Raiding the Himalayas

It is ecologists vs motorists in the serene regions of Himachal Pradesh with the Raid de Himalaya car rally being flagged off from Shimla on September 30. However, thrills get the better of fears for such events promote tourism, reports Kuldeep Chauhan

After last year’s haywire journey, over 64 swashbucklers are bracing up for the 8th Raid de Himalaya testing their motoring manoeuvres in the highland Himalayan desert. The 8th Raid de Himalaya car rally will be flagged off from Shimla on September 30.

Serene environs

Pangong Lake
Pangong Lake on the Indo-China border is on the itinerary of the motorists

However, ecologists censure the Raid de Himalaya for raising dust pollution in the serene mountains, which otherwise breathe in an eternal silence. “They face the music of the machines roaring through deep valleys and serene mountain passes, kicking up a plume of dust and noise. They leave the local tribal baffled over their motoring madness”, laments Ajey Kumar, a writer from Lahaul valley, the route of the car rally.

Atul Handa, general secretary of the Himalayan Motorsports Association (HMA) says that such apprehensions are ill-founded. “We are promoting sport and tourism in the state. Motorsports are popular all over the world”, he claims.

This year, (HMA), which is organizing the rally, has equipped the vehicles with the global positioning devices that will help locate the spot at which the motorist is to meet an emergency. A new attraction this time for the gritty motorists is that HMA has included the beautiful Pangong Lake in the Indo-China border in rally’s itinerary.

Highland roads

As many as 64 cars and 35 motor cycles have thrown their hats in the Himalayan ring this year. They will zigzag their ways on the tough highland roads negotiating snow-clad passes, the treacherous turns and tough terrain of the Himalayan cold desert through Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti districts and Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir.

“For the motorists 8th Raid de Himalaya is a real challenge”, says Mr. Suresh Rana, a local from Patlikuhal in Kulu district, who is competing to make a hat trick this year."

The motorist will compete for Rs. 6 lakh given by the Maruti Suzuki Company, covering the treacherous 2200 kms from Shimla to Pangong Lake in Indo-China territory within the seven- legged powered race in 7 days. The HPTDC will give holiday packages to the winners, say organizers.

Last year due to bad weather condition, the car rally ended as a mild affair. But Raid rally is not event meant for the go-slow weak-hearted thrillers. It is test for man and machine in the highland mountains. “Men at wheels” test their motoring grit and tact, manoeuvring the powered machines”.

In the first leg, the motorists will wind their way through Baldein and Naldehra golf course from Shimla negotiating the lush green countryside of the Shimla-Narel- Baghi- Khadrala- Bhadrash- Nogli-Nither-Kandgai- Jalori Pass- Shoja- Banjar-Aut- Kulu -Manali route on September 30. Before the motorists hit Jalori they negotiate the rising rapids of Satluj while crossing the river Nogli to Nithar in Kulu district.

In the leg II, they will beat the zig-zaging trail, negotiating the lush green countryside of Upper Manali, Marhi, rocketing 13,5000 ft high Rohtang Pass,taking the Koksar route through the rugged road to Spiti crossing the 15,000 ft high Kunjam Pass before they hit Kaza in Spiti, a snow-swathed cold desert and the land of monasteries and gompas.

Rohtang to Pangong

They will chase the rugged trail to Kaurik Indo-China border Dhankar Lidang and will come back to Kaza for the 3rd leg of the Raid. For the 3rd leg the motorists will hit the Kaza-Kunjam-Koksar-Keylong route along the Chandra river into the Lahaul valley, the land of gods, famed for its potatoes and peas and now seabuckthorn berries and juice before they come to halt at the third destination at Patseo on Keylong-Leh national highway 21 along the Bhagha river.

Then they will chase the highland journey from Patseo on September 5, hitting the Sarchu, the golden water, Naki La Pass, Lachungla Pass Pang, Mori Plains snaking through the Tanglang La pass, Karu and Leh in cold desert of Leh-Ladakh, the land of pure Aryans.

The sixth leg is no less challenging. They will kick-start the “tired vehicles” through Karu, Changla Pass, Tsltak, Tangtse, Lukung scanning the romantic fairytale region of Ladkah including Pangong Lake before they will come to Leh. Last but not least

is a big last leap back for the motorists chasing the Leh-Manali national highway crossing five highland passes-Tanglang La, Lachulang La, Naki La, Bara Lacha,and Rohtang La- on September 6.

