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Wanted: The Himalayan VM

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We, the Government

By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer

To the organisers of the Conclave of Himalayan States we say,
“Our little state has a strength that is more than that of all the others put together.” That strength is Information. We, in Uttarakhand, have to consolidate and package that power.
To start with, our state capital holds the information hubs of the Forest Research Institute, the Wildlife Institute of India, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, the Survey of India, the Zoological, Anthropological, and Geological Surveys of India, The National Hydrographical Office and the headquarters of the Oil and Natural Gas Commission. To this we must add the Indian Military Academy because military strategy is playing a growing role in the socio-political decisions of the world, particularly in China. That might require the IMA to expand its mandate to acquire a greater Think Tank capability. In addition to these, Dehradun also holds many educational institutions of great merit teeming with bright young minds eager to explore the world.
These provide the basic foundations of the significant Information Corpus existing in Dehradun. To this must be added the incredible storehouse of folk-knowledge available as customs and practices among our fellow Highlanders across the great stretch of the Himalayas and its immense variety of terrains.
As it is in our terrains so is it with our people. In our diversity lies our survival. When the highlanders of the Himalayas assemble to deliberate on the problems that plague us, it is also necessary for us to preserve what we have before the juggernaut of “progress” flattens us into a uniform pancake! In India we are not “a global melting pot” in which individuals lose their identity and become merged into a featureless whole. That is what the US Don would like his colourless citizens to be! (‘People of colour’ are excluded!) That has not happened in India. Our Anthropological Survey had to study 4,365 Indian communities before writing their authoritative ‘People of India’. We are not a Melting Pot. We are not even a Salad Bowl because the presence of one ingredient in a salad does not depend on any other. In India, our communities are not independent of each other: they are Inter-dependent.
To get a clear idea of what this means, the Himalayan delegates should visit Mussoorie’s Christ Church. It has some beautiful, and genuine, stained glass windows. Each piece of coloured glass is fitted to its neighbours by a tiny frame of lead. If a single piece falls out, the entire picture is weakened and may come crumbling down.
Similarly we, the inhabitants of the Himalayas, have evolved lifestyles that fit in snugly with our environment. This superb integration needs to be studied, analysed and recorded. For instance, what are the long-term effects of dams in our young, rising, mountains? Would run-of-the-river projects be more sustainable? In Nagaland, we were told that they grow location-specific strains of rice on different terraces in the same village, depending on the micro-environmental conditions of each terrace. Are we preserving such skills as the Malaysians claim they have done in their Rice Museum?
Given our resources we must set up a Himalayan Museum as a state-of-the-art resource centre. We must move away from the Victorian concept of a Museum full of display cases and presided over by stuffy pedants, superannuated bureaucrats and pompous “intellectuals” who shun others as being inferior creatures unworthy of their attention!
Let us, instead, have a ‘Himalayan Virtual Museum’. Ideally, its Curator should be a Museologist with an open mind. It should not stock precious artefacts conveyed at great expense, and likely damage, from their original locations, but images, possibly 3-D images, of them. As Google offers a virtual library to its clients globally, the ‘HimVM’ should be an ongoing project of Himalayan states preserving, and offering details of, their cultural heritage to every digitally-linked person on earth. It would also be advisable to get the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) involved with this project.
Significantly, the entire ‘HimVM’ can be housed in just a few rooms, in Dehradun with a reliable and long duration, independent, Uninterrupted Power Supply. We, the Government, will assuredly welcome such a prestigious, Uttarakhand-centric, pan-Himalayan, project.