Dwaipayan Chakraborty writes about his travel to Uttarkhand a few days ago and ponders over what went wrong!
It was alive a few days ago!
11th June I returned from Badrinath (Uttarkhand) about a week ago. My journey ranged from Haridwar to Badrinath via Joshimath & all the Prayags. Since childhood I had heard stories of hundreds flocking to these Great Dhams in search of salvation, but this visit was not for any religious motive but just as an enthusiastic adventure ride.
To me Haridwar/ Har ki Pauri was a place where people of various sects/races/class amalgamated to offer their prayers to the Almighty. One must be in the middle of the enormity in order to feel the energy and belief of us humans towards a Supreme Power. After having experienced the famous sandhya-aarti my journey continued towards Badrinath, with a stop at Joshimath/Auli, a bus journey of about 12 hours in moderately maintained Uttarakhand State Transport Buses. During this journey I crossed Hrishikesh, DevPrayag, RudraPrayag, KarnaPrayag, NandaPrayag, Srinagar, Joshimath, Govindghat and many others too. The journey with the mighty mountains on one side and the Ganga on the other in the form of Mandakini, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda was indeed breathtaking. Deep gorges, sharp turns, shaky railings, crowded roads, stops at the dhabas for some quick grab made my travel all the more adventurous. I specifically remember Sikh devotees lined up along the roads with their saffron bands moving gradually towards their Holy place of Hemkund Sahib, people from Andhra arriving for their holy Char Dham Yatra. All a collection of chaos in those hills.
Now sitting at home and watching visuals of many of these places heavily affected by Nature’s fury does give me a chill in the spine. I was there just a week ago. What if I was among the thousands trapped, hundreds injured and many sacrificed? Before I left my father had casually warned me, I checked the weather forecast and showers were not expected before late June or early July. Yet it had arrived now, and in a titanic scale. Har Ki Pauri in huge waves of water. In Devprayag, RudraPrayag all the connecting bridges are now dangerously close to water levels resisting transport to ply. Further up market places of Srinagar are experiencing flood thereby making daily life all the more difficult. Chunks of roads have cracked and opened up. Large Stones loosening from the hill sides and being washed on to the roads. Rescue and private vehicles being gobbled up by the waters just like toys. Large housings near the river falling like delicate boxes. Heavy rain making the roads which already are marginally safe more vulnerable. Pilgrims towards Hemkund Sahib, Badrinath who have to make a certain journey on foot after a point all stuck praying to survive and safely return.
Such a reverse drama all in a week. While I was there the climate had a chill about it, often hot in the mornings but predominately cooler throughout the day. I remember enjoying my bus ride along with many others, often stopping on makeshift Dhabas, enjoying my meal which were insecurely made near the rivers. Houses lined up precariously close all along the river. People had turned their own homes into budget hotels in order to accommodate the large crowds. All the visitors were in a festive mood; everyone had come to unwind themselves, to find peace in the lap of their Gods. And ironically the scenario has drastically altered, now the festive mood has turned into a question of survival.
But the statistical numbers and the images prove yet again that Nature is too powerful to handle when enraged. The reasons, some known, others unknown are matters of research and rectification. National Disaster Management and the State and Central Governance often come into the picture post disaster. Having an aerial view of these places show the havoc created but being in the middle of it is another ball game. Stricter guidelines, implementation, frequent weather updates and proper crowd management along with self-awareness are the primary factors that could safeguard people. Calamities beyond our reach cannot be foretold but the reasons that triggering them can be taken care of.
With each passing minute, the prayers are getting stronger, the hope and faith remaining undeterred.