Thrill & chill

The motorists face both danger and challenge when they chase the snaking trail cutting steep rocky mountain, overlooking the killing rapids of the Chandra and Bhagha rivers. “A misstep or manoeuvr can mean death, recall motorists. But cold desert adds to thrill, chills and skills, they add. Handa says the rally will come back to Manali after the seven legs in seven days. “The prizes to the winners will be given at Manali on October 7. This year, the rally will feature 64 cars and 35 motor cycles. There are six army teams, three air force teams and four all-women teams participating in the car rally”, he adds.



Life in Suspension
Kiran Deep

Every step you take over the fascinating long suspension bridge Handolla on the Sutlej river, you can not help but feel that your life is in a kind of suspension too.

The authorities have declared it unsafe and it is open for pedestrian only. Of course, there is a signboard that warns you at entrance — ‘Cross the bridge at your own risk’. But for so many villages situated in the remote border of Una, it is the main link that connects them to other areas and they have to risk their life every day.

The bridge was specially built during the construction of Bhakra Dam to carry sand from nearby seasonal rivulets and other construction materials. It connects Handolla village of Una with Nehlna village on other side of the river in Bilaspur district.

The metal cables that support the weight of bridge are wearing out with time. Cracks are now seen in the wooden planks used in the deck of the bridge.

A large number of tourists come here to have a look at this historic bridge but very few take the risk of crossing it.

This area has the potential of being a major tourist point, but development seems to be still a distant dream. Road connectivity is poor here and the villagers have to walk several Kilometers on feet to reach their destinations, not to forget the danger they put themselves into while crossing the bridge. The district administration has not even bothered to change the wooden planks of the bridge to make it safer.

Even small children have to cross the bridge to attend their school while a majority of the population has to cross it for professional as well as professional assignments.

“The bridge is the main connection for us to reach the other side. Earlier, the authorities had decided to dismantle the bridge, but on the request of the villagers that it was left open for pedestrian. Vehicles and animals have been prevented from going across by putting blocks,” says Tulshi Ram, of Nehlna village. The bridge will safe to pass through, if damaged wooden planks are replaced, he adds.

“It is worst during the rainy days. It is not possible to cross it at all. If someone falls sick during such times, we have to wait till the rain stops to visit some doctor across,” says Hazi Lal of Handolla village.



HIllside view
The great farewell drama…
by Vepa Rao

Sometimes I sound cynical even to myself! Perhaps that is better than telling yourself lies, internalising them as truths, and propagating them as bigger truths. So, please bear with me.

Farewell functions ‘in honour of’ of retiring or transferred colleagues mark the height of hypocrisy in our office culture. Windy speeches by both the departing souls and the remaining staff steal the limelight. The bouquet, topi, shawl and a few well-chosen gifts are the only saving grace. The officewallahs put the garland round the retiring neck with the same relish as they do to a goat before an altar! Sweets symbolise celebration of the much-awaited (unduly delayed!) departures— if they were to signify the beginning of a new phase, the going gentlemen and ladies ought to pay, not the seeing-off folks!

Having seen a whole range of them in metro cities as well as in Shimla, I excerpt here a few banalities from those speeches. The lines in italics show each speakers’ inner thoughts.

IMMEDIATE BOSS: “It’s sad that our highly respected and worthy colleague, a man of total efficiency, will be no more with us. We will be deprived of his valuable services, experience and guidance…” (saala, kaam- chor aadmi tha! Never came on time. Bunked regularly. What “no more”? He will haunt us more after retirement, because his nagging wife won’t let him hang around at home. Good for nothing fellow).

RETIREE: I will be there whenever you need me. How can I ever forget all your love, affection, cooperation. I have had such a wonderful time in this great institution. (Rubbish. Most of these blokes made me miserable. Back biting, anonymous letters against me… What did they not do to stop my promotions? Institution— My foot! This is run like a private shop by this ill-tempered boss fellow with a huge ego and bloated bottoms ).

BIG BOSS: He has been a model worker. Difficult to replace. He was responsible for implementing so many good projects.(Useless fellow— used to run away to the Mall the minute he could escape. Kya bahaane maarta tha! How many times I tried to transfer him… but he would catch some neta fellow and stall it. We lost many good schemes because he was such a lazy lubber).

