From paradise to a living-hell

Once it was a large valley surrounded by steeping snow-clad mountains with rivers & rivulets
"The fast increasing symptoms of decadence & downfall of the Dunstaanian community had concerned him & his contemporary ilk, but those who had to act, being flippant, were deaf to their voices of concern."
"The fast increasing symptoms of decadence & downfall of the Dunstaanian community had concerned him & his contemporary ilk, but those who had to act, being flippant, were deaf to their voices of concern."Special arrangement

Danish Baba, a centenarian writer, still sage and sane, was the oldest man living in Dunstaan. For one hundred years odd, his memory track had been trodden upon by the happenings in Dunstaan making him, thus, the most respected and reliable repository of a sort of encyclopedic knowledge about that community.

The fast increasing symptoms of decadence & downfall of the Dunstaanian community had concerned him & his contemporary ilk, but those who had to act, being flippant, were deaf to their voices of concern.

On his memory surface was engraved ‘the truth’ about Dunstaan as something indelibly inscribed on an old monument. His sunken eyes with deep shadows hid its bright days and his wrinkled face made grimace of strong dejection over what his eyes had seen that was going on, for successive decades, inside the valley of Dunstaan.

Once, a group of a half-dozen students from a foreign country was on an expedition to know about the past of Dunstaan: how it had turned from Gulistaan (the land of flowers), as it was then popularly called, to present day Dunstaan (the land of dunces) only; to learn the causes that led to its transmogrification from paradise to a living-hell of concrete jungle on the earth.

The zealous six had read a lot in their books & on internet about it, that once was a large valley surrounded by steeping snow-clad mountains with rivers & rivulets flowing down along their bottom, slopping luxuriant jungles spreading a cool blanket of freshness on its inhabitants, and also beautified by flower-meadows-gardens that generated tons of eddies of scented-air, every second, invigorating the moribund.

Traveling beyond their bookish regime, and their compelling keen interest in acquiring first-hand information about its gradual deterioration, over years in the past, had driven them to it: that unfortunate part of the world. And, the most apt man to guide & tell them the facts relating to the vandalism of their [Mother-] land by her own sons was, obviously, none but Danish Baba himself.

They looked for him in the uptown through its narrow passages & lanes, for several hours, in their hired ten-seated vehicle. Ultimately, they were guided by some young men of his colony to a decrepit building where he was resting in a rocking willow chair in the endmost corner of its untidy corridor.

Some poor families, after Dunstaan’s decline took ugly shape, had come to shelter in some rooms of the building that was owned by him, and, used in the past for a guesthouse. It was morning time when they greeted him, introduced themselves to him, briefed him about their mission and wanted him to be interviewed in that connection.

“Instead of interviewing me here inside this building, I think, it would be adequate to go out to see the destruction yourselves, of course, with my narration guiding you to understand the background behind”, Danish Baba told the students who readily agreed to the suggestion.

They took him in the vehicle that was parked outside the building by its driver, waiting for them. Seated along with the six and the driver in the vehicle, with his left hand on the handle of upright cane, he raised his right hand pointing to the clusters of houses & other structures erected everywhere on the land on both sides of the labyrinthine roads, on which the wheels were on, and said to them:

“Sometime in the past lush green paddy land it was all over the place your eyesight goes, as if the nature had spread a green fuzzy carpet on the earth’s crust that was being combed continually by gentle brushes of wind, through paddy stalks”.

Filled with dismay, he heaved a melancholic groan and continued to speak: “in between these constructions, you see”, pointing towards the random constructions through the vehicle-window, “there are now left only patchy miniature farms hardly able to grow paddy and corn because the adjoining canals that irrigated those huge agricultural farmlands & paddy fields in the past have lost their existence in this haphazard, horizontal & unsystematic urbanisation. These rare tiny farms, here and there, as we see now, are leftovers of monsters’ feast …….”

The old-age weariness stopped Danish Baba for an essential pause to regain energy, so he breathed in deep & re-continued:

“Our land had as many streams, rivulets, wet lands, brooks, lakes, springs and the like, as veins and arteries in the body of a human being. Well, you being intelligent enough can appreciate without putting strain on mind that if the blood vessels are blocked, it means certain death of a human.

Similarly, all our water bodies have died out by years’ encroachments, soil-filling, and the unlawful structures erected thereon, thereafter, are actually tombstones over dead [water] bodies buried under them.

And, I…...” Danish Baba held his breath for a while and completed his line: “…I hear daily the cries of the [water] bodies, buried alive, undergoing a constant torture under millions, millions, of tons of weight of encroachments on them everywhere…”

“Wasn’t there law and law enforcing agencies to stop the encroachments upon, and vandalism of, the land, its water bodies & green and…..…” asked the intervening group, listening to him very attentively. Dragging a sad smile on his wrinkled face, Danish Baba replied: “the laws were only in books, made further toothless by the enforcing agencies for their own corruption & vested interests…..”

