Some eight or nine odd years ago I along with some of my friends decided to go for an adventure trip. It was a holiday but we had come up with the plan late morning and were left with little time to make it to a far off spot as all of us had to be home by nightfall for the following working day’s drudgery.
We had little options as we wanted to be some place good within two hours time. A friend, who hails from Tangmarg area of Kashmir, suggested Drang. “Why Drang”, we enquired and he said that the place was absolutely enchanting and quite virgin as many people did not know about it. He happened to mention the ruins of some ancient temple at Drang.
We decided to hit it. We packed up, boarded a friend’s SUV and hit the road. We reached Tangmarg within 45 minutes and descended on the track to Drang, which at that time was a very rough road, not quite motorable but since our driver was an ace we managed to get there. We had to park the vehicle off side and walked the rest of the distance, which was some 500 odd meters. As we closed in on the place our friend had suggested, we were left awestruck. It was more than beautiful. There was a particular calm about that place even though the water roared through. There were hardly three people there besides us, who were genuinely fishing. This place was so very untouched and revealed nature’s bounty full scale. We met up with a local there who guided us on horsebacks to the ruins of the ancient temple. The view was exhilarating and we were sure the trip had made our day.
As dusk approached the place turned into a mosaic of colours and shadows. The music that the water created was chiselled into a “symphony” of sorts by the mountains. We were informed by our local guide that since the road leading back was treacherous we had better make an early exit. So we decided to take off. As we jumped into the vehicle we were astounded to find that we had not eaten anything of all that we had brought along. We had just skipped the thought of it at the very behest of the satiating beauty of Drang.
We eventually rode our way back off the treacherous route towards Tangmarg. While we drove back towards the city everyone was silent and listless. We would not even look at each other. I broke the silence with a cackling joke. There was petty laughter but that started it off. All of us started on wavering sighs. “Man, it was so serene out there, I just hate the very thought of going back to the thunderous clutter of the city,” one of us exclaimed. “Yep, it was quite a treat and I feel as if I left my soul back there. I feel so lonely right now,” another one yapped. All of us had similar thoughts to share and the talk was over sooner than it had started and silence sheathed us once again. There was something so miraculously ecstatic about Drang that rendered us practically speechless.
A few weeks ago, while I was in Srinagar, we planned a family picnic and I suggested Drang. Enroute to this place which had enchanted me years ago, I was all talk about its virgin beauty and wondrous serenity. By the time we reached Tangmarg I had suspiciously charged the atmosphere to the extent that we missed the actual route and travelled down another road. We had travelled some two kilometres when I realized that we were not on the road to Drang. We turned back and had to ask for directions. It happens to all of us, no? As we found the actual passage to Drang, we found that the road had been rendered quite motorable and I do not know why but I felt ripples of repulsion rise within my heart.
It was a quick ride and as we neared the spot I was taken aback. Drang had lost it, almost all of it and just then a cacophony descended inside my head filled with all kinds of gibberish about developing the place as a tourist spot. “The authorities have messed up this place”, I declared. A public PARK sat at the place where beautiful natural landscape used to be and the rest was a parking place for vehicles, and hundreds of them dotted the place turning into a mechanical nightmare. Loud music from different sources culminated into peculiar noise and litter was all about. There was nothing of what I had witnessed years back and I was truly disappointed. Finding the place overcrowded, we decided to get out of there as soon as we had landed. And did I mention the construction of a silly dam, if that is what they are building out there.
Planning – is that what they call it, the authorities. Well they have done quite a job at planning with Drang. They have destroyed it. Rather than developing it they have reduced the spot to a public utility. Development of Drang should have included a careful study of the place and thereof means of conservation of the USPs. Small hutments could have been planted in the nooks of this beautiful valley without disturbing the ecosystem where tourists could stopover and that would generate revenue, if that is what the authorities are concerned about. The place could also have been evaluated under Heritage Tourism. But all the authorities could do was plant some obscene park out there and fill the spot with tonnes of concrete and chain links. Oh! The policy makers here know all about pressing “Delete”. They deleted a marvellous place off the map, Drang that is. Now it is only a place and nothing is marvellous about it.