ANOTHER LADY RETIREE: I have put in my best all these years. You all gave me so much respect. This organisation always recognised my merit. Thank you, thank you, thank you so-oo muh...chch! ( Somehow bach gayee. Didn’t have to slog—never liked this file-wile ka kaam… But now these peons won’t come home to help in the kitchen etc. Never had to pay them any thing— even phone calls from here were all muffat. Now on, I will have to pay for every thing, even dusting-wusting).

A SENIOR COLLEAGUE: She has been like Annapurna— always sharing her delicious lunch with us, dedicated totally, completely to her duties here— spending long hours in the office… I feel we must say sorry to her husband and children for burdening her so much, and thank them for their sacrifices…(saala, maza aa raha hai, yeh jhoot bolne main! Is aurat ne sabko tang kar rakhi thi. She shared more than lunch with this boss and made our lives miserable… uske kaan bharti thi… She spent half her time cooking up false vouchers, getting jhoothe medical and TA, DA bills passed. Husband nikamma tha— aurat ke paise par aish karta tha…Sacrifice, ha ha ! )

LADY RETIREE: I must specially thank our honourable boss ji for his guidance on difficult decisions, even in my personal life. He is a very noble guide and a spiritual person. And our Accounts Manager saab is another pious soul, I tell you. I suggest to all my lady colleagues to seek their guidance whenever in trouble. (Let the other ladies, sniggering at me, also get a taste of how dirty this boss and the accounts fellow are. How these two have troubled me— but if I don’t praise them now, they won’t settle my accounts early. Pungebaaz hai na!).

OFFICE PEON: Yeh dono devta saman hain. Treated me just like a son, used to give me so many good things to eat and wear…( ha, ha. kanjoos people, both. Always gave me left-over stale food, and discarded clothes. Forced me to do all their ghar ka kaam muffat mein…kutta log hai…Now I will totally ignore them…).

All the worthies in the function clap, smile, joke and guffaw loudly. They bid the retirees a warm and fond farewell— after all, there was no harm now in being good to them and making just the right noises. They all begin hugging each other.

Some are plotting how to grab the vacated cabins, seniors are plotting how to bring their kith or kin into the vacant chairs…

The game goes on… Satyameva jayate!

Strange point!

A 16-year-old Russian girl had a miraculous escape last month when lightning hit her head and went right through her body, into the ground. But her gold cross was “vapourised”, leaving a burn-mark of the shape on her neck. The necklace she was wearing was “atomised”. Had it happened in India, we would have made her Bijli Mai, Bijli Begum, or Bijli Mary, and would have quarrelled over her identity.

By the way, please don’t flash your mobiles in the open when you see lightening and thunder in the sky. You may not be as lucky as the Russian girl.



shimla Diary
Light at the end of tunnel
Rakesh Lohumi

While the government is planning to have some new tunnels in the state capital to ease traffic congestion, the existing tunnels constructed by the British before Independence are crying for attention.

The tunnel at Dhalli is in a bad shape. Huge constructions have not only overburdened the hill but also disturbed the strata as a result of which the tunnel leaks profusely. Excessive rain during the current monsoons makes things worse as the leakage also affects the lighting system, causing problems in regulating traffic through the single lane tunnel.

Mr Ajay Garg, Executive Engineer in charge of the road, says steps would be taken to minimise leakage once the rainy season is over. The entire hill will be surveyed to identify seepage points and efforts would be made to channalise the surface runoff away from the tunnel.

Major repairs involving an expenditure of were carried out to the Rivoli tunnel five years ago but that has not made much difference. Leakage continues in the tunnel, which has become narrow after repairs. The tunnel near the High Court was closed down when the new multistory building was constructed.

The tunnel near the Auckland House has been in a state of neglect for the past many decades. The government has now made a proposal to make it a two-way traffic tunnel, which would ease traffic congestion on the Longwood section of the Circular Road.

Only the Victory tunnel is in a good shape, comparatively though, the curved retaining wall supporting the hill slope on northern portal has breached. A garbage dump right above the tunnel on the Southern portal is big hazard for the public. Municipal waste and muck keeps falling on the road and during rains the situation deteriorates further when it comes down in heaps.

SPIC MACAY brings Kathakali

The state chapter of the Society for Promoting of Indian Classical Music and Culture Among Youth (SPIC MACAY) has come into existence more than 30 years the organisation was founded.

