Lost Dehra: Life in Doon from the eyes of a '90s kid
Ever since I opened my eyes, I have been living in Dehradun and have seen it blossoming with me. Pillowed in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, Dehradun is one of the oldest cities in India. Peacefully cradled in the Doon Valley, on the foothills of the Himalayas. Those who have lived here for a significant period of time, know how this former quaint and less populated town, is now turning into a concrete jungle.
When the clatter wasn’t annoying in Dehradun:
I lived in the midst of a bustling bazaar in my old home, situated on the main road which was always running. The clatter wasn’t annoying in the heydays of ’90s as there were fewer vehicles and most people commuted on bicycles.
Life was simple back then and only a few households owned cars so there was less pollution. It was in the 2000s when Doon became an interim capital of Uttarakhand that one could see major changes in the city. Until then it was calm, quiet and composed like a sea before the storm.
The '90s was a fun era to bask in the glory of Doon:
My house was always exposed to the sounds of the busy road. Since my parents didn’t want us to grow up feeding on the Bollywood tamasha, they never bought a Tv until I reached the fourth standard. During those days, I and my sister would kill our time by doing all sort of crazy things that either sprouted out of creativity or boredom.
We would either immerse ourselves in books, paint, make dolls out of waste or scripted plays that we would enact. Unlike today, kids didn’t have any source of entertainment back then and watching Tv was only allowed after homework. So our friends from the neighbourhood would hang out at our place and we would give them side roles to play in our gigs. Since we lived in a joint family and had elder siblings from our uncle-aunts we seldom went for walks to Tapovan.
When Nalapani wasn’t famous for heritage walks:
I specifically remember the area around Nalapani which is now famous for heritage walks was secluded. It was infamous for thefts, burglary, and the gangs that died in the ’90s. We would wake up early to go jogging to the nearby places like Karanpur, DBS (PG) College and Arya Nagar that were less populated. In the early ’90s, Karanpur didn’t have as many shops as it boasts now.
There was little or less encroachment. And the Policemen made hefty bargains with the vegetable vendors to stroll around at Karanpur for selling vegetables. Now the vendors have been replaced by the drug peddlers, who fiddle with the lawmakers to sell another kind of greens to the cynical youth in search of moksha. I wonder if it was always like this or I realised it on growing up.
The weather of Dehra changed drastically, now the summers weren’t as pleasant as before:
With the passing years, Dehra’s weather has drastically changed and once hard to spot ACs have become yet another household item at each house. These air conditioners are slowly contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer as they contain cooling agents like CFCs and HCFCs that are harmful to our environment. Another major change in weather came because of deforestation. The perfect example of which is the thick woodlands of Sahastradhara road, the mango orchards of Saharanpur Chowk and the dense forests of Hathibarkala that died too soon. From pleasant summers to scorching heat and heavy rainfall to scanty, this is how the climate changed in Doon due to deforestation.
When the trees were gone and food chains took over the place:
During school days, I used to travel by bus and the tree line at Sahastradhara road formed canopies which looked aesthetically pleasing. The drive from Nalapani bus stop to my school snuggled at Sahastradhara road was gratifying. One could see the lofty trees hugging and caressing each other. It was like a treat to my sore eyes!
By the time, I reached my teenage years Doon grew by leaps and bounds. From the mid-2000s more and more food chains weaved in the city, restaurants, and hotels sucked the life out of Doon. Now the clouds hovering over the busiest roads of Dehradun like Rajpur, Raipur, and Sahastradhara were coughing enormous smoke. The mango, litchi orchards vanished like thin air and the canals were gone. The local dwellers who were fit as the mountain goat forgot they actually had feet to walk on.
The rise of the ultramodern-ignorant Doonites:
Youngsters became handicapped too soon as they weren’t able to walk on their own two feet. But had to take two-wheelers or four-wheelers for shorter distances. Once our Environmental Science teacher told us how the youth of Uttarakhand is ruining their health, the environment and their quality of life by relying solely on vehicles and creating pollution.
Everybody laughed and made fun of him for being so judgemental. But now the same cool chaps are either obese or are burning fat by paying hefty fees to the gym. How ironic it is that trekking has become an adventure but walking on the streets is still a struggle?
Doomsday for Dehradun:
My aunt who spent her entire life in Doon tells me that in the early ’60s the pristine Rispana river would roar and swell. Nobody would dare to cross it and the area around Survey Crossing was covered with dense thickets. Paltan market didn’t have many shops and kids could freely move on the roads. Now Rispana’s plight is ignored by the citizens and government bodies.
The area around Clock Tower and Paltan market has encroached to the extent that the pedestrians can barely walk. There are illegal shops in every nook and cranny. The beggers can be seen crawling like toddlers, sweeping the busy streets of the market with their torn clothes. Road rage is common around that area and parking spaces still don’t exist in the city. Now the same old city feels a stranger to me.
Few things remained the same even after all these years:
Some things haven’t changed though like the problem of waste management, the litter on the streets and the stray animals timidly walking on the streets in search of permanent homes. Child labour and child begging still prevails in the city. Being a capital, Doon still struggles to give well-paid jobs. Getting public transport after dusk is still impossible.
The city still doesn’t possess a well-functioning drainage system which has given rise to several mosquito-borne diseases like Malaria, Dengue, and Chikungunya which are common now. Few things did change for good like getting better health facilities and of course colleges. Now every single person is a self-proclaimed engineer but sadly our city has failed to give them decent employment opportunities.
We have ruined a lot of things in the long run and the fight for making Gairsain the capital still continues after all these years. But has Doon really developed? Or it has just become a replica of a smaller-shabbier Delhi just think about it!