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NO CAMP TEA AT KEMPTY

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By: Ganesh Saili

I wish it were possible to find out who started this trend of blithely replacing facts with fiction! First we were told: ‘Landour is derived from the Welsh village of Llandour in Carmenshire County.’ Nonsense! The muscle and sinew that built Landour named it after their home in Landaura, near Roorkee. Then we were told that Kempty Falls was named after the Camp Tea that the sahibs sipped there. I hate to play spoilsport, but the villages in the Jaunpur area have been around for ages. Kolti, Kanda and Sia Kempty existed long before the East India Company had heard of the valley of the Doon. And so did the nearby villages of Bhatta and Kyarkuli pre-date the birth of this hill station two hundred years ago.

Kempty Falls on the Ringal Nadi is some eight kilometres from the library area. When seen from a distance, it’s a series of five waterfalls spaced out over a drop of six hundred feet.

Up until 1909, our water supply came mostly by gravitation from the springs of Chalmer Khad and Khattapani. Augmenting this supply were the waters of Mackinnon spring pumped up by steam. All of them together proved to be inadequate for the needs of a bustling station. After 1900s the clamour for increasing this lean supply had begun sounding loud and clear.

Taking the project further in the autumn of 1902 Mr. Aikman, the Sanitary Engineer of the City Board, submitted his preliminary report. He is credited with the idea of producing electricity for lighting up the hills. The original plan was to produce power from Kempty Falls and use it to drive electric pumps which would then pump water from the Murray springs for Mussoorie. Additionally, subsidiary pumps would be installed in Landour and electricity would light the streets, public institutions, hotels and private houses in the hill station. Such a project would cost six lakhs fifty thousand rupees, and a detailed scheme was actually worked out and approved. But negotiations with the Rajah of Tehri for using Kempty falls ran into choppy waters and did not fructify.

Without much ado, the Municipal Board switched to the village of Bhatta. It lay on the southern face of the Mussoorie ridge and had two clear advantages over Kempty falls: it was a part of British territory and had the additional advantage of being near the rail head in Dehradun.

Galogi, a place below Bhatta village where two mountain streams came together was selected to lift water over 1,700 feet! It was unheard of at the time and was the highest lift of water in Asia. Credit for making the power lines follow the contour of the hills goes to Mr Pitkeathly. He was the contractors’ Chief Engineer, who, we are told, almost lost his life in his endeavours to complete this pipeline that was to be inaugurated on the 24th May or Empire Day, 1909.

Of course there were stumbling blocks and a serious interruption occurred which was caused by the heavy flooding of the 11th August 1909. This breached the pipeline in two places while shaking the very ground on which the foundations of Galogi power house stood. The project, when complete, made the Mussoorie Municipality one of the first in the country to generate its own power supply.

In the present age we seem to have become devotees of over-tourism. On your average summer’s day, we have managed to reduce this picturesque place into a tourist trap. Unplanned growth has meant that the waterfall is hemmed in by shacks and sawdust dhabas.

And no matter how hard you try, you cannot ignore the clutter, with rows of shacks offering various forms of sustenance to our endless stream of visitors. Row upon row of raffish shacks offer chow-mein, bhel-puri, chaat, pau-bhaji, boiled eggs, candy floss, softy, momos and boiled corn-on-the-cob.

‘Where do you get this water to boil the corn? ’ I ask a bhutta-wala.

Ask a dumb question and you get a dumb answer!

He points in the direction of an old rusty tin-drum outside the public toilet.

My advice, for whatever it’s worth, is always stick to roasted corn.

Ganesh Saili born and home-grown in the hills belongs to those select few whose words are illustrated by their own pictures. Author of two dozen books; some translated into twenty languages, his work has found recognition world-wide.