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Isha Singh Sawhney

Isha Singh Sawhney is a writer, musafir and obsessive people watcher. She loves seeing new places and hates leaving them.

Sift through that mound of garbage to find a hill station

Shimla congested

his is a eulogy and a breakup letter to our hillstations wrapped up in one. So please excuse my schizophrenic love-hate ramble, because as much as I am guilty of having the most opaque nostalgia tinted lenses on, I am angry that we failed, people and authorities to save our hillstations.

Once upon a time in a land far away we were best friends. You were our savior, succor and inspirations. The place where our best ghost stories and Rusty came from.

Today you are our worst nightmare.

As long-suffering inhabitants from the plains the only place we could escape minus visas and passports was to you. Mussourie, Nainital, Mcloedganj, Shimla and Ooty were all vistas of promise looming ahead as icy cool and inviting as a chatpata frozen chuski on a hot sultry afternoon. How we hankered after the delicious pain of deep, chest hurting cold air filled breaths and aching calves after a hard walk uphill. Rewarded with a plate of steaming finger chips or cheese waiwai and adrak mint tea.

Last week the only thought keeping us alive in the scorching heatwaves of the plains was our escape to Dharamshala. Sadly for every "Ah Mcloedganj" reaction we had, all we got an "eeks McLoedganj, what a dump!!".

Yet, despite this default reactions we got, we were rather relentless and enormously thrilled about our weekend to the hill station the Dalai Lama lived in. This Utopian Tibetan mountain town we were imagining to be surreal, peaceful and otherworldly. Also anything lower that the current maximum of 45 degrees - the perfect temperature to boil an egg – seemed like the freezing Alps.

Growing up our refuge from the monstrous summers were to these hill'scapes; bag, baggage and beasts. We'd make our way up winding roads marred by the occasional bout of carsickness that was kept at bay by counting hairpin bends to slip away into old family homes or newer hotels. Houses with sloping red tin roofs that tapered off into the hillside and made one hellava' racket during rain and hail storms and even occasionally took flight, in a particularly hectic storms.

All you need is one little plastic bag to float innocuously to a spot and in the blink of an eye there is a full-fledged sky high, garbage heap. Chris Angel and David Blaine could learn something

t was heavenly. The fresh mountain springs we drank from that ran down deodar and oak lined slopes. Hillsides mossy and brown from the trees that were always shedding and constantly blanketed in thin brown pine needles. The kinds that came in threes and were stuck together with a little brown tape like thing at one end and you wondered if maybe the fairies were at work, sticking each bunch together, braiding their silver, gold and bronze hair and singing fairy songs. Or elves would do. Singing in elfen, looking all iridescent and blue. Or so you imagined as you lay on your back staring into the skies on the grassy hillsides of British graveyards amongst graves with mystical names and otherworldly motifs. Finding cloud-animals on a pine needles that made the pokiest bed you ever had. And that's before I'd even smelled the S of spliff.

Now every hill-station visit is assured heartbreak. One where you wouldn't even stop to pick up the broken pieces of your heart, because you wouldn't find them in the messy garbage heaps our hills are.

It's the saddest reversal of a fairy ever read, where the Queens of the Hills become beast, tramp and ugly stepsister all rolled into one ugly ball of muck. Leaving the title of "Queen of the Hills" only to be conferred on kamikaze local busses hurtling down the mountain roads spewing CO2 and clouds of gut-wrenching bile inducing grey smoke.

Who really would fancy a holiday walking along rivers of sewage, looking onto hills covered all over with jagged backsides homes and shops, wait for every next khud, ravine and corner to be an impromptu garbage heap or get a whiff of heavy sewage water every time you find succour in a cute cafe and lose appetite for the hot plate of momos or fresh chocolate brownie sitting in front of you?

It's amazing how garbage heaps seems to have a life of it own in India. All you need is one little plastic bag to float innocuously to a spot and in the blink of an eye there is a full-fledged sky high, garbage heap. Chris Angel and David Blaine could learn something from this magical trick. We could call it the trick of the Appearing Trash. It's quite a talent.

Oh, hillstations even Richard Gere's rumored couple of lakhs couldn't save Tibet in exile. Even he couldn't keep us together. I am off now in search of higher mountains loves. More deserving of my affection.

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