I’m back from a 15-day holiday and from my village in Jubbal Tehsil. Well the hot topic is the failure of the apple crop in the entire region because of the physical damage to the crop because of hail storm. In some places, I could count the apples on my fingers ranging from four to ten. And where ever the crop is good in numbers the damage done by the hail storm is massive. Even the leaves have been shredded and many holes can be seen in them. This has left the spirits of the full time orchardists dampened who fear the worse with apples not gaining size and gaining colour prematurely. Also the rains too playing truant in some areas, dropping of apple fruits is also adding to the woes.
While, only recently, the Chief Minister of Himachal called upon to make Himachal the fruit bowl of the country, I believe, in changing environment circumstances which only will get worse, it’s time now to either find a new variety of apple crops which can sustain higher temperatures and can grow on less or no snow. Else, look towards new fruits, which are suitable for the environment. This however does not mean that we can let the environment take its own course. People need to work on healing the environment and slow down the global warming process.
Besides, this time around, I also did not get to taste the fruit, we locally call — chool (The seed inside is bitter… while the sweeter version is called as shiroli locally). The seed inside the nut of chool is used to extract oil, popularly known as chulli ka tel. This oil while is used for cooking purposes, is also believed to have medicinal properties and is used for muscular pain, joint pains, common cold, etc. The crop of chool also failed miserably this year. Even other fruit crops have failed miserably this year.
While apples have brought about a revolution, they have stolen away most of the crops like koda, cholai, cheeni, kaoni, jaw, gehuun (wheat — even this is also not sown these days), kulath, lal dhaan, bharat, bhangjiri, makki, etc.
This time, I consciously tried to view things around me with a perspective of not a local but a tourist and what could interest me. Incidentally, my wife accompanying me, who’s a pucca Delhiitte and new to the place helped me identify places that could interest the tourist. One I believe that Himachal has a lot of potential for rural tourism. States like Haryana which have little to boast of have been promoting rural tourism in a big way. Himachal too lately realised the potential. But there are places which are still untapped. Places like Hatkoti are visited only by Himachalis or once in a while by a foreigner on a bike. Not just Hatkoti, the local architecture especially of upper Shimla can lure the tourists. The temples of local deities are certainly influenced by Chinese architecture and there are plenty of them. The problem is that most of these temples are still inaccessible to the local people, forget the tourists. Some of these temples only allow the pujari inside or a carpenter once a while to carry out some repair works. These temples can be marketed in a big way. The only problem I see is accessibility. While road connectivity is not an issue, the problem is their tarring. Most of the link roads in Himachal are yet to be tarred or what we know as metalled. After driving my car twice earlier to my village, I got discouraged the third time. After back in Delhi, I had to get my wheel alignment rectified both the times. This time I drove up to Shimla only and relied on the HRTC bus there after.
Not necessarily, one has to own a hotel to lure tourists to these places. And not necessarily the tourist has to board a bus or hire a taxi. I see big potential in Tents and trekking. While interacting with one of my friends who owns the Sarthak Youth Hostel near Manali, I got to know that Discovery channel organises trekking trips with tents and earns more than the local hotels. It’s just that how one promotes the place. Well, I think I have a plan for the near future for my place. How things fall in place, let’s see. And yes, I do need investment. Anybody ready to invest in around Rs 10 to 15 lakh in cottages on rural architecture is most welcome to contact me.
But one thing is for sure — the HPTDC hotels in off-beat places such as Hatkoti have been a failure. One that the prices are too high and secondly the government has not done enough to promote these places. Himachalis who visit such places either would want to drive back to Shimla the same evening or take a night halt in Rohru or Jubbal where there are a couple of private hotels at a cheaper rate. Rohru to Hatkoti also has a big rafting potential. Currently, Water Sports Authority is conducting rafting there. Unfortunately the span is just 10 kilometres. While the span has to be increased, challenge levels too have too be checked from easy to high.
I was also sad to see that new houses are coming up but devoid of the local architecture. Slate roofs are diminishing and are being taken over by metallic sheets. Stone houses are being replaced by bricks and RCC. Khaliyans, too are diminishing. New houses don’t have them altogether. Earlier if not used, at least the khaliyans allowed that open space before the house and added to the beauty of the surroundings. Even cows and bullocks, sheep and goats are a diminishing lot. Seasonally, after the cow has stopped giving milk they are either left to fend for themselves in the jungle and collected only before winters or given away to the Gujjars. I don’t think that is the dev culture, where cows have been worshipped for ages.
And yes, do remember, anybody wanting to invest in Jubbal on rural tourism… I’ve the space and the plan, but don’t have money… anybody ready to invest money and open for partnership, can please contact me.