A senior state administrative services officer, Ms Purnima Chauhan, who is herself an accomplished singer, has been aptly made its chairperson. She has not lost much time in making the organisation functional by arranging concerts in various educational institutions in the state capital.

The inaugural event, a performance by noted Kathakali Dancer, Kalamandlam Gopi, was held at the St. Bede’s College. It was a good learning experience for the young students as the nuances of Kathakali were explained in detail during the performance. It not only requires dancing skills but also a high degree of physical fitness for which the performers have to work vary hard. This only explains why only the male dancers are taught Kathakali, one of the oldest theatre forms in the world.

Besides, the local Government Girls College, Auckland School and Bishop Cotton School, the troupe also performed at Horticulture and Forestry University, Nauni, and the Sanawar School in the Solan district last week.

Ms Chauhan informed that in the second phase Padam Shri Ranjana Gohar, a noted odissi dancer,would perform at Sundernagar, Mandi, Kulu and Pandoh in the last week of September. It would be followed by a series of classical musical concerts by renowned violinist, Padam Shri N Rajan, who would perform at Gagret, Kangra, Palampur, Sujanpur and Hamirpur.

Brain drain

Lack of proper infrastructure and equipment and failure to provide incentives is leading to flight of anaesthesiologists to foreign countries, creating an acute shortage of specialists in the country, according to Dr A. M. Hashia, president of the north zone chapter of the Indian Society of Anaesthesiologists.

There was a worldwide shortage anaesthesiologists as a result the almost 50 per cent of the specialists being produced every year left the country’s shores for greener pastures. This was the main reason for the persistent shortage of these specialists who had a vital role in delivery of medical care, Dr Hashia who was here in connection with the seventh zonal conference of the society.

Most of the post-graduates move to other countries and only diploma holders were left. From Jammu and Kashmir they took a flight to the Gulf countries immediately after completing the degree. Further, barring the main hospitals proper infrastructure was not available in health institutions. The lack of equipment, particularly the one required for monitoring the patients, forced anaesthesiologists to quit as it was unsafe to administer drug without such a facility. They either chose to go abroad or shifted to private sector, which offered attractive salaries. The only way out to ensure availability of anaesthesiologists was to provide requisite infrastructure and offer incentives to them, he suggested.

The Centre was now coming out with a scheme under which M.B.B.S doctors would be trained in practice of anaesthesia to make up for the shortage of specialists.

Dr J.R. Thakur, head of the Anaesthesia Department in the local Indira Gandhi Medical College, maintains that the situation could improve to some extent in Himachal Pradesh if the number of seats in post-graduation and diploma in the disciplines is increased from the existing five to ten to help meet the shortage of anaesthesiologists in the state.



A ‘yatra’ to Lord Shiva’s abode
Vibhor Mohan

All roads lead to the Bharmour valley in district Chamba in the month of August-September as over four lakh devotees converge on the sacred Manimahesh Lake to take a holy dip.

Located at a height of 4,170 meters, at the base of Manimahesh Kailash peak, the lake combines religious fervor with the picturesque, pristine beauty of Mount Kailash, which is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva.

Devotees from across Himachal Pradesh and parts of Jammu and Kashmir paid obeisance at the shrine on Radhasthmi last week.

The Chari Yatra begins around September 15 from the 1000-year-old Lakshmi Narayan temple in Chamba town and the holy mace of Lord Shiva is carried to Manimahesh Temple. The devotees reach Manimahesh Lake after braving a testing terrain to take the holy dip.

Mr Chaman Singh, Additional District Magistrate (ADM), said groups of devotees from Doda and other districts in Jammu and Kashmir, besides, thousands others from different parts of Himachal Pradesh paid obeisance at the shrine.

On the Radhasthami, pilgrims take the holy dip amid the chanting of mantras. Then, pilgrims proceed to offer prayers to Mount Kailash and pay obeisance at the image of Lord Shiva set up on one side of the lake.

It is believed that the devotees can have a view of the Kailash peak only if the Lord is pleased. When the peak is hidden behind clouds, it is a sign of the Lord’s unhappiness.

