If you have lived in Mumbai for a long time and then come to visit Chandigarh and adjoining Panchkula, you would be shocked to see how people in the Northern cities flaunt their wealth. When they drive they think that they are the only ones who are on the road.
They talk on their cellphones, honk incessantly without any patient even if they can see clearly why the traffic ahead is halted. It seems that they have utmost urgent jobs to attend to.
At night, many drive with the high beam lights on making the vehicle drivers coming from opposite side almost blind.
I don’t mean that the people in Mumbai don’t have big cars and other assets. I have seen high end cars lying along the roads in the most neglected style. Mumbai being the economic capital of India, many residents in Mumbai may be having more resources and wealth.
But they don’t display it like they do it in the North. It may be that metropolis is used to heavy traffic since so many years and thus people have become quite disciplined barring some aberrations. In the North, the number of vehicles have exploded exponentially while the distances to be covered are shorter. For example, when we were studying in Chandigarh in during early seventies, there were only few cars to be seen. People used mostly bicycles and at the most well off ones had scooters.
Nowadays there are traffic snarls to be seen at many places. One cannot plan for the future changes many many years early when the city was planned. It should have been a continual change which requires future vision. The problems are increasing by every passing day.
Morni is a hill station about 55 kilometers away from Chandigarh. Morni in local language is referred to peahen. The name is derived from the name of girl of a local ruler. There were many small princely states all over Shavlik hills. The rulers were mostly Rajput many of whom owed allegiance to Mughals. Morni hills were ruled by Rajput from Sirmaur which is near Nahan in Himachal Pradesh. The place is situated in Shavlik hills and can be reached through a road from Panchkula. The map of the road is given below:
The road is serpentine because hilly area begins just after crossing the Panchkula and after a continuous climb for about 20 kilometers from Panchkula, the path begins to descend. I have gone up to point where this descent begins.
There are hills covered with wild shrubs and trees including teak. When you begin the journey towards Morni from Panchkula there are hills covered with thorny acacia trees. Hordes of monkeys roam along the road. All day they are there squatting on edges of road and climbing on the adjacent trees. People who came to visit Shiva temple near Berwala, gave them banana and other eatables. This causes the menace to normal visitor who is afraid to get down.
On the way, is Gauri Shankar temple which is seldom open. It seems more of a private property of some Guru who enjoy immense clout over politicians rather than a public place as the temples are generally opened to public. After about 8 kilometers there is small bridge on a seasonal branch of Ghaggar river which is dry in the summers. There is a place with dense trees and foliage along the river which is marked as a bird sanctuary. But you have to be very patience for sighting the birds.
There are few fields where farmers can be seen working. The area beyond Panchkula suddenly takes on an idyllic character. Hills along gorges seem like walls of brown mud completely devoid of greenery except the exposed roots of some trees at the top. In these walls, one can see parrots clinging on to the holes which they must have dug for raising their nests.
One can also come across, the men and women sitting in the cars stopped at different spots engaged in cavorting activities from the city giving slip to their legal partners. Groups of young boys and girls can be seen drinking and making merry. Due to the drunken driving in the hills many a times fatal accidents have been reported.
There are Gray langurs, also called Hanuman langurs or Hanuman monkeys hiding in the bushes and occasionally coming into open on the road or to cross the road. They seem to be shy of humans and avoid humans unlike the monkeys. There are many birds and trees which bear flowers and adorn the landscape.
It is the beginning of October. In a few days, the winter season will begin. Presently it is quite hot in the day. Here in Panchkula which is very near to Chandigarh, rains have almost vanished. Once upon a time not so long ago, it was an agricultural area irrigated by five streams or Kul as they are called in the local parlance. The name of the place is the combination of two words namely Panch (five) and Kula (streams).
The land was very fertile. The system of the irrigation was an ingenious community exercise. These streams issued from the Ghaggar River which flowed through the place and passed along the edges of the lands of the landowners. The river originates in the Shivalik hills. It dries down in the Rajasthan.
Ghaggar River is mentioned in Vedic literature and it was an important river along with Saraswati River which is now believed to be flowing underground. The days and duration were fixed for each piece of land depending upon the quantity of the water available and area of the land holdings.
It was a very peaceful and mutually benefiting exercise. It was a win-win situation for everyone. It is an open fact that division of the irrigation water is a very sensitive issue and leads to unending conflicts.
Everyone in India is aware of Tamilnadu and Kerala spat over the distribution of Kaveri waters. It is going on for the years.
The Panchkula is now a big city and a satellite town to Chandigarh. The land is scarce for frenzied building activity. Almost all the agricultural land has been bought by builders at exorbitant cost resulting in very high cost of flats.
Even the Ghaggar River is now bearing the brunt of this expansion. At many places its natural flow has been modified or blocked. Quarrying of sand, pebbles is taking place. The day is not far when the river will be lost. The five streams are already dead.
