Driving through a link road to Palampur, I could see the difference between the Palampur of yore and Palampur of today. This link road joins Palampur from Maranda and what a pleasure it was to drive through dense pine forest on both side of the narrow road. It reminded me of the Palampur of yore when such was the scenic beauty on both sides of the main road. But not any more. Big and palatial houses in colorful exteriors welcome the visitor. These houses may speak of the rising financial status of the populace of Palampur but to an old timer. like me, they seem like eyesores on the picturesque beauty of Palampur.
What a pleasure it used to be in the town when the pine trees surrounded the living area of villages, the tea gardens were at one’s backyard, so close by that one could pick a few tea leaves while having put water to simmer! But as I was told tea cannot be prepared from fresh tea leaves the poor leaves have to undergo a long and hard processing before they turn into customary tea leaves! And the water Kuhals, an integral part of a courtyard, would flow through the aangan. It would be common sight to see water kuhals flowing near most of the localities. But I repeat, no more!
While I got down to take a few pictures at this road, I heard faint sound of water and surprisingly found a water kuhal nearby! It passed through the pine forest, silently and without any grudge! But still lucky Kuhal it was, having clean and cool water in it, as I found later many others literally dried up kuhals turned into places to dispose of waste material.
At right hand to the Neugal I was lucky to see a small rustic mud house, a seemingly relic from the Palampur of yore and near to it was the Gharal, a small enclosure for the cows! There were no cows as there was no water in the Kuhals! Just adjacent to this mud house was a palatial and colorful concrete house putting to shame the humble mud house. When I was busy taking the pictures and talking to a passerby about the changing face of new Palampur, he lamented that very soon this mud house would also be razed to ground to give way to another big palatial house! Who knows when I visit next it would not be here anymore.
But this is the price that we pay for development. I looked around the tea gardens and silently thanked the Government policy of not selling the tea garden land for any construction work. This check has restrained the emergence of concrete jungle in Palampur to some extent but the powerful lobby of land mafia is sure to find some way out to turn Palampur into a place alien to my tastes!