The 2195 meters high valley has a cluster of 84 temples popularly known as Bharmour Chourasi. These temples were built as a sequel to the visit of 84 sidhas from Kurukshetra to Manimahesh. On way to Manimahesh, they were greeted by the King of the erstwhile Chamba state at its capital Brahmapur, which is now called Bharmour. The sidhas blessed the King with an heir and he in turn built these temples in their honour.

Pilgrimage to the oval-shaped Manimahesh Lake, which is 14 km from Hadsar, is a treat for trekkers as a stretch of 13 km is marked with steep ascent.

According to the legend, Gauri Kund and Shiv Karotary are two places where Lord Shiva’s wife, Parvati, and Lord Shiva bathed, respectively, on the Radhastami day.

One story goes that once a Gaddi shepherd tried to climb the mountain along with his herd of sheep. He was turned into a stone along with his sheep. The series of minor peaks below the principal peak are believed to be the remains of the ill-fated shepherd and his flock.



Bullfight goes on despite notice
Jagmeet Y. Ghuman

Amidst controversy bullfight was held during two-day Siar festival at Arki that concluded on Sunday. The holding of bullfight had become a challenge for mela committees, caught in a catch 22 situation, after getting a notice not to hold the fight from the state Animal Husbandry department, which had warned that the fight should not be held, as it was a direct violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The notice had landed the mela committee in peculiar situation whether to violate the law or carry on with the age-old tradition of holding a bullfight. However the pressure of age-old tradition and culture that signifies holding of a bullfight as a good sign for the area gave way and law was broken. The myth prevails that whenever the fight was held in the past it resulted in natural calamites.

The bullfight during Siar was must to please Mahakaali and other deities, as per belief of the locals. The bullfight during Siar has been held since 17th century. It was a way to pay obeisance to deities, pointed a senior member of the Mela Committee. Proper arrangements had been made for bullfight, he informed.

This time eight bulls participated in the fight.



Get a taste of life
Vishal Gulati

Do you have the courage to test yourself in water and land adventure? The Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Manali, will conduct various courses in winter sports for professionals and amateurs in mountaineering expeditions, snow training, high-altitude treks and white water rafting. The courses will be conducted at the Manali institute and its centres, including McLeodganj, Pong Dam, Solang, Narkanda, Rohroo, Bharmour, Jispa and Pirdi.

This course not only offers daredevils a chance to admire the beauty of mighty peaks and crisscrossing rivulets but also encourages trainees to make career in mountain tourism.

The Manali institute has been imparting training in adventure sports since 1961. It is the only government-run institute in the North that is conducting basic, intermediate and advanced courses. The institute and the centres are also conducting special courses for corporate executives, students and families as per their requirement.

After completing the advance course from the institute and it’s centres, a qualified graduate can also pursue her/his career in a travel agency as an executive or guide or one can join as an instructor in an adventure sports institute.


For admission to various basic courses, the candidate must be physically fit. He or she should have attained the age 16 and not more than 45. However, for skiing and basic adventure courses, the minimum age is 10.

For advanced courses, the candidate should have completed the basic course with “A” grade.


The Manali institute and its centres give exposure in rock climbing, rappelling, river crossing, trekking, camping, map reading, skiing, swimming, water safety and rescue, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, sailing, water surfing, skiing, white-water rafting, etc.

Training programmes

The 26-day basic mountaineering course will start on October 1, while the 28-day “method of instruction mountaineering course” will start on September 29. The Manali institute will conduct both courses.

The duration of various skiing courses is 14 days. These courses will be conducted between January and April. The 21-day “method of instruction skiing course” will start on February 4. The Manali institute and the High- Altitude Trekking and Skiing Centre, Narkanda conduct the skiing courses.

The Regional Water Sports Centre, Pong Dam, will conduct 14-day basic water sports course from December 1. The River Rafting Centre, Pirdi, from October 1 to October 14, will conduct the basic river-rafting course. The Pirdi centre is also conducting 14-day intermediate kayaking course on October 15 and November 1.

The Regional Mountaineering Centre, McLeodganj; the Adventure Sports Centre, Hatkoti; the Mountaineering Sub-Centre, Bharmour; and the Mountaineering Sub-Centre, Jispa; are conducting eight-day high-altitude rock climbing courses in October and November as per requirement of the participants.

The institute and its centres also conduct special courses and camps on request from clubs, organisations and armed forces. After the completion of the course, a certificate is given.


The fee, which includes boarding, lodging, training, etc, varies from Rs 3,100 to Rs 4,000. However, for Himachalis there is some discount.