My childhood and youth was spent in a village called Manimajra adjacent to Panchkula. In those days Panchkula was a small village like many other villages. We had agricultural land at two places falling within Panchkula. It was routine for us to walk to our fields after the school was over. We went on foot and fields were quite far. On the way, the path meandered through the fields and streams. In the summers, we enjoyed bathing in those streams splashing water over one another and bathed the buffaloes.
It was all green with crops like wheat, barley, millet, sugarcane, cotton, chilies and paddy in the respective seasons. There were mustard and gram crops which imparted yellow color to the flat interminable stretches of the flat land. There were many gardens with mango, guava and other. Many a times we stayed in the night in the shelters built on the land itself. In the winter seasons, Gur (jaggery) was prepared from the juice of sugarcane and we used to enjoy the fresh product.
Land was acquired by Haryana Government at a very low price and a housing board was built. It was the beginning of the breakneck building activity.
I have left the place after I got a Government transferable job and after 35 years have returned to this place. Fields are almost gone. Yet there are some stretches of the agricultural land still resisting and looking at the rich crops standing in them takes me back to my childhood days. At that time we never gave a thought of what is coming in future. Now it is all over. Wherever you look, you will find high-rise building. Lots of labors from East UP and Bihar have come here for work.
I am 67 years old now and retired from the service 7 years ago. In the ample time at my disposal, the mind harks back and reel of memory rewinds on the spool of time and this time it stops at the days of my childhood.
Our childhood was spent in the village called Manimajra. Nowadays it is in the Union territory of Chandigarh though at that time it was along with Chandigarh a part of Punjab.
We were like most others in the village poor peasants with small landholdings. Parents were totally illiterate. In those days, nobody was serious about the education and future of their children.
It was supposed that they will fend for themselves when they will grow up. In all probability would be farmers like them. If they went to school it was by luck.
Even I did not like the school. There was nobody to cajole us about the need of education to become something and live comfortably. But still we went to school.
After school and taking lunch, we invariably headed for our fields which were quite far away. It was all the way on foot through rough paths, streams littered with pebbles and thorny detours. We brought back the green fodder for our buffaloes.
But there were other outings also which we enjoyed most. One of these was going together to shrines of Mansa Devi which are about 4 to 5 kilometres away situated in the hillocks which are sub-systems of Shivalik hills. Usually the temples are situated in the hills.
There are two temples separated by half a kilometre distance. The lower one was constructed by the Raja of Manimajra and the other by Royal family of Patiala. The lower temple is older and was more aesthetic in design.
There were frescos depicting mythological scenes related to Durga slaying the mehsasur and also of Krishna Leela. I don’t know what has become of them because even at that time they were not in well preserved condition.
There were small shrines littered around the main temples. One such was at the foot of the stairs leading to the temple. There was a big water tank in front of it. Pilgrims took bath in it during the times of annual fares in which people from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal came to participate.
Farmers usually came in groups. There was at that time fashion of carrying a stick which was specially designed with a bend at the one end. Usually there were quarrels between groups and then this weapon was used freely. These people drank the country liquor and sweets like Ladoos and Jalebis were favourite.
But this was during the fare. In other times, there were very few people and it was very peaceful. We came many a times with our grandfather who was friends with a sadhu of the shrine. As they sat chatting and smoking hookah we played there for long time.
During other times, we came with friends and headed for the area beyond the temple. There were unending clusters of thorny bushes which bore the fruit “Ber” diminutive variety of jejube.
They were mostly sour and sweet. All day we ate those and collected for home. Other attraction was an air force helicopter which hovered over and many a times landed in the clearings of the bushes. We were awestruck with it and the way bushes swayed when it came down.
There was another attraction. It was walking along the Chandigarh Kalka railway line which passed in that area. We always waited impatiently for the train to appear. When it came rolling like a black giant which inspired awe and fear.
The engine was steam based with clouds of smoke from burning coal issuing from the exhaust. The goods train used to halt at the crossing of the road leading to the temple. Many women from nearby village came to fill pitchers of water from the engine. Sometimes the motorman also gave them the partially burnt coal for use in homes.
During winter, the cough usually pestered us. There were none of the counter medicines. There was a herb called Adusa which grew in abundance.
It bore white flowers which contained a nectar which soothed the throat. We sucked them and also brought back home because the cough became acute as the temperature dropped during the night.
Such were the days. A carefree life not affected by lack of money. There was hardly any pollution. No gadget like television, radio etc which keep us engrossed at home and we miss the nature’s beauty and surprises which wait us outside.
Tricity-meaning three cities combined. One such tricity consists of 3 cities namely: Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula. Chandigarh was planned a new city as the capital of Punjab when Lahore was lost to Pakistan.
