Temple bells were ringing, breaking the

silence of the valley. Women were

dressed in their traditional attire walking

down the path, to the village huts with

tiled roofs. Here begins the story of a boy

who lives in a small village called Peora,

which is located in the Kosya Kutoli tehsil

of Nainital district in Uttarakhand; at a

height of 6600 feet above sea level, it is

clad with sal, pine, oak, buruns and

rhododendron trees.

This is not a usual day in Peora. Its the

day before a wedding, and the entire

village seems to be rejoicing, dressing up,

and laughing, singing, dancing, feasting and

celebrating. For eight-year old Bansi, it was

a beautiful morning, which seemed even more beautiful for several reasons. For one, summers were

approaching! As the cool breeze brushed past him, it immediately brought a smile to his face as he

could finally be rid of wearing thick boring sweaters! Also, summer vacation would start in his


Village path (Fig. 2)

school which would break the monotony of everyday studies. As he walked to his school he saw

many tourists trekking and bird watching.

Bansis grandfather ran a small dhaba in this village. His father assisted his grandfather in running

the dhaba. His family lived in a huge house with three uncles, the same number of aunts and seven

cousins, all older than Bansi. Being the youngest of the lot, he was doted upon by all except his

mother, who was a strict disciplinarian. However, fate had something else in store for him. He was

quite surprised to know that his father had been selected for a government job at Delhi, which was

an attractive proposition for his father! He had made up his mind to shift to Delhi and take up the

opportunity. Bansi was thrilled to go to Delhi too as he had heard a lot about the glitz and glamour

of the city. However, he was distressed at the same time that he would be living in a city where

everyone was a stranger.

Besides, the very thought of leaving his village, the scenic beauty of the slopes dotted with green

pine trees, the cool breeze of coniferous forests, the calm and rippling waters of the lake, made him

sad and he prayed to the Almighty for His blessings so that he may have a better slice of luck at


Bansi was totally lost in his thoughts and started

recollecting the good time spent in his lovely village. He

remembered how he ended up laughing and enjoying

when travelers and pilgrims visited Peora for its

cultural richness. Whether it was the fairs and festivals,

music, dance forms, cuisine or the way of life in Peoraeverything

was deeply etched onto Bansis mind. He

would especially miss the folk music that he heard so

often during religious and regional festivals and the

performances of their folk dance Chalia. He wondered

whether he would get delicacies like Singal, Khatta or

Aam ka Fajitha in Delhi and doubted whether they

would taste as good as they did in Peora. The rich culture of his home ground, the food, the music,

the dances, the festivals-all were indelibly marked in his memory. Although he did not want to

admit it, he was also frightened by the prospect of living in a big city like Delhi, a place about which

he had read only in his village school books.

He was extremely reluctant to leave his village. The morning when he had to bid goodbye to his

family, the atmosphere was brimming with emotion. His heart was heavy with the thoughts of

separation from the village that had given him such a beautiful childhood. As he boarded the bus to

Delhi, he cast one last longing look at his village. After a while, he slept.



Delhi Traffic (Fig 3)

Hurry up Bansi! Get up, we have reached Delhi. Bansi got up hearing his fathers voice. He rubbed

his eyes and came closer to the window. His eyes widened at seeing the city. Father again called him

and asked him to get off the bus down as they had reached their destination. Bansi picked up his

handbag and followed his parents. Finally, he had reached the metropolis the city, that he had seen

in pictures or on television or heard about.

They all came out of the bus terminal. Traffic, people everywhere, lines, NOISE such chaos. This he

had never imagined. They took a rickshaw and went to the house of one of their relatives and

stayed there for few days till his father arranged a house on rent for them.

For a few days Bansi seemed to be lost in the sea of people

and buildings. The roads were full of traffic especially in the

mornings and evenings when, people went and returned

from work. There was one long unending line of cars, taxis,

scooters and cycles and one long procession of pedestrians

on every road. Yet life in a big city had its thrills. There was

no end to fashion. One came across people from different

states, speaking different languages, eating different food

stuff and following difference traditions. One even came

across people from the affluent class travelling in big cars!

But on the other hand, there were thousands of people who

lived in dark and dingy quarters, while some could not boast of even a roof over their heads at

night. They were the homeless people, who lay along the pavements on both sides of the road at


Every morning, Bansi saw school children dressed in their uniforms on the roads, walking or

waiting for buses. Bansis father also got him admitted in one of the schools. On his way to school

he would observe city life. A long queue of office-workers could always be seen at the bus stops.

Bansi observed that the city was always crowded. He often used to compare the city with his small

village in Uttrakhand. Tall buildings and big bungalows took up all the space in the city causing

paucity of greenery and clean air. However, unlike the village, the city offered many means of

amusement recreation. There were many different types of food outlets and the sanitation,

infrastructure, roads drainage was so much of an improvement on the village facilities!

Bansi missed his old friends, although he made some new friends in the city. The warmth that was

in the village was missing. He found that here, everyone was always busy. Neighbours lived like

strangers. One hardly knew who ones next door neighbour was!