 Mission stray dogs

The Municipal Corporation in Shimla is all set to carry out mass sterilisation of stray dogs, reports Rakesh Lohumi

The Queen of Hills will finally get relief from the stray dog menace. The Municipal Corporation is all set to carry out mass sterilisations of the canines from next month. The programme was to be implemented by the Forest Department as part of the project for sterilisation of monkeys. However, it rejected the proposal forcing the corporation to make its own arrangements for the purpose.

Stray dogs are a menace on the Mall in Shimla.
DOGS’ DAY: Stray dogs are a menace on the Mall in Shimla. — Photo by Anil Dayal

The corporation has now decided to accomplish the job itself with the assistance of a Jaipur-based non-government organisation, Help-in-Suffering. If all goes as planned the hill station will be free from stray dogs over the next five years.

Initially, two separate projects were prepared for the sterilisation of monkeys and stray dogs. The Forest Department had formulated a project for mass sterilisation of 5,000 monkeys using laparoscopic technique and the corporation had a similar plan for 2,000 stray dogs in Shimla. As the corporation did not have the required infrastructure for carrying out surgeries on such a large scale the two projects were clubbed. The department was assigned the task of sterilising both simians and stray dogs. However, the department for reasons best known to it declined to operate the stray dogs at the last minute.

The corporation is already on the job and it has got its veterinary surgeon Dr Arun Sirkaik, a veterinary pharmacist and 10 other employees trained by the Help In Suffering, which is implementing a similar project in Jaipur. The employees have been trained in catching stray dogs, administering injections. A stray dog animal birth control society has been set up for the purpose.

An improvised operation theatre along with rest room is being set up at Boileauganj, which will have facilities for operating eight animals every day. The sterilised dogs will be branded for identification to ensure that an animal is not caught twice. Once the entire population of stray dogs is sterilised there will be no further breeding. As a stray dog has an average life span of five years, the existing population will vanish in as many years.

The experts, however, maintain that the project will be successful only if stray dogs of adjoining villages were also sterilised. The stray dogs mostly come from the villages in search of food. If breeding continues in the peripheral villages, the purpose of the project will not be served.



 Full of Steam

The Railways has introduced a 1953-made steam engine to promote tourism, reports Vibhor Mohan

There is no running out of steam when it comes to promoting tourism through railways. And what better than a 1953-made steam engine, which has been refurbished recently and could soon run on the steep tracks of Baijnath.

A trial run of the steam engine was carried out on September 17 by the Railways from Baijnath to Palampur and if found viable, regular services would be introduced soon.

Rail services are already popular in the area as a journey by train from Baijnath to Pathankot costs less than one-fourth what passengers have to pay while traveling by bus.

The introduction of a steam engine will be an added attraction, as tourists will prefer to enjoy the picturesque views from a slow train steaming forward on the narrow gauge.

A large crowd of onlookers converged on the Baijnath-Paprola railway station to catch a glimpse of the steam engine. It was no less than a spectacle to watch the engine explode with steam to kick off its journey in style.

“I just loved the sound, the steam, the whistle. Till now, I had seen a steam engine only in textbooks and films like Main Hoon Na, wherein Shahrukh Khan emerges from a cloud of steam in the promos. It was a wonderful experience,” says Rakesh Vatrana, a Baijnath-based advocate.

“These trains carry passengers on short excursions on routes that stand out because of their natural beauty or historical significance,” he adds.

Locals say it was in 1928 that the British laid the Railway line to supply machinery to a powerhouse located in Jogindernagar.

Even though there is already a regular railway service from Baijnath to Palampur and Baijnath to Jogindernagar, it is still not clear which of the two routes would be selected by the Railway authorities to run the steam engine. 



 SMS khazana for HP

Have you ever faced a problem in finding the right SMS to send to a friend or a loved one at the right time, be it a birthday, anniversary, festival ..? All of us have at some time or the other - and we all have to either request friends for messages or go to the internet to find the one that would be suitable.

But now, rejoice - there is a new service that makes finding a message for any occasion very simple and convenient. It’s the new   SMS Khazana service launched by Airtel for its prepaid and postpaid customers in Himachal Pradesh. All you need to do now is  dive into the   Khazana of messages by calling 6019 and find a perfect message for any occasion be it birthdays, anniversaries, friendship or love messages and messages for any forthcoming festivals, its all there on SMS Khazana.