It was matter of prestige for Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India who wanted to assuage the sufferings of the Punjab which befell it due to partition. Everyone is aware of the beautifully planned city.
As the years went by, States of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana were separated from the Punjab. There was a demand by Punjab to hand over the Chandigarh city to it. Haryana also claimed the city. So the city became a object of strife between these states.
Areas which consisted Haryana were not developed like Punjab, the area being dry and hotter in weather and ignored by Governments of Punjab which were dominated by people from western parts. In a sense, Haryana was to begin from the beginning and task seemed to be daunting but has been surmounted successfully. There were disputes regarding sharing of river waters.
Moreover, they did not have any city for being selected as the capital. Capital city actually should be in the centre of the state equally approachable. After division even Chandigarh became on the border of two states away from majority areas of the Punjab.
It was then decided to make Chandigarh a Union territory administered by Central government in addition to being the capital for Punjab as well as Haryana. The fact was nobody in the political and administrative circles wanted to be away from the city beautiful.
To establish more offices both Punjab and Haryana developed Mohali and Panchkula respectively which are just the extensions of Chandigarh in design and pattern.
With the development of these cities, population exploded because in the beginning the rates of properties were low as compared to Chandigarh. The Chandigarh design prohibits the city to grow vertically. So Mohali and Panchkula became the new places for building activity. The villages in the periphery of these cities also becomes crowded due to lower rentals as compared to tricity.
For workforce people migrated from Eastern UP and Bihar. They slowly settled here and engaged in any type of work be it agriculture or building or vegetable vendors or security guards and rickshaws drivers and what not. Shanties came up like Mumbai.
The area is now populated with people all over from Haryana , Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh. Vehicles have exploded in numbers. Everyone seems to becomes rich overnight. There is floating population.
So everyday, the newspapers are full of stories of crime, rapes, theft, killings, accidents due to rash driving under the influence of alcohol. The original people who had the land become super rich overnight by selling portions of the land. They indulge in spending a on boozing, expensive cars and other activities.
Prices of the property have skyrocketed and cases of malpractices in acquiring the properties by government agencies abound.
The tricity is in highly dynamical state and it seems that it shall not stabilise easily. Time does not seem to near when residents shall begin to consider the city their own and care for it. We who belong to those place by birth and times when there was just Chandigarh and had agriculture land find it hard to believe the change.
Temple of Jayanti Devi is situated on a hillock at the village Jainti Majri about 8 kilometers from PGI Chandigarh. It is nestled between the Shiwalik hills. As you travel to temple from Chandigarh, the verdant plains change into hills. There are cliffs all around.
Although the area falls under Punjab but it is more like a village sitting at the lap of hills. The area is lush green with the fields of various crops common to Punjab. Condition of the approach road is not good although a new road has been built but in parts near the village it is not still built.
I don’t know my exact date of birth as the record keeping in India was very poor at that time. I was born in a village called Mastgarh about 10 kilometers from the temple. When we were very young, our parents decided to shift to Manimajra.
Many a times I wanted to know the exact date of birth. I asked my mother to recall it. She always replies that you were born when the annual fair at Jayanti takes place. I also remembered vaguely my father mentioning about going to attend that fair when we lived at Mastgarh. So I wanted to visit the temple. One day, I along with my wife and son started in the car and reached the temple. After Chandigarh one enters the villages with green fields and many ponds of wate
The way to the temple is through the village. Street is narrow. Car was parked in the front of the temple gate. There are about 350 steps of stairs you have to climb to reach the temple. The whole path is covered and there is a stop over in the middle where you can purchase the offerings like flowers, coconut and prasad.
At first the path looked formidable at our age but we made it slowly. There were written on the notice boards that the annual fair is during the beginning of February. So at least I could know the month of my birth. The temple is at the top. There are two watch posts from which you can survey the whole surroundings below. Behind are many cliffs and there are fields right up to the hills. There is a dam on one side which have been built to harvest the water and avoid erosion. During the fair it is visited by lakhs of people. I was thinking how exactly this temple handled the huge crowds.
The entire Shivaliks had in the past many small kingdoms ruled by Rajputs. Like that, this area was also a small kingdom ruled by a Rajput King. One of his brothers was to marry the daughters of Kangra king. The girl was a devotee of Jayanti Devi. She is one of the seven sisters, the seven goddesses of the Kangra valley — Naina Devi, Jwalaji, Chintpurni, Mansa Devi, Brajeshwari, Chamunda Devi and Jayanti Devi
She was at pains to leave behind her Goddess after marriage. She prayed to her. Her prayers were answered and goddess promised to accompany her where ever she would go. She revealed this to her father who made another carriage for the idol and thus she brought it with her to Jayanti Majri. Her father in law constructed a small temple to establish the idol here.
Afterwards, a Robinhood like fellow named Garib Das from Manimajra took over this area. He was a great devotee of this goddess and got the present temple constructed.
