tourists to the town, however after a little bargain we managed ourselves a shelter for the night. After getting rid of our backpacks the first job was to refuel ourselves and then we took a little walk towards the outskirts. While walking around, clicking photos and talking to local people I realized that that all the negative changes that pulled my attention are in a way positive for the people here, as it added to their source of income in this rough terrain, I and people like me might come and go, but these local people have to stay here and to them this natural side of Chakrata values a little less than financial prosperity they aspire from the touristic image of the place, but what is still needed is to channelize these commercial changes to keep the soul of the place alive.
One thing that I felt had not changed is the friendly nature of the natives of the town, they were open and frank when we first came here and they were open and welcoming even now, it is possible that someone might ask you for a tea or even a meal in return of your hello with a smile as it happened to us.
They happily allowed us to take their pictures and told us about their customs and rituals and gave information about many other off road options to visit while staying in Chakrata apart from the famous places there, asked us for lunch and offered their assistance if we happen to need it in case. Talking to them I was hoping this frank and open side of this town should not fade away and with this thought we headed back towards the main town.
At the end of the day, standing at the western edge of the town, clicking a wonderful sunset with enchanting colorful sky and dance of shadows of trees and mountains as the sun went down, on the music of chilling wind coming from the ice caps of Himalayas, I found myself standing amidst a contrast of beautiful nature on one side and continuously growing commercialization of places.
In front of me was one of the most amazing sunsets one could ever see and at my back awaited a town that once went completely silent by this hour but tonight we were planning to get ourselves a dinner specially made on order. Such is the power of change.
"by Prashant Rana"