A tourism professional and a writer at heart, Sumit Raj maintains that those are the only two things he has learnt in life, and were his source of income. His whole life he has been exploring the hills and spinning stories. Wherever he went, he found a story to pen. He says, “People like it or not is a different matter but this has been the best way for me to record my life. I don’t know if people are going to read my stories and I also don’t know what is the future of my stories, since there is a lot of competition. Every second person poses to be a storyteller, but how many of them have been able to survive on writing is not known. In the last decade, the world has gone through a great change in every manner. The Internet has opened many opportunities for people to create stories and get connected to their readers instantly but good content is missing. People are writing what others want to read and the readers are reading whatever is being delivered to them.”

Talking about survival, he says, “It has become difficult for me to make ends meet now. The pandemic has literally made a severe dent in my earnings, and with so much debt, with no inflow of money, a big question for me is to survive. I am sure there may be several others who are facing similar situations, especially those working in the tourism industry, such as taxi operators, tour guides and tour operators. There is no hope of a secure future for those of us in this profession. Sad part, at this age in my life, I am at a loss of switching professions.”

The new normal for Sumit has been spending his days at his new home (still under ‘slow’ construction), writing and making videos. His latest venture has been sharing his knowledge, hiking experiences and stories through video logs and uploading them on YouTube. But these aren’t enough to generate any income. Sumit add, “After March 2020, I have hardly moved around or undertaken any guided walks. Most of my clientele were foreigners and among them mostly Britishers, who wanted to trace their roots when Shimla was Simla. Time is of the essence and patience for another year is tough with depleting bank balance. There are still doubts as to when the government of India will issue visas and international travel begins for my business to pick up. I am sitting here with my fingers crossed.” 

Inputs from Sumit — The Destruction

Everyone in the tourism industry has been waiting for the business to restart. Millions of people across the world have lost their businesses and similarly millions have lost jobs. The pandemic has taken everyone in its grip and no money is rotating in the markets. Every business had suffered and everyone’s financial position has been affected due to the pandemic. It was a good lesson for us from Nature because we have been causing a great amount of damage to it. Now we have to understand to stop its further destruction, in the name of development. What do we want and how much do we have to gather for ourselves? How many benefits do we need to lead one life? Is fun everything for us? Are we here only to destruct? When are we going to stop this?

I understand only one thing and that that is if we are able to control the population of this planet, every problem will come to a halt.

The Hills are being Eaten

I remember a part of a talk of a great poet friend of mine, Sushant Sen Nishant, who, unfortunately, two years ago passed away. One day while addressing the public in Gaiety Theatre he said, “The hills are being eaten. Wherever I go I see the big monster-like machines scratching the hillside to create space to develop the area.”

He was right. To make their life easy in the hills they scratch the hillside but they do not know that they are inviting the toughest time for their generations to come. Most of the roads are being widened and above that, they are being added with flyovers. So, more forests need to be thinned. We have to understand why the landslips are taking place in the hills. Especially in the higher reaches of the middle Himalayan areas where most of the hills are being scratched by big machines to make hydro projects.  In the last couple of years, they have caused big damage to the area. Until thirty years ago the valley was full of greenery, forest, wildlife and remotely located villages. But now all the slopes are covered with buildings, hydro projects and pipelines. They have made tunnels through the mountains to divert rivers. Due to these tunnels, the whole strata of the mountains has become unstable. This is one major reason for the landslides.

What about the Generations to Come?

Several people died due to massive landslips in the hills. Big rocks and debris rolled down with immense force and velocity and not only to damage the houses and the roads rather it broke bridges, made of steel, too. This is not going to stop here. This will continue because of the amounts of damages the governments have been doing, and the people as well, we should be ready to face the results.

Are we going to leave for the next generations what we have enjoyed in our past? Are they going to have the same beauty of nature that we have seen? No, they won’t. They will not have that good time in the forest that we have enjoyed. Wherever I go in the Hills everywhere houses are being built, roads are being cut and forests are being damaged.

The toughest for me, as a nature writer and a nature lover is, to see nature being damaged in front of my eyes.  I never wished to see such wounds being given to the hills. When are we going to stop doing this? Why don’t we understand that doing such damage is going to bring us bad luck? I have tried my best never damage the nature in any form, would pray that you to keep it safe!

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(Sumit Raj, better known as Summit, is the founder of Shimla Walks and a qualified tourism professional, who studied at Delhi University. Summit is a published author and loves the Himalayas. He maybe contacted at +917018703170, +91 9459519620)

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