Poplar cultivation

We traveled by Shatabadi Express from Delhi to Dehradun. First it was in winters and second only in June of this year. As soon as the train crosses the industries out side Delhi, the dead river called Yamuna, the green fields begin to span both sides of the train line. Yamuna river, one of the three rivers-Ganges, Yamuna & Saraswati- forming the holiest trinity of Indian rivers is a cesspool of industrial waste, floating dead animals. Its color is almost black and it seems like a corpse. Its chemical oxygen demand (COD), a parameter to indicate the industrial waste pollution must be very high.

 

So with Saraswati which existed once upon a time in the North India and went underground and is which is said to be flowing underneath, becoming imaginary, Yamuna has joined it. First of these was catapulted underground by Nature and Yamuna has been killed by the humans.

Anyway let us continue with journey. So we see amidst this greenery crops like wheat in winter, sugarcane, mustard, green fodder, maize and rice according to the season. The soil of region is enriched by Ganges and Yamuna rivers. But in addition to these crops, there is a tree which is straight in shape cultivated on the peripheries of fields. There sheer number is mind boggling and some of them have become full fledged while others are in various stages of growth.

poplar3 poplar1(1) poplar1 poplar5 poplar4

This is called agro-forestry. The trees along with crops. These trees are very fast growing and are used to make timber and cardboards. The trees are cash crops making many farmers rich.

At the time of journey, I relished and admired the results of hard work put in by the farmers and landowners. This vista continues unabated up to Haridwar. I was becoming curious where all the wood from these trees goes for processing.

We learned this in a hard way. We were returning from Chandigarh to Dehradun after a weekend by our car. We always follow the route which runs from Panchkula to Naraingarh to Kalaamb to Nahan bypass to Paonta to Dehradun. It has been raining last two days in the region. We have some inkling of land slides after Nahan and as we reached about 10 kilometers from Nahan bypass, there was mud all over the road and road was blocked ahead due to blockage.

We returned back and from Kalaamb took the road to Yamuna Nagar to follow the old traditional route to Dehradun from Yamuna Nagar to Saharanpur and Dehradun. As soon as we crossed the timber processing units in Yamuna Nagar, we thought we taken a wrong road. But no. There was almost no road. It was shreds of road in the craters and pools of water. There was worst kind of jam. And the car, it would completely left to God’s mercy. Its underbelly grinded against the edges of craters. The reason for all this was before us. Coming from the opposite side were countless tractor trolleys over loaded with the poplar logs. These were so heavy that tractor’s front wheels went skywards whenever it lunged forward from the rest. What was more threatening was the precarious way these trolleys dipped to one side or the other whenever one of its tyres fell into the craters. It seemed that they will fall on us and crush us alongwith car to death. All these were coming to Yamuna Nagar where a number of processing mills have been established. Many trolleys have turned turtle and blocked the road. Situation was such that we crossed ten kilometer hell of the road in more than 2 hours. It was not until we crossed the bridge over Yamuna that road become worthy of travel.

Incidentally, the agro-forestry was started during 1980’s by an enterprising person called Surinder Singh Hara. He owns about 180 hectares land called Hara Farms near Yamuna Nagar which he made suitable for agriculture by clearing the jungle. He produces crops which belong to this region along with turmeric, many fruits and poplar and specially cloned variety of Eucalyptus.

I think it is the duty of the Government and those who are adding extra burden on the road to contribute and make the road good. This will ease the life of persons who are driving these vehicles and labors. It will also save the fuel and maintenance of the vehicles which will ultimately go for the good of people.

Tragedy of Hill People in Uttrakhand

Uttrakhand is called Dev Bhoomi or the abode of Gods. The state was carved out of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh and comprised of hilly areas situated both in Himalayas and Shiwalik.
Lord Shiva is the God who is associated with the region. There are places and temples related to him. The two rivers namely Mandakini and Bhagirathi which merge at Devprayag to form Ganges flow through these hills.
All through the year, tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great Tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great importance. And also the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation. And then the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation.

