|Khajjiar:A Chocolate-box Perfect Landscape|
Kalidas, the great Sanskrit poet of
fifth century AD is the Shakespeare of India—so goes the comparison. Huh! It’s
not the other way round: nobody ever says Shakespeare is the Kalidas of
England! Netaji Subhas Bose is the Garibaldi of India. Fortunately nobody has
ever fancied a comparison of Gandhiji in this manner.
|The Glade of Khajjiar|
Comparing the incomparables can
be understood in terms of simple poetic exploration, nay the poetic licence. Nothing
more…and nobody should justifiably read insult into it. No! I don’t think there
is actually anything very upsetting about who is compared with whom. We do
compare, sometimes for humorous effect even, between the persons and between
the places otherwise having very little in common between them; and the
comparison, once started, goes on. Take for instance, Khajjiar. It’s a place in
Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh that is nicknamed as Mini Switzerland. What
had transpired in the mind of the person who coined, for the first time, such
an international sobriquet for the place that became an instant tourist hit? Is
it the glade or is it its meadow? Its lake? Or its cool sylvan ambience?
Really, one would not know. Wikipedia explores the epithet in the following
manners: On 07-07-1992, Mr. Willy t. Blazer, Vice Counselor and Head of
Chancery of Switzerland in India brought Khajjiar on the world tourism map by
christening it "Mini Switzerland". He also put a sign board of a
yellow Swiss hiking footpath showing Khajjiar's distance from the Swiss capital
Berne-6194 km. Khajjiar is among the 160 locations in the world that bear
topographical resemblance with Sweitzerland. The Counselor also took from
Khajjiar a stone which will form part of a stone collage around the Swiss
Parliament to remind the visitors of Khajjiar as Mini Switzerland of India.
It is the description which Wikipedia has taken from the website of Himachal
Tourism and cannot be rejected as an internet hoax. But then again, was it a
spontaneous outpouring of the Swiss fellow—a sort of compelling déjà vu—who discovered
his own Switzerland in the middle of Himalayas? Or does it mean that the
epithet “Mini Switzerland” was a kind of endorsement obtained from the Swiss
fellow? Even before the words so said to have been uttered by the Swiss
gentleman were showcased and publicised, Khajjiar was referred to as “Gulmarg
of Himachal Pradesh”. Really one does not know how the initial motivation
behind coining the phrase and comparing the two places really came to him.
|Lake Leman: Geneva|
Let me explore the expression a
bit more with the help of parallels. There are similar nicknames prevalent
elsewhere too, and one that instantly comes to my mind is Thali in Krishnagiri
District of Tamil Nadu, known as Little England. What we find in Thali is the
chill in the climate which is being exploited by the farmers there to grow
roses all the year round in polyhouse farming and connect to Bangalore airport
and then to international market. Even at Thali there is no signage imparting Englishness
to the place. But look at this: in case of Khajjiar, you have even a distance
indication: Switzerland 6194 km. By road or by air? The distance information
makes it appear as if Switzerland is located so very proximately, say just near
Pathankot or Dharmashala. Funny, isn’t it?
Not only that; even one finds a
hotel named as Swiss Meadow.
In that manner I can state here
that Daringbadi in Kandhmal District of Odisha is “Shimla of Odisha”. I can
make the comparison now that I’ve seen both the places. Any takers? If “Mini
Switzerland” as an epithet could be accepted why not my statement? Let me
repeat it—Daringbadi is “Shimla of Odisha”.
|On Way to Lausanne: Swiss Farm|
Joking apart, Switzerland is
known for her scenic beauty, the highpoints of tourist attraction being her Alpine
lakes with limpid waters and her snow-capped hills. And there are meadows, too,
with healthy cows grazing happily and blissfully. Looking at them one just
cannot help reliving the taste of Swiss chocolates—at least I was reminded of
that when I visited that country in the autumn of 2011. I know Switzerland does
not grow cocoa yet I had no problem granting the country its brand image in
chocolate manufacturing. After all, when liberalisation started in India, Swiss
chocolates and Japanese motorcycles were the first batch of things to flood
Khajjiar has a lake too, but
nobody can compare it with Lake Geneva (Lac Léman). Where is water in Lake Khajjiar?
Whatever it has in the name of water is so very turbid and so much muddy. And as
per some information, efforts are under way to remove the weeds that choke the
lake. I wish the project all the best: let there be a lake in the place of a
puddle—the sooner the better.
|Lake Leman at Ouchy|
When I arrived at Khajjiar the
first thing that captured my attention was the availability of the cows and sheep
happily grazing in the meadows around the lake. Is it done deliberately to give
the place a semblance of Swiss meadow? I cogitated. The cows looked emaciated,
nowhere near their Swiss counterparts who were robust and lustrous. I was
reminded of the unforgettable statement of a colleague of mine who, seeing the
cows grazing and lazing on the Swiss meadow, had wistfully uttered, ‘Aha! How I
long to be a Swiss cow in my next birth!’ She should visit Khajjiyar even in
this birth: it’s my recommendation to her now.
But why compare the incomparable?
Even if one does that why should we turn so touchy? Let us enjoy the humour out
of it. How does it make a difference if somebody claims that the Himalayas are
the Alps of India?
|It Hurts My Heart: The Dirt at Khajjiar|
Khajjiar is breathtaking in its
own way. It is a lake plus meadow plus a glade. Where does one find such a
capsule and such a combination? The coffee-table book “Unfogettable Himachal” published
by the Department of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Himachal Pradesh 2010 describes
it a chocolate-box perfect landscape for whatever it may mean. [Advanced Learner’s
Dictionary 8th Edition defines the phrase = very pretty, but in a
way that does not seem real] The dense sylvan environs surround the glade and Himachal’s
own cedar does not fail to impart majesty to the place. Its bucolic serenity,
its cool salubrious breeze, its enigmatic sun and shadow—everything is so very
enchanting! The cows and sheep do not mind if they are in no way comparable to
their Swiss counterparts. So what? They are happy nevertheless, as happy as or
even happier than the cows of Switzerland. They have their grass meals and
there is room for every animal to fill its tummy.
|For a Photo Opportunity:Khajjiar|
And it’s not only the animals that
are happy in the meadow of plenitude; rather their happiness is really
contagious. The singer with heart-rending folk songs offers his music for a
small sum—it’s no fee and it’s for the giver to choose the amount to dole out. It’s
only the reward from his satisfied listeners. He can sing the love lore of
Chanchlo and Kunjo, or a musical ode to the River Ravi, or maybe the little
girl’s love for the place of her birth, one that is not ready to leave Chamba
to roll in the grandeur of Shimla. Whatever he sings is enough to leave the
I would definitely search Saran Das to listen to his soulful songs if I ever visit Khajjiar again:
माए नि मेरी ए शिमले डिरा ए चम्बा कितनी दूर
शिमले नि बसना सबाथु नि बसना बसना चम्बे ज़रूर ...
A N Nanda