Recollection of the dark background of a Bright Law, as that was titled, that was enacted in Dunstaan to pave way for looting huge chunks of State land by political-thugs, bureaucratic-mafia & selfcentered-rich, gave him pause to reveal to the students grotesque reality:

“I must tell you that the government once passed a law & named it the Bright Law to legalise illegal occupation of millions of acres of its land with a view to generate requisite revenue for its empty exchequer. No targeted revenue was raised under it but, at the contrary, the ownership of illegal occupation of land was confirmed and it surfaced, then, that the law was farce under which the ministers, bureaucrats, politicians, influential elite & their henchmen were legally facilitated to grab the land of jungles, forests, meadows, pastures & picnic spots, who raised pleasure huts & money-minting-hotels in the midst of the nature’s serene lap….”

He breathed in some air & continued:

“……Soon after conferment of proprietary rights, swarms of concrete hotels, guest houses and huts were seen being raised there by the created-owners that only led to shake and disturb eco-system of Dunstaan by large scale deforestation & pollution, bringing more dark than any light to the land. ……..It was a historical plunder of the land, a stealthy treading in God’s Domain, by callous marauders, indeed….. Ever since, the incessant freshets have followed, inundating us, mercilessly, with no intended influx of tourists seen to those inane commercial constructions there, anymore…...”

The group wanted to know about disaster management machinery if any had been adopted by the Dunstaanian governments. To that, he had a brief reply: “when disaster is invited, it isn’t preventable from happening by any measures of [ill] management on the part of maladministration.”

While passing through urban, semi-urban and town areas, the students were coerced to shut the windows of the vehicle & wear protective masks over their mouths & noses, as mind-breaking odour was coming from drainage channels & sewerage trenches all around. “We are accustomed to all this hell since decades, my dear friends”, said Danish Baba laughingly. “Since building houses was uncontrolled left at every individual’s own choice, not subject to any rules or regulations, most of the natural irrigation canals around, that were once crystal clear water-basins of melting snow & rains, feeding the farmers & farmlands, became dumb recipients of waste water, garbage, litter and human excrement…. And, all this stinking smell, you notice, is spread out by polluted air from them all over the place….”, narrated he.

After a little cogitation, he said to them: “believe it or not, several times, the dead polluted water bodies have been talking & telling me that once upon a time they were pristine pure, virgin waters, till human beings touched and polluted them. Their tale of woes is reminiscent of my own youth when I & many young fellas used to relish summer-spring-swimming in those pure drinking water bodies, which alas, are now inanimate ….” Shaking his body, he readjusted himself on the seat & sighed in grief.

“Hadn’t the authorities developed the drainage system for the unplanned urbanisation that was taking place?, asked the students.

“Just in few areas, but they were ill-designed, so whenever there is a downpour, the drains get brimmed and spill over to inundate the areas around”, replied he.

After a long pause, he said to them: “we must drive to see the largest cesspool of the world that some decades ago was, admittedly, the most enchanting fresh water lake of the world.”

“Where is it?,”, asked the curious group.

“Isn’t far away. You take vehicle in that direction of north……”, showing with his hand towards the road leading to the cesspool. Shortly, they reached to the disgusting site & got down from the vehicle only to believe in what they wanted not to see and believe.

“Oh God! It’s a real cesspool all around. We don’t trust our eyes. We have seen beautiful pictures of this Dal Diamond Lake, as it was named world over, in our books & on internet. It was like a mystic baby, in shining arms of the sun, led to serene slumber by the surrounding green hills’ crooning lullaby. …. But who has made muck of this, who converted it to a septic pit?” the students expressed shock, while acknowledging its allure of past glory.

“The residents themselves robed this once-a-salubrious place of its beauty and grandeur. Its 2/3rd area were initially eaten up by monstrous peripheral encroachments that steadily extended to its belly, when finally it was reduced to a shrunken horrible face of its lost grace. Those illegal structures all around”, pointing with the head of his cane towards them, “in green belt & beyond have been pumping all kinds of waste into it that led to its eutrophication, sedimentation & siltation ……”.

Danish Baba was intercepted by the listening group. They asked him: “wasn’t there any recycling process in place to prevent poison from running into the life of the lake?’’

“All types of polluted water from chaotic structures, built around on upland, encircling the lake at numerous spots, didn’t have any proper drainage and sewerage systems. So, all trash from them was naturally to march towards the low-lying lake and the absence of any proper recycling system before the trash-march led to its ruination “, described Danish Baba in a very heavy tone of voice.

Then, was he escorted by the group back into the vehicle; inside, he went on and on about his reminiscences of Dunstaan till the six seemed a bit tired, so dropping him at his place with thanks for the valued information.

Bottom line:

Only destruction defeats grasping greed, but till then it is too late to stop the monster from self-eating.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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