Tongue-tied on how to express your love? Try these: Raat kya dhali sitare chale gaye, Gairon se kya gila jab apne chale gaye, Jeet to sakte the ishq bi baazi ko ham bhi, Magar tumhe jitane ke liye haarte chale gaye   OR I once had a heart and it was true, But now its gone from me to you, So take care of it as I have done, Because now you have two and I have none.

As Mr. Sharlin Thayil, COO (Mobility), Airtel HP Circle puts it, “We have seen that the people of Himachal Pradesh are very warm and friendly and like to SMS each other regularly. — TNS



 Matter of faith

From studying Tibetan Buddhism to save the eco-system of Mcleodganj, Lisa Mastelotto has come a long way in contributing her bits towards society — Pratibha Chauhan

It is a matter of faith for hundreds of Westerners who are drawn towards Tibetan Buddhism as they land up in Mcleodganj, the abode of the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, on a spiritual quest. There is hardly anyone though to spare a thought for the town, which is now home to the Tibetan refugees, driven out of their homeland.
HEALING TOUCH: Lisa Mastelotto

Like all other foreigners it was her deep interest in studying Tibetan Buddhism, which brought Lisa Mastelotto to Mcleodganj, but today she has a different mission –to save Mcleodganj from further degradation, be it in terms of its depleting deodar forest or the ugly multi-storeyed concrete structures, coming up on every possible inch of land.

Falling in Zone V, which is the most seismic prone area of the country, high-rise buildings are coming up in Mcleodganj, many of them unauthorised in utter disregard to the rules. Notwithstanding the fact that thousands of houses were razed to the ground and precious lives lost during the 1905 Kangra earthquake which ravaged the region, government guidelines about construction of earthquake resistant buildings exist merely on paper.

Today for 46-year-old Lisa, an Italian who has spent most of her life in USA and France, it is saving every single tree from being axed and preventing coming up of unauthorised structures taking up most her time. The threats and intimidation by the land and property mafia that being a foreigner she would be turned out of India if she creates too much of trouble for them has not deterred her.

Mcleodganj and its surrounding areas comprising of Naddi, Dharamkot and Bhagsu Nag have over 100 hotels, not to mention the illegal guesthouses being run in homes. There is little that has been done in the form of government action to stop the damage being caused to the pristine Himalayan fauna. Every second day there is an international figure to meet the Nobel laureate, Dalai Lama as Mcleodanj has earned a place for itself on the world map as the headquarter of the Tibetan government-in-exile but the conditions in the town as such are deplorable.

 “Most of the time my eyes are closed as I meditate but then it is impossible not to be pained at the manner in which green trees are being cut illegally and ugly monstrous concrete structures mushrooming all over the hill side,” says Lisa.

Not the one to be cowed down by threats for bothering about the environment of a country, which is not her own, she has taken up the matter at the highest level and written umpteen letters to the Governor, Chief Minister, Chief Justice of the High Court, DC and SP, with of course no response. She has made several rounds of the local forest and town and country planning offices in order to save every single tree she saw being cut right before her eyes.

“The saddest part is that I have not succeeded in saving even one tree as regardless of the law and complacency of the concerned authorities the violators are having a field day,” she laments. Another way of ensuring the death of a tree is by trapping it within the roof and slabs of buildings, leading to final drying up of the tree.

In one of the building, a deodar tree has been covered right inside the centre as the top emerges from the roof. This is in complete disregard to the law, as a structure has to be at least two metres away from the tree. However, there has been no action against such violators whose number is large.

Mcleodganj has been reduced from a quaint little town with a handful of houses and a few shops to a virtual slum, overflowing with people and putting tremendous pressure on its already strained civic amenities. Even though eviction orders on a large number of encroachments on forestland have been issued but they have till date not been vacated.

The government unfortunately wakes up to address a problem when enough damage is already done. A classic example of this is the issue of inclusion of Naddi in the Dharamshala Planning Area, which has been done last year after several years delay.

Not too conversant with the rules and government procedures, the officials instead of taking action always express their inability in helping Lisa when actually it is their duty to check all such violations.” It probably does not even take a few hours to bring down a deodar tree which has taken several years to grow tall and big so can we just sit quietly and watch this destruction,” she quips.



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