The Ransi diary
Nestled in the laps of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, Ransi presents a strange paradox of natural delight and modernization, as expressed in the travel diaries by Kushal Mookherjee.
I have always been privileged in my travels. Even with very little experience in foreign travel, I have travelled extensively in India. Yet there are still too many places that I haven’t visited in the six decades of my travels around our country. This time I went on a journey which most in my community has undertaken, but which I had somehow missed earlier, possibly being an atheist, and now to my regret of being handicapped with age, will not be able to explore what I would have loved to. This is “Dev Bhumi” country starting from Haridwar and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand toward Kedarnath and Badrinath. It is a mesmerizing landscape with tiers of Shivalik Hills leading up to middle Himalaya. I started the journey on 6th November 2017. The great rivers accompanied us along our way from Dehradun. First Ganga, then Bhagirathi and Alakananda after which we went along Mandakini and then finally along Madhu Ganga. Ransi is about 21kms from Ukhimath. The whole journey is an eye-opener. Though much depleted, the hills along the way most have diverse vegetation and tree cover. Questions arise in our minds on how to preserve this landscape? Highways are improving and so is the increasing traffic. We covered the hills roads of about 275 kilometres in 8 hours! We have been violating the pristine nature of the area for a cause that may be threatening the lives of millions of people downstream. What is thought as an improvement, like building dams on the rivers, has already been proved to be short-lived, as sedimentation due to large-scale tree felling will make the dams useless in a very short time. So what is the future of the hills and plains?
In Ransi (7th November 2017) we had a nice stay in an interesting hotel, where no staff were available after sunset! I went out early in the morning and saw a few birds, like Grey Bush Chat, Blue Whistling Thrush and a Forktail. Later, we went to the school there to give a presentation on biodiversity of the area. After a lunch comprising of a variety of lentils, we commenced on a field trip, walking along the road towards Ukhimath.
I was fortunate to be accompanied by two lovely young ladies from Garhwal and Kumaon, both of them having an enormous amount of knowledge about the biodiversity of the area. One was studying the social impact of biodiversity and very knowledgeable. The other was a local homemaker who ran a small NGO and travelled in the area extensively and thus could give me a clear idea of the flora and fauna. It’s her sharp eyes that found a Goral, a kind of goat-antelope, standing rock still on a slope above us, allowing us to photograph it.
Birdlife was very rarely observed, maybe the time, season and the cloudy sky had something to do with the reason. Darkness descended as evening gave way to night. I was amazed to see that every little village in even the remotest top of a hill has electricity. The whole landscape was lit up wherever the villages are, like a star-lit sky, and they even had faint mobile access and TV connectivity through satellite.
(8th November 2017) The day started early as I walked northwards from my hotel early in the morning. The sky was clear as the sun came up with its brilliant light illuminating everything around us. The snow peaks were visible at a distance and all of nature came in a sharp and clear focus. The village, the surrounding landscape and the distant snow-covered mountains, presented an absolutely mind-blowing experience. Photographing the Himalayan Langurs with their whitish heads, Rhesus Macaques and so many agama lizards that were basking on roadside stones was a bonus! Another bonus was the sighting of a small flock of Snow Pigeon in the fallow land below the road!
Later in the day, another field trip with the students revealed their knowledge of the biodiversity of the area. They identified most of the trees, shrubs and herbs by their local names. We sighted many butterflies but the only bird we saw was the Himalayan Griffon.
In the evening, I trekked again with the two ladies down the road. As the dark night absorbed us, we could see all the electrified villages in the distance, their lights posing as stars on the hillsides and when we looked up, the stars were blinking in the clear sky above us.
It was a fascinating experience. The supposedly unspoiled nature above us and the electrified villages in the remote areas of the hills presented the true state of nature in our universe.
Cover Photo: Map butterfly, Ransi village
Read also: Revisiting the moments in the wild
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