I got to know in Dhanolti that what impact weather can have on the characteristics of a place. I visited Dhanolti twice and each time I experienced a whole new Dhanolti, so different that it was difficult to believe that it was the same place which I visited few years back. That is the beauty of Himalayas. The presence of clouds and rains will completely change the ambience of a place, so different from one experienced during sunny days. While going to the Himalayas one always wants to have cloudy weather as they take shelter from the scorching heat of great Indian summer and in winter one always wants to have snowfall when they visit the Himalayas. Having said that one has to be very lucky also to get what he has expected. 

Beyond the Echo Park, Dhanolti
Dhanolti is well connected and there are two routes to reach Dhanolti: one is via Mussoorie and other is via Chamba. Both are in good condition and which one you choose in the end depends on your other plans too. Dhanolti is not as popular as Mussoorie or Shimla, so you will not get too many high-end hotels. I always look for the guest houses of Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited (GMVNL) first, while in Uttarakhand, because they provide good rooms at reasonable prices. But as they provide advanced booking too, many times they get filled up early for weekend stays. I follow the first principle of travelling that never plan too much while travelling, it makes travel less enjoyable and staying to that principle we reached to Dhanolti to find GMVNL rooms all booked. We took one room in one of the hotels which provided a nice view of a hill slope. 

The setting of a horror movie, Dhanolti

When I first visited Dhanolti, it was all sunny wth no sign of clouds and sky all blue. Even the moon was visible on that day. We went to the Eco park in Dhanolti. There were several rides for the kids and some of us could not stop themselves and took few of them. I still remember that under a square hut we played 'Kona-Kona' in which four people occupy corners of a square, swap the corners intermittently and the fifth person tries to snatch one corner while they interchange ('Kona' means corner). Then we took stairs to go up and to our surprise it was all open, like the hills as you see on the other side of the valley while moving on a hilly road. I was so close to the top a hill for the first time.

There was no sign of any settlement as far as we could see leaving few houses on the slope of hills. There was valley downwards and terrace farms chased the valley to the very bottom. We tried to go down in the valley but gradually, the size of the steps became larger and thorny bushes started piercing us. So we abandoned that plan. Seeing towards the opposite of the valley, that hill looked like a giant stone placed there deliberately.

Stairway to nowhere

When I visited Dhanolti for the second time, the memories of the first trip were still fresh in my mind. I expected to have the same view of the hill opposite the valley in Eco Park. When I reached Dhanolti it was all cloudy with clouds passing very close to us. I was thinking is it the same place that I visited few years back. The Eco Park now had beautiful flowers and these flowers sometimes confuse you that how a plant can have two different type of flowers. May be they are at different stages of the same flower, we just wondered. This time, all those high trees were waving with clouds and whole placed had a misty look, something which you find in horror movies. Looking upwards trees looked like embracing each other in the darkness provided by clouds. 

Between Chamba and Dhanolti
When we reached the point from where the valley was visible it was a completely different scene. Leave about seeing the hills on opposite side of valley one could not see thirty feet away. I sat there and tried to ponder over something, but it was so chilling that I could not focus on anything. Normally when I go to hill stations I don't keep warm clothes as I never felt that it was really required, but this time, a got to know that one should have some arrangement as weather may take a whole new turn. Behind that point, there was a place to sit and have candid discussions. That place also had few small elevated stages for Yoga. It was one of the best places to meditate and I must admit that this place must help in concentrating while doing Yoga.

From Echo Park, Dhanolti

We continued our journey upwards. The narrow walkway was now like one shown in movies: one could not see too far, stairs with gentle slope surrounded by trees and over that every now and then mist will come in front of you from sideways. We reached the end of the Eco Park and there was a gate there which was, fortunately, open. We trespassed and were now inside farm fields. And here it felt like paradise. We were literally on top of the nearby places and we were surrounded only by clouds. It was time to click few pictures but it was beyond the capacity of any camera to capture those moments, those clouds and the sheer bliss which one feels in such a settings. Even wild flowers there were so happy that they refused to come to a standstill so that we can have a picture with them. There were few houses in fields and we thought that such a house was all that we wanted then.

Never before I experienced such bliss apart from the first experience of snowfall in Deoria Tal. We could not stay there too long as we were shivering and the temperature was dropping further. We had to descend. The small town of Dhanolti sleeps early and there is not much which you can do apart from taking a walk on empty streets. Who knows few walks can easily become a walk to remember. Next day we left for Surkanda Devi temple in Kaddukhal but I will always miss such a weather in my trips to any hill station. 

इसी ज़मीं पर जीना इसी पर खाक होना
इंसान को कहाँ मयस्सर है आज़ाद होना।

पंख फैलाकर हवा में कहीं बेसुध उड़ जाना
दुश्वार है यहाँ ये इक सपना साकार होना।

तरह तरह के पहरे हैं रूह पर कि दिन में
खुश एक बार होना ग़मज़दा बार बार होना।

ख्वाब में जियो या हक़ीक़त में किसे मालूम
इतनी बड़ी बात नहीं है तेरा होना या ना होना।

लाख गुल हों चमन में तो भी वो रौनक कहाँ
भँवरा ना आए तो क्या फस्ल-ए-बहार होना।

देखकर किसी का दर्द क्यों मुँह फेरता है तू
इतना मुश्किल हो गया क्या ग़म-गुसार होना।

ना अपनी मर्ज़ी से आए और ना ही जाना है
जिंदगी कहने को खुद की कहाँ अधिकार होना।*

दूर के सफ़र में थक कर जब चूर हो जाना
तब तुम इन दरख्तों का शुक्रगुज़ार होना।

सफ़र ही जब मंज़िल हो यायावर की तो कहिए
क्या इन्तहा है क्या आर होना क्या पार होना।

* इस बात पर शायर ज़ौक़ का एक शेर याद आता है :
लाई हयात आए, कज़ा ले चली चले,
अपनी खुशी से आए ना अपनी खुशी चले

मयस्सर - feasible; फस्ल-ए-बहार - spring season; ग़म-गुसार - one who consoles; दरख्त - tree; हयात - life, existence; कज़ा - destiny, death

आपने उस भजन की ये दो पंक्तियाँ सुनी होंगी कि 'जलाओ दिये पर रहे ध्यान इतना, अंधेरा धरा पर कहीं रह ना जाए।' अब धरा की बात तो छोड़ दीजिए चिराग तले ही अंधेरा होता है। कभी आपने सोचा है कि चिराग तले अंधेरा क्यों होता है? दिया जलने से पहले और उसके बुझने के बाद भी अगर कोई चीज़ स्थाई रहती है तो वो है अंधेरा। तो फिर दिया जलाते ही क्यों हैं? दिया इसलिए जलाया जाता है कि भले ही अंधेरा ताकतवर हो, स्थाई हो लेकिन उस से लड़ना तो होगा ही। और हमेशा लड़ते रहना होगा क्योंकि अंