A Breath taking View of Heavenly Beauty from Mashobra, Shimla
A recent visit to Mashobra and my heart bled watching the incorrigible damage to the pristine beauty of the place. We reached Mashobra when it was quite dark so despite my ardent wish to go out and watch the place to my hearts fill, I could not do so as it was dark. No, it was full of artificially lit lights. What I longed to see was the same old Mashobra that made me experience the feeling of “Far from the maddening crowds” when we came to this small suburb of Shimla in the sixties and seventies.
In the sixties when I was a small girl, an excursion to Mashobra would fill me with the feeling as one has these days when he is planning to go to some unexploited destination in Himachal. We would start early as we would go to Sanjauli on foot and from there to Dhalli in a bus and from there onward, again on foot to Mashobra. It would be a tiring excursion but still we would be so excited. More so as my father would recite to us stories from the past, past that still had its relics at Mashobra!
It gave a feeling of a rustic charm to be in the small market of the place that had the old homes of the natives on one hand and the royal summerhouses on the other. Mashobra seemed to be a place with the houses of “Who’s who” of the Indian novieue rich and royal household names of the region. Not only region, even of the neighbouring countries, like there was a summerhouse of the King of Nepal.
What I loved more than the houses of the named and famed was the exquisite natural beauty that the place was endowed with. Though I was very small to appreciate natural beauty as such but coming from the congested environment of the Lower Bazaar, I could appreciate the fresh air and the wide expansive and deep valleys around Mashobra. If the Retreat, looked majestic on one hill top, the beauty of the other hilltops, without a crowning beauty of an architectural beauty to boast of, could not be undermined. To my eyes, it would be comparing the beauty of a rustic damsel, without embellishments, to that of an ornamentalled beauty of a rich girl! Acting like a judge in a beauty pageant, I would assign more pints to the rustic beauty for her natural charms. I fell in love with the beauty of the unlimited mountainous ranges and deep valleys. Both held a deep charm for me for being fathomless!
As soon as I was done away with relishing the Summerhouses of the rich and known, I would run to the points nearby wherefrom I would watch the nature’s charisma! My Ma would be worried about me as she would think about me to have fallen in a ditch trying harder and harder to capture a better scene. How amazing is the fact that at a time when I had nothing like a camera to capture the beauty on a device, it was my own mind’s horizon that acted like a device to record the deeply etched scenes of beauty. And these days we rush in with a camera to capture a beautiful scene with a hope that we can look at it endlessly once that is downloaded on a computer. But the harsh fact is that we just download it, watch it once or twice, and then forget about it in search of another. Abundance and easy acquisition have led to have less in our mind’s landscape.
Defacing the Very face of Nature: The Haphazard Constructions
It was from one such point, where I would stand as a small girl to watch the beauty of the nature that I once again wanted to sip deep the beauty of the place. Early in the morning, as soon as the Sun spread its light, I went out to the point carrying my dig-cam with me. I was shocked to see the concrete houses abounding the narrow market of Mashobra where earlier only the small wooden and stone houses could be seen. And when I reached that point, I was awestruck by the beauty of the ranges. They looked captivating in the morning sun, seemingly bathed in the golden haze. So immersed I was to view the distant sight that the nearby reality didn’t register me. It was when I started to aim to shoot a picture that I realized some cumbersome and ugly structures coming as stumbling blocs I my focus. I was shocked to realize the mushrooming up of concrete houses where there were a few locally designed houses earlier. That reality made me shiver at what man had done to the beauty of the bountiful nature. I tried capturing picture that won’t show the ugly concrete and could have fallen down in the valley, had I not checked in time. The worst nightmare of my Ma would have come true that day!!
The Spoiled Beauty of an Idyllic Hillock…
I had gone full of vigour and expectation to find my childhood dream still alive but came back sad to see the attempt in making to rob it of its beauty, Looking around, I found more onslaught to the beauty of the nature. The hillock nearby had, once upon a time, the summerhouse of a Raja and an Out-house near it. I remember sitting at a window and gazing for long hours the red roofed house that was perched magnificently and only a portion of it would be visible from my window. It would look so charming that I would feel like rushing and seeing the whole instead of peeping at a part of it. It looked majestic. There was another nearby, later a residence of some forest officer, that didn’t mar the beauty of the hillock but seemed to rise from the hillock itself. The nature had done its best for the place and the human hand had not done anything to mar the beauty! But now a multi-storied complex was being constructed nearby. I felt the pain of the hillock as if it pleaded to me to save it from the onslaught on its honour! I was helpless. I just watched the hillock that looked defaced and ugly! I could see it as I carried in my mind a picture of the past as a reference point and would compare the place to that picture. The contrast in the architecture, the plan and the lifestyle would be an eyesore to hardliners like me! I became pessimistic about the human greed to raid the natural beauty and give it a name “development”. Not being able to gaze at the place that I loved and whose beauty had been marred, I looked in the distant.
Thank God it is Still Green and Sane…
Gazing towards the horizon, I was blissfully happy to find greenery around. It was, perhaps, land under green cover otherwise human greed could have robbed it, too, of its innocence. I thanked God for the place being still green and sane. Green forests, healthy and shining, made my heart swell and made me a little optimistic that the there still is a hope. The Himachalis may have lost a battle when our lands are being exploited to serve the rich people’s desire to won property and land in the state but the war was still to be won. I wish the Pahari architecture is kept intact even when planning for constructing new houses. I find, though have no authority to comment, that the houses should mingle with the nature and must look like a part of the nature rather than starting to look as an ugly blot to the natural beauty. The modernization and the cultural heritage should go hand in hand and neither should be promoted at the cost of the other.
What Lies Beyond the Ranges…
Perhaps I am an escapist. I run away in search of pastures anew. While as a child, I would come to Mashobra as a respite from the crowds of Shimla but now I find even Mashobra to be unable to provide a serious reveler the respite that he craves for. I am a human and have the power to think beyond. So the ranges of the mountains, still maiden and unexplored, seem to invite me to explore and to find what lies beyond!!!