We, the Government
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
The Virus has reached Dehra. One IFS officer has been infected after a tour of Spain. (GP 16.03.20) This is significant, particularly for those most vulnerable to this menace. But, as many veterans know, a life-threatening challenge could stimulate the body with the self-produced chemical dopamine; alternatively, the fear of death could paralyse. Our authorities have reacted to COVID 19 positively. Masks have been issued to sanitary workers; suspected cases are being referred to central teams who, alone, have the testing facilities.
Most importantly, however, is a positive mind-set: an attitude which stimulates our powerful auto-immune system. We must plan for the post-virus years ahead.
Writing this after a conversation with a refreshingly creative friend who shares our concerns about Mussoorie, we recall what was stated by a team of experts, 22 years ago. In their pioneering Carrying Capacity of Mussoorie study carried out for the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, the LNSNAA’s NSDART said “.. the mainstay of the town is the tourism industry” adding
“… the unrestricted flow of tourists … results in a deteriorating environment and a reduction in the tourist flow. The basic information flow is rather weak..”
This is the crux of the problem. We now have a golden opportunity to change the entire course of the economy of our town by targeting affluent visitors. Fewer visitors with more money will increase the prosperity of our people. But planners need data. Every Mussoorie Trader, Hotelier, Restaurateur, Transporter, Guide and Service Provider stands to gain if their organisations get together and compile the facts that they already have. It could also be done by Service organisations like the Rotarians, Lions and the Masons.
All they need to do is to ask their Members to collect, and tabulate, the year-round seasonal preferences of Mussoorie’s visitors.
We know, informally, that the business-people of our town have made their own appreciation of the seasonal preferences of their clientele. We see it in the changing displays in RB Hammer and Co. We have known that family from the days that Mr PC Hari went for his long walk every evening, briskly striding up the Hampton Court slope, one hand behind his back, gripping the other stretched down his side! We sense it in the canny salesmanship of Sunil of Cambridge Bookstall, whose father would sit in his centrally located shop and rearrange his displays to capture the eyes of our seasonally-varying visitors. Sunil still does that with an unflustered smile hiding a finely tuned assessment of changing tastes. We see it in the growing popularity of Tibetan food and our favourite Mo-Mos. The wandering peanut and gram sellers, with their goodies strapped to their hips, are a vanished, or perhaps vanishing, breed as tastes have become more liberal. The varied omelette vendors came into being when young Gujaratis began to assert their daring eggtarian preferences!
The cinema theatres have all but vanished, slaughtered by the satellite-tv boom.
Ah yes: the hand-pulled rickshaws were done away with by Harsh Vardhan when he was in the LBSNAA and the famed Bhargava Rickshaw Works became an aspiring South Indian restaurant.
All this knowledge, and much more, is locked up in the memories and experiences of the professionals of Mussoorie and their families. So why should they share them? Because, if they do that then everyone will gain! We can structure the right publicity outreach for Mussoorie. The Bhadralok of Bengal would welcome an annual Bengali Cultural Competition in Mussoorie during the puja holidays. We have enough diversity amongst our States and Union Territories, to invite one in May-June and another in Sept-Oct to stage their Art-Crafts-Cuisine Festival in Mussoorie, on a changing 10-year cycle. We provide the infrastructure for ten days – they provide the publicity and artistes. If Haryana can do it so successfully in their Suraj Kund Crafts Mela, why should Mussoorie be left behind? It could be a win-win situation for all of us, and Mussoorie’s new image would be ‘The Festive Capital of India’. It would also add immensely to the diversity of our products.
The bottom line is: let’s attract fewer tourists with much more disposable income!
After so much gloom we can then anticipate a new and very prosperous Spring!