Lesson Learnt, Action to be Taken
by Gitanjali Maria
I fold the newspaper, set it aside and stretch my legs and hands. The little remains of coffee in the cup on the side table has dried, leaving behind a stain. I stare outside through the mosquito netted door. It is scorching hot. The summer has just begun but the heat is already taking a toll. I’m using both the fan and the air cooler to keep myself comfortable. But in the coming months I feel that these won’t be enough. I get up from the cane chair, reminding myself once again that I need to get an AC soon. The inverter sends a beep-beep sound signaling that the power has gone out and it has become functional.
What use will the AC be if the power goes off so frequently, I mutter to myself angrily and frustrated. My wife is sweating in the kitchen, the heat outside and inside is manifested in her temper too. She snaps as Kiran, our six-year-old son, leaves the tap open after washing his hands.
“Don’t waste water. I’ll make you stand in the water queue the next time the tanker comes.”
Yes, water too has become a scarce commodity. The municipal water now comes only twice a week and that too the pressure is very weak. A water tanker comes every alternate day for the entire colony and ladies fight over who should get the first chance to connect the hose pipe from the tanker to their respective homes.
“We should all go and live in some hill station”, my wife shouts as she sees me enter the kitchen with the empty dried up cup to be washed.
“Oh, yeah…that’s a good idea”, I think in my mind. “Why don’t we just go somewhere this weekend? Maybe to Shimla, Manali or Mussorie. You’ll also get a break”, I say, hopeful that she’ll cool down a bit hearing it.
She does some calculations in her head. Tanker comes on Friday, municipal water on Saturday. So we should be fine since we’ll be able to collect water both the days even if we go to Shimla during the weekend if we leave the valve to the water tank open.
The kids aged six and four were all excited to go to the hills too. We decide to drive down to Shimla instead of taking the bus since it was more comfortable.
The hills are much cooler than the plains. We enjoy the view of the snow clad mountains, the pine trees, and the misty air. Since it was the beginning of summer, the place was just starting to get filled with tourists, who like us have come here to escape the heat.
“Why don’t we come here every week, every holiday?” little Aryan asks innocently.
My wife looks at him, surprised first and then seconds the idea saying, “That’s a very nice idea, Babloo. Why don’t we come here every weekend? It will be a relief from the heat and a relaxation for you from your hectic office schedule.”
I frown. “We’ll think about it”, I murmur. But in my mind I have almost made the decision to come here every weekend. Even I have got fed up of the heat as well as the boring everyday schedule.
And for the next four weekends, we drive down to this beautiful place.
We stroll down the mall road, visit the glen forests, the vice-regal palace and the Jakhoo temple. We also drive down to Chail and Kufri once. But every weekend we go, we observe the number of visitors to the place have increased manifold times. There are crowds everywhere and almost all the hotels are booked to its capacity every weekend. Not to mention the exorbitant rates as the demand comes upon and the supply remains the same.
The coolness and general chill of the place too have reduced drastically as the summer advances. The crowds add to the heat. We see many petty scuffles and heated arguments as the number of people increase and resources such as space remain the same. There are way too many vehicles on the route too that it takes at least an hour and a half more than our usual time.
Most hotels don’t have fans in the rooms. But with temperatures rising, fan was becoming a necessity. So we move to a different hotel that provides AC. But that night itself, we find that the hotel water taps have run dry. We call the reception to complain. But they say that Shimla is facing water problems, so they are following a rationing system.
“What the hell!” I shout. “How can hill stations have city problems?” I moan.
I got the answer the next day when driving back, we saw a hill-man and a city tourist have a brawl on the street below.
“You city fellows think you can come here to run away from the problems you created in your own places. You come here and destroy our place too, commercialize our forests and put us also in trouble. Doomed is this planet!” he shrieks even as the city man shells out his set of abuses.
We never go back again. It’s all the same, we agree.
We wait for the monsoons to come to cool down the earth. But they seem to be late too. Aryan and Kiran have vacations but they seem to be busy all the time. I ask my wife about it. She shrugs, says, she thinks they play terrace cricket.
I see the guys one day morning sneak upstairs with water bottles. I follow them. And to my utter surprise, I see a green terrace. The little ones have been planting plants all vacation on the terrace. I’m surprised, dumbstruck. I ask them who gave them this idea.
“Grandma”, they say together. My mother, who stays in the village had heard about our trips to Shimla and the reason why we stopped going. So when the last month she came to visit us, she came with some seeds and saplings and together they built up the terrace garden when me and Anita went for work.
“She told us that trees will help make this place cool like Shimla. She also said that our parents don’t have time for all these things and that we children should take care of the planet well as our future depends on that.”, little Aryan concluded in his little sing song voice.
I was astonished.
“Dad, do you know what our next plan is? Rain Water Harvesting. Grand mom has promised to teach us that the next time she comes. It will be good for our science project too.” Kiran says, all eager and bubbling with enthusiasm.
I smile. I decide, I too will join them in their new venture.