Train Journey from Delhi to Dehradun

It is the beginning of the month of April and Delhi has already become hot. The weather in India changes every 3 months. It is the spring season and soon sweltering heat will envelope North India. Dehradun which is situated in a valley between Lower Himalaya and Shivalik hills named after Lord Shiva.

We boarded the train from New Delhi Railway station at 06 hrs and 50 minutes and it is all sitting on chair cars. Due to being an AC train, it is closed with glass panes.

Soon we were hurtling through the vast plains of North India. The area is situated between two great rivers namely Ganges and Yamuna. It is called Doab meaning the land between two rivers. Naturally it is very fertile and featureless and totally flat.

There were never ending fields of wheat which looked like golden because the time of harvesting is nearing. Then there were sugarcane fields and carts yoked by bullocks and loaded with sugar canes could be seen on the beaten paths.

On the periphery of every field were poplar trees with translucent green leaves on the tops. If you have lived in this area only then you can realize the beauty of this area and sturdiness of the people.

My mind flashed back and I thought how once Mughal kings and their generals must had roamed in this area. Before their coming here, petty Hindoo fuedatories were there and they were always fighting between themselves. This lack of unity undone them.

Then came the British. The East India company established the army cantonments in Meerut and Ambala which employed these hardy people as the soldiers. These people belong to Aryan race and are the fairest and strongest in India. Aryans first established themselves in Punjab between Sind river and 5 rivers. The increasing pressure of population and cattle drove them towards Ganges valley which was even more fertile than Punjab.

First city to arrive at was Meerut which still is the big cantonment of Indian army. Then Muzzafarnagar, shaharanpur, Roorkee and Haridwar followed. There was no change in the scenery of wheat fields till we crossed into Saharanpur and you could see for miles the mango gardens in the bloom. Soon they will bear delicious mangoes like Dushehri which is so sweet.

After crossing the Haridwar, we entered into woods. The trees were sprouting new leaves which were coppery colored and soon shall become greener. At 1240 hrs we arrived in Dehradun.

Frescos

Uttrakhand is called Dev Bhumi meaning the land of Gods just as Kerala is called “God’s own country“. There is no doubt that the state is endowed with nature’s blessings in the form of beautiful Himalayas, Hill stations, Lakes and sacred rivers like Ganges and Yamuna. The state was created in the year 2000 and carved out from the Uttar Pradesh. There are many tourist attractions like hill stations of Mussoorie and Nainital. There are sacred places alongside the Ganges path in the high altitudes like Devprayag, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Haridawar and Rishikesh.

Dehradun is the capital of the state. It was important town since the British times as attested by the headquarters of a number of Central Government offices like Survey of India, ONGC, Forest Research Institute and so many others. Due to this fact, many people from other states have settled down here and made it their permanent home.

After becoming the state capital the population of Dehradun has increased exponentially. The rates of real estate have sky rocketed. There are crowds jostling for space in the markets and on the roads. To drive a vehicle in the city is a nightmare.

There is still some space near Forest Research Institute. It sprawls on a very vast area and there are trees which have been nurtured with care and grown to dizzy heights.

A road runs on one side of its boundaries from ONGC crossing towards Ballupur. Here on this wall, an artist creates frescoes which depict the life of the people of the hilly people and their religious places and social customs. There are village nestling in the dense vegetation, temples on the rivers banks, women dancers dancing to the music of musicians. Some are shown below.

Tai Ahoms: The Easterly Kshatriyas

Indian subcontinent can be accessed on land and by sea from three sides. In the past, invaders entered it through West from the side of Afghanistan. It is protected from North by Himalayas which act as a formidable wall. The mountains which cover the India from North West to North East have been responsible for keeping the invaders entering from the North directly and also for creating the weather particularly the Monsoon which gives India respite from sweltering heat and helps in meeting the irrigation requirements and bestow bounteous crops to the region. Its snow capped mountains feed the perennial rivers which sustain the life of teeming masses inhabiting the entire northern India.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Sukapha.jpg

The people entering from the West mingled with original people inhabiting the region. Soon their population escalated and they were obliged to spread in search of newer avenues where the conditions existed for habitation. In this process they spread over whole of Ganges valley up to Bengal.

