The haunting melody of Punjabi singer Gurdas Maan’s song ‘Mur mur yaad satave pind diyan galiyan di’ transports me to my once-a-sleepy village, nestled in the sylvan surroundings of the Kangra valley. Fleeting images of the emerald-green hills and dales lending luminosity to its rugged grandeur, the serenading streams, the cowherds tending their herds and the humming birds perched precariously on treetops offer a typical rural metaphor. I shudder as I look back at my village, now a jungle of concrete.
My heart misses a beat as I watch the slate-roofed manor houses having given way to imposing malls. These adobe houses with a thick cow-dung coating were warmer in the bone-chilling winters and cool in hot summers. The high-rises have swallowed the wide open spaces where we tots would play marbles and hide and seek. These citadels of faith have fallen to the insatiable human greed, leaving behind no trace on the sands of time.
I vividly recall how farmers from Dasuya-Mukerian area would ferry their produce – jaggery and basmati rice – on sturdy mules sporting musical jingles to sell them in the area on weekends. As they would thread their way through the cobbled lanes of my village we would come prancing to watch their caravan pass. The musical jingle of the mule bells has died down in the deafening din of the honking horns.
The mad race for growth has taken its toll on the heritage character that my village once bragged about. The network of arterial roads has swallowed a sizeable chunk of the prime land where the blooming mustard flowers swayed in gay abandon. The cobbled lanes that once added earthy beauty to its celestial ambience have been converted into cemented pathways. Those images of countryside life still haunt me.
My heart flies back to the days when we childhood chums would float paper boats and chase away dragonflies or make a splash in the village pond. An anganwari school building has come up where the pond existed. A major chunk of the village prime land, skirted by a variety of trees where species of migratory birds had made their nests, has been acquired by colonisers, forcing the feathered friends to fly back to undisclosed destinations.
The wheel of time has made its presence felt. I relive the long-lost school days of yore. There was a sprawling orchard tucked away in the vicinity of our school building. Trespassing in this orchard would invite the wrath of the caretaker. But caring little, my desk-mate and I would gain entry into it by scaling the high wall. We would pluck guavas and litchis and eat them to our heart’s content. I miss a heart beat as I try to resurrect my childhood day ‘Eden’ that lies buried under the debris of time.