Years flew by. Bansi was now 18 years old. He was not only accustomed to the fast life of Delhi, but

his own life was also a reflection of the fast life in a metropolis. The wonderful experience of his

school had made him a confident boy. He planned to become a doctor and serve the community. A


dilemma kept bothering him whether after becoming a doctor he should serve the people of Delhi

or go back to his peaceful village in Uttrakhand. It was imprinted on his mind that people of his

village were simple and led a very average life. He still remembered the narrow hill roads and the

green hillside where he use to sit with his friends. They would wait for hours for any vehicle to

come and climb it as soon as it came. He remembered Munshi dada who was suffering from very

high fever and died as there was no doctor or even an ambulance in the village. His village needed


One fine morning, his father told him that they were going to his native village to attend the

inaugural ceremony of his uncles restaurant. He was very happy to be revisiting Peora. The journey

was pleasant and it took them one full day to reach the village. It was drizzling and the weather was

cool in the hills. On arrival he was welcomed by his uncles and aunts. That night he had a hearty

meal and went to the bed early. The next morning when he went to the restaurant with his

grandfather, he noticed several significant changes in the village lifestyle. The roads were wider and

the number of vehicles had increased tremendously. The small tea stall of his grandfather had

turned into a restaurant. He had every reason to be happy.

And then the rains started. It rained so heavily that grandfather seemed tense. He said, God! In my

lifetime I have never seen such weather. It is an auspicious day for my family but rain is causing

difficulty. Sensing some danger he dragged Bansi to a high ground nearby. Within no time, a flood

of water gushed in and flowed incessantly. There was water everywhere. People were screaming

for help.

Bansi and his grandfather held tightly on to each others hands. They wanted to go to back to their

house. But the flow of the water didnt allow them to move. The village drowned in water. The

deluge caused big rocks to tumble and hit those who came in the way. The natural mayhem

continued for hours. Water seemed endless. Hungry, tired and helpless, they screamed for help but

no one heard them.


After three days Bansi saw a green helicopter in the sky. It landed nearby and he saw an army man

coming to help them. Hope of life gave them an impetus to get up and climb the hanging rope. They

were saved one by one and dropped at a nearby safe place. He ate dry bread and drank water at the

army shelter camp.

Bansi wanted to know about his family. He asked his grandfather what caused this destruction.

Grandfather calmly replied, We, the human beings. Seeing the perplexed look on Bansis face, the

Grandfather further explained:

You see, it is basically the result of callous policies, aggressive promotion and runaway growth of

tourism; unchecked, unplanned development of roads, hotels, shops, mines and multi-storied

housing in ecologically fragile areas; and above all, the planned development of scores of

environmentally destructive hydroelectricity dams.


Tourism has been zealously promoted to a point where the number of tourists visiting the area had

crossed 25 million, almost two-and-a-half times Uttrakhands entire population! Roads, hotels,

houses, shops and restaurants were recklessly built upon forest lands, encroaching upon ridges,

steep slopes, and worst of all, the flood plains of rivers. Encroachment of these natural boundaries

aggravated the situation.

His grandfather further elaborated that an early warning system, effective evacuation plans, and a

responsive disaster management system would have prevented a massive loss of precious life. But

they werent in place another governance failure. Inexpensive radar-based cloudburst-forecasting

would have given a three-hour warning. But it wasnt installed because of inter-agency squabbles.

The meteorological department had no reliable record of rainfall at different locations.

Bansi listened carefully to his grandfather, each of his words branded in his mind. Later that night,

though he had the comfort of his grandfathers company, he was bereft of any sleep as he kept

wondering where his parents were.


Next morning, when Bansi woke up he saw a great deal of hustle-bustle in the camp. There were

even more Army personnel present, and not only that, he found that several social activists, NGOs

and NPOs had also arrived. At a distant corner he sighted 2-3 journalists along with their cameras.

Then, he saw another helicopter arriving. As soon as it landed, the army men started distributing

the food items and several necessities to the victims. The line was very long, and it was with great

difficulty that Bansi managed to procure a packet of biscuits and antiseptic lotion for himself and

his grandfather. He discovered that many of the people could not even manage to get that much. He

considered himself lucky and walked off.


Days crept by slowly in the camp, and Bansi tried to look out for his parents. Unfortunately, all his

attempts came to nothing. At the back of his mind, he had somehow accepted that the possibility of

finding out his parents was bleak. However, even despite his acceptance of this fact; every time he

cast a look at the pile of debris and dead and decaying bodies he couldnt push out the thought that

his parents might be among them.

Bansi was a very socially driven youth. The pain that was inflicted upon him by this natural

disaster, along with the loss of his dear ones and the destruction of his village had a deep impact

on him. He pledged to participate in the rehabilitation of the victims of this catastrophe. It would

take years to roll back the ecological, social, economic and psychological damageincluding over a

1,000 deaths wrought by the terrible floods. There was no doubt that the process of rebuilding

would be a long one. Yet he was driven enough to take that road.

In the years that followed, he zealously and proactively participated in the rehabilitation activities

and promoted the cause of the victims of the Uttrakhand floods. He, in fact, became a central part of


the movement and every time he conquered a milestone, he was aglow with happiness and

satisfaction, for in a way-if not as a doctor, he had still helped his home ground.

Even in perilous times, you must not lose faith in humanity. Real joy comes not from ease and

riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile

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