Return to the land of my youth

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.

In the Cauvery’s Land

I landed at Bangaluru earlier known as Bangalore airport at half past five in the evening on Wednesday.  I had boarded the flight from Delhi. It was dot on time. At the airport, drivers were asking exorbitant money for going to the city where I had booked online a room in a hotel near railway station. I chose this hotel in the proximity of railway station because I had booked a berth in a train called “Mysore express” for going to Mysore. In fact, Mysore is not so easily accessible from outside places. I have a meeting with the scientists at Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI) where a collaborative project was running and it is about to conclude in November. I even tried taking a taxi directly from Bangalore airport to Mysore but again taxi drivers were asking for a fare which included the return fare also. Already we were knowing this exigency and as an alternative had booked a room in a hotel in Bangalore and leaving by early morning train for Mysore.

From Bangalore the distance to Mysore is only 140 kilometers but trains run very slow due to single track for coming and going trains. If two trains are coming from opposite sides which usually is the case, one of the trains has to halt at a passing track and allow the other to cross. At the railway station, it first seemed very confusing because instead of Mysore Express, name of the train was written as Tuticorin express. Anyway the train came very much on time from Tuticorin and commenced its journey towards Mysore on time.

Soon the city was left behind. All along there were fields of sugarcane, rice and millet. There were coconuts planted everywhere. Trees and shrubs with beautiful flowers could be seen around the houses. The whole countryside was lush green. Occasionally the train crossed a bridge on a river. And which river? It is none other than the sacred river Cauvery. It is also a bone of contention between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The waters of the river are used as a Political weapon by the Karnataka state because it has erected many dams on the river and Tamil Nadu is starved of water whenever Karnataka state wants to pressurize the Central government to meet its demands.

Anyway, the greenery became more and more intense as the train chugged towards its destination. There were banana cultivations also at many places. Farmers were seen working in the fields. At last the train reached the destination after three and half hours and I was received by colleagues from CFTRI and went to the hostel.

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