The other entry point was the North East where people from South East Asia and China entered India. In comparison to the Western corridor mentioned earlier, terrain here is more difficult. Also people who came and settled in the North East confined themselves to the Assam and its 6 sister states in the North East. One reason for this might have been the difficult proposition to expand towards West where already stronger kingdoms existed. Secondly the narrow strip called chicken neck area separating the North East states from rest of India must have acted as a bottleneck which might have dissuaded them.

Assam and the 6 other states namely Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland & Manipur in the North Eastern part of India possess enchanting natural beauty. Due to the lack of industrial progress, the environment is still free of pollution. The natural products are forests of bamboo & teak, crops of rice and vegetables grown on the fertile land on the edges of river Brahmaputra without any application of contaminating fertilizers. Of course most famous product of Assam known all over the world is the tea. You travel by car on any road and along both sides are never ending teas plantations. You can see the women laborers with special kind of baskets hanging from their shoulders plucking the leaves and putting in the baskets.

Nederlands: Een vrouw aan het werk op een thee...

Parasuram Kunt, Arunachal Pradesh

There is plenty of fish in the rivers. The area is rich in petroleum. In fact, the oldest oil well in India was drilled in Assam at Digboi. The original people are mainly tribals whose customs and rituals are entirely different from rest of India.

The most important migrants to come and and settle in this area came from Yunnan province. First to enter the North East region was Sukhapa, who came with army, his women and nobles. Although initially they did not practiced Hindusim but later Kings leaned towards this religion and ultimately converted to Hinduism. Local inhabitants called them Tai-Ahoms.

Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its mountainou...
Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its mountainous landscape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As they became more tolerant towards Hinduism, the elements of Hindu mythology entered into their history. Thus it was stated that Brahma created the human beings from a gourd. These people were gentle and pious. But by the time of Treta Yuga, the moral values declined and Indra became worried and sent his grandsons: Khunlung & Khunlai to rule the earth and bring back the old order. These were the progenitors of Tai-Ahoms. They descended to earth facilitated by a golden ladder on the Mung-ri-Mung-ram mountains. Thus the Tai Ahoms, as they won over the local people labeled themselves as Eastern Kshatriyas.

Boats: the metaphor of life

Boats evoke mysterious feelings in most of us. The scene of a far off  boat on the river water looking like a speck is etched permanently in the memory of those who had seen this. It is feeling of departure of some one close to us who is going away. When the fishermen leave for high seas for their occupation of  catch, their families wait anxiously with baited breaths for their safe return. Sea is full of hopes, despair and surprises. Same is the story of life which wobbles on the surface of  sea of life. Many a times the fishermen had a windfall, at others, even after spending so many days in the sea, nothing comes in the hand. Many a times, we have to battle with the difficulties of life like the old man who comes victorious from the jaws of death in the epic book “The old man and the sea” by Ernst Hemingway.

Those who live near the shores of rivers and sea are familiar with the boats sailing on the water. They inspire so many songs and pages of the literature. Boats enrich their literature and provide metaphors for many events in our lives. For example, many of our saints who lived in the towns situated on the banks of great rivers like Ganges, had compared the life to a boat floating in the turbulent seas of this samsara. They urged the God to steer the unstable boat whose sails have become tattered facing the strong winds to safety.

Bits of our History

History they say is not the absolute truth. The human interactions and desires are so complex so as to be easily comprehensible. Everyone tries to interpret the past in its own way. The science is now being used to reconstruct the past from the remnants of the things used by people in the past like the inscriptions on the stones, remains of the dead, pottery, tools used by the people of those times. History is also layered with seams representing the different chronologies.

I was going through the books at Books.google.com, reading the preview of some books on history by Romila Thapar. She seems to do the things very thoroughly and putting across these very legibly. Theories of invasion of North India and then whole of Gangetic plains during the course of time also lack evidence and are not fully convincing.

Another book detailing the history of Maratha people by an British author who spent considerable time in India tells us that it was easy for the Aryans to spread across the Ganges plains because of easy terrain and fertile land for agriculture and availability of water for survival. After reaching and settling up to East of India, they moved towards South India across the Vindiyas. This delay seems due to difficult terrain dividing the south and north of India.

But their entry into the Maharashtra was the last.