Bhim tal

Seven years ago we’d driven up from Delhi to the lake district of Kumaon. It was an October sunset when we stopped by Bhim Tal to stretch our legs. The hills around the lake were still dense with vegetation, green after the rains. The quiet serenity of the lake seemed to be enhanced by the one sailboat out on it. That is the image of the lake which the words Bhim Tal now bring to my mind.

Spring was not a good time this year. The winter had been dry, and the hills around the lake had turned brown. The still sheet of water looked as clear as ever, but I’d been reading the alarm calls sent out by those who monitor the health of these waters. It was quite evident why. The number of houses around the lake has increased tremendously. The lake itself was obscured by makeshift shacks selling knick-knacks to the very few tourists who had come here.

This is the beginning of the end for many such beautiful spots around the country. First a few city people retire to a beautiful spot, then their friends visit. Word of mouth opens a trickle of tourists. Then, when it becomes a constant stream, these shops come up. The once beautiful spot becomes obscured by a jumble of construction. Trash collects. Boat rides, and horse rides become the order of the day. Eventually there are busloads of tourists who come to buy souvenirs, get back on the bus, and go away. There is nothing else for them to do. The process is sad, because with a little tweak and nudge, the entrepreneurship of the locals can be used to increase the value, not degrade it.

The pandemic has interrupted this sad growth. I didn’t see any sails; they have been replaced by the row boats pulled up to the newly made steps down to the water. Their numbers were a testimony to the long slope down which Bhimtal’s tourism slide had gone. At this time barely two boats were in use. One group got off as I watched. Another family was out in the middle of the lake, being pulled along by the boatman. I consoled myself with the thought that the place had remained in public consciousness for a hundred and fifty years before it had reached the stage it was in now.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

15 comments

    1. If it had come with government spending to help in compensating with losses in business, then the money could have been made conditional to better practices. Instead, the tremendous loss in income has come to mean sliding down the value chain.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Is Bhimtal the most natural of the lakes there? We had visited very long back, and I remember one Lake with fields of green grass leading to a very beautiful natural Lake. Don’t remember which one it was, and by the description you put, it would look quite different today maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m afraid it is the same everywhere. The trashing of Alpine slopes by ski resorts is also one of these. They have moved a little up the chain, by collecting trash and keeping the environment clean, but the roads and the construction destroy the looks of the Alps quite decidedly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. People don’t make sense. They see something beautiful and want to own it and there begins the slow process of the beautiful thing vanishing under the stupid idea that beauty is a commodity. Even my little town has seen “growth” this past year and I just hope ONE real winter and a good fire sends them all packing (as it very well could). This is not a universally livable place.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Such stories are so sad. And everyone of us contributing in some way or the other. If only we take a little effort to sustain/retain the natural condition of a place. I am sure it will not be that huge an effort. The will needs to be there along with some sensibility and responsibility. The latter are things not always found in visitors. More than the love of traveling or love for nature, it’s social media craze that drives many people.

    Liked by 1 person

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