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Remembering A Town Called Dehra

Ganesh Saili

By Jaskiran Chopra
Investcare Publications, 2015, pp. 179, Rs. 700.00


This nosegay of memories, personal and collective, has many a bright offering which takes the reader by the hand through the lesser-known and familiar byways of the Doon valley. Every generation treasures memories of days gone by: a slower paced world, a world warmed by the sandpapering of time. Nothing can ever remain the same again. Memories of Another Day brings to life the old and the familiar to those of us who lived in this once green valley. Vanished landmarks like Kwality restaurant, Landour Clock Tower and others are symbols of the loss. We know the gurgling waters of our canals have been driven underground. Going, if not gone, are the lichi and mango orchards, taking with them old images, photos and photo-albums. The Doon’s headlong rush to become a large city has, to an extent, extinguished the finer filigree of life: ‘Where I cycled to school on Eucalyptus Road, where the East Canal Road was a living flowing canal, where a tonga could be seen, where there were no Malls or Multiplexes. I miss the flowing Rispana and Bindal Rivers. I miss my Dehra of grey heads and green hedges.’ Come walk through this wistful journey. Find a three year old outside Cambrian Hall School, walking through Race Course, picking up pine-cones in the nearby hills, checking out the old Sweet shops or taking a ride on a tonga. All this can happen again only in dreams. Post-1991: A spin-off of the opening up of our economy changed everything— Marutis replaced cycles. You can see the sudden impact of vehicles on the lost nooks and crannies of the Doon: ‘almost everything has changed. In those days it was a secluded area and hardly any vehicles moved through it. But now it is a posh area of a state capital and a very happening place… People do not know who their neighbours are.’ Up in Landour, last evening, sitting around a crackling fire with Ruskin I ask: ‘Ever feel the urge to revisit grandfather’s old house on East Canal Road?’ ‘Grandparents gone, jackfruit tree gone! I’m not sure. People make up homes. Otherwise they are just houses—brick and mortar, Ganesh!’ ‘But what remains are our memories. And those none can take away.’ All around us, the old order changes giving way to the new as the Universe unfolds, as it should. If you go looking ...

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