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WHERE NO JOURNEYS END

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By: Ganesh Saili

‘The National Green Tribunal red flags Mussoorie ropeway!’ If only this call had been taken earlier, those eighty-four families totalling five hundred folks –  the poor and the deprived  – would not have spent three long years living in the open. They had been evicted from where the ropeway station was supposedly going to be built. We are like that only and some of our journeys lead nowhere.

Every few years, a magician shows up and turns everything upside down. He throws great parties that charm the old biddies and in the time you take to blink your eyes, everyone is eating out of his hands. And one day he simply vanishes and you are left holding your breath.

Much like our twinkle-toed property agents in the 1970s who were in a tizzy after hearing  that someone wanted to buy an entire hillside. That marked the beginning of our flirtation with Angora rabbits and soon their stink pervaded the hill station. Strangely enough, apart from the original stock, no one had imported a single rabbit. Each had been stolen, kidnapped,  or smuggled, or just snatched right from under the noses of those menacing security guards at our first Angora rabbit farm.

Yet that was never meant to be!

An ordinary hygrometer would have told them much more than all the books ever could. It would have saved them all the trouble as they would have found out very early what they realized in the end: that our humidity was high and it made our wool too short and coarse to make the grade of soft Angora.

Earlier in the nineteenth century, folks had tried their hand at cultivating hops, under the guidance of brewers like Henry Bohle and John Mackinnon who imported hops to give tartness to the beer. Even those blessed with the proverbial green thumbs complained that the plants refused to grow because it rained for months on end.

Though the rain did help the gushing waters of the mysterious Murray’s Falls near Chamasari village, where a certain Dr Murray had put up some huts for ailing soldiers, recuperating at Landour’s Convalescent. He felt that there was ‘the healing power of these sparkling waters’; but like other pipe dreams, this too floundered.  In desperation he even bottled the waters as a cure-all remedy but that too did not get anywhere.

Then there’s one shop on the Mall Road which holds the record for failure. No matter what one does – the venture flounders. Every summer, a greenhorn flush with funds, though wet around the ears, tries their luck and ends up losing a fortune. Last year we had a brand new eatery. A place so fancy that they gave you a finger-bowl at the beginning of your meal. Predictably, that did not work either.

‘Let’s try a vegetarian eatery!’ said the next incumbent. Of course you could have easily blamed his menu. Usually it had one vegetable or at most, two vegetables! That sank too without a trace,

Manhoos jagah hai!’  (The place is jinxed.) Or at least that what the nearby shopkeepers told me.

Or take this dear friend of mine, a hard-working professional living in Jharipani.

‘These days I feel like Nostradamus!’ he tells me. ‘Often I too can foresee my own future!’

‘What do you see?’ I dumbly asked him.

‘I foresee a picture of myself hanging on the wall with a dried up garland dangling around my neck! Below that picture on the sofas are lounging my would be daughters-in-law clad in hot pants. Married into privilege, they are plundering my estate – swirling wine around clicking glasses, smoking cigars and blowing rings at my picture. I can hear them say: ‘The old codger never took a day off in his life and has left us all this!’

‘Where’s the Lady of the House?’ I chit-chat along.

‘Wife?’ he ratchets it up another gear to say: ‘Who knows? I am sending her off to learn yoga lessons from that Guru who is still in jail.’

Ropeway or tunnel, at the end of the day both end up in a funnel where no journeys end.

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.