During the winter months, a number of migratory birds visit India from the countries where winter is very severe and food availability becomes low. These annual visitors add colour to the season.
Many of the migratory birds are water waders and land in the lakes , big pools and other water bodies. Amongst these are greater Cormorants. They are huge birds and expert fishers. They hunt in groups and there is great jostling and fighting for the catch snatching.
In older days the trained Cormorants were used for river fishing in Japan and China. A snare was tied at the end of the neck which in addition to keeping the cormorant under leash also prevented the Cormorants from eating the fish except for smaller ones. As soon as the bird caught a fish, it was taken out from water and made to spit out the fish.
Nowadays, it is only a tourist attraction.
During December a number of these big birds descend on Sulkhna Lake in Chandigarh. I took some pictures.
I am sure many young people may not be knowing his name but be humming the songs written by him. The young writer hails from Malerkotla, Sangrur, Punjab. His name is Irshad Kamil. He has breathed a freshness in the Bollywood film songs. It is just a beginning. I am sure, he shall blaze a trail in this field.
Man of many gifts, he has dabbled in various professions like a reporter for newspapers in Chandigarh. He wrote scripts of many serials for television. Some of the films he had written the songs for are Jab We Met, Rockstar, Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani.
Recently, I watched his interview on Rajya Sabha television. Besides discussing so many things, he told the interviewer about a popular romantic song from Jab We Met. He met a woman who told him that she listens this song daily in the morning as a prayer song. Just have a look at the lyrics.
Na hai yeh pana,
Na Khona hi hai,
Tera Na hona jane Kyun,
hona hi hai
Tum se hi din hota hai
Surmaiye shaam aati hai,
Tumse hi tumse hi
Har ghari saans aati hai,
Zindagi kehlati hai,
Tumse hi tumse hi
It is just a matter of perspective. Lyrics are just like a prayer. Kamil said he was himself surprised and went through the lyrics in his mind and realised that they are really like a prayer in the praise of God.
I grew up in a village. In my childhood days, there were lush green fields around our village. The land was very fertile and only animal manure was used to boost the crops. Water for irrigation came from the canals and a schedule for distribution of water according to the area of land a farmer had was fixed. We used to go to fields everyday after our school. We took many detours on our way to our field. In the summers, we took dip in the cool refreshing waters in the canals in which cattle also cooled themselves. We stole red ripe tomatoes, raw and ripe mangoes, maize corn and sugarcane etc in the winter seasons. I clearly remember that in the compound of our home, there were heaps of haystack. We burrowed in to them, it became very comfortable. There were two or sometimes three buffaloes in our home for milk.
Everyone was having a plenty of time for leisure in those days. Old people use to sit under the banyan trees with cool shadows and whiled away the time by gossiping. Nothing could remain secret as the village was so well knitted. Women used to go to fetch the water into the pails from the village wells.
Though we were not rich but we had not a single worry in the world. We chased the ducks and other animals. Our parents will sometimes chide us for running here and there running over the crops. We climbed on the the branches of trees. Many a times someone will fall down and break his arm or leg.
There were plenty of sparrows in our houses. In the morning and evening there would be incessant chirping in the houses as they settled for the night. In the morning, they acted like alarms for the day breaking. The sounds we heard in those days were of the birds, dogs and people. There was hardly any radio. There was no electricity and we used the kerosene lamps . People ate very early in the evening and went to bed. They would rise very early in the morning. After taking tea or lassi and few bread pieces they will proceed to their fields with their bullock carts. When they returned, there was dry fagots, branches of trees, fodder for cattle and vegetables in the cart. Things began changing as the Chandigarh city began to expand. Industries came along and spread poison in the air and water without scruples. Green area began to shrink. With the electricity came noise which distracted these small creatures.
The sparrow have a good presence in the Punjabi literature. Sparrows, though very small in size, gorge on food very quickly. There is a idiom which says that “Now it is of no use to repent, because when the sparrows foraged and eat all the grains in the field”. The unmarried young girls are compared to the sparrows. In some sad folk song, the girls are telling their father that they are just like sparrows and will fly away someday which is an allusion to their marriage and will never come back. There is a tingle of helplessness in their narration.
Now, I live in the town near Mumbai. It is happy to note that the sparrows visit the windows of our house everyday thanks to my wife taking care of them with seeds and water. Also there are lots of pigeons. Squirrels also come but they like slightly rough and bigger seeds like groundnuts. Pigeons like Bajra and rice. Sparrows mainly gorge themselves on the rice. There are vacuous crows which are the loudest and the meanest and most efficient eaters. They generally don’t like the grains and forage into the food thrown by the residents into the refuse collector bins. Occasionally, they grab a frail or injured sparrow or smaller bird than themselves and eat it. We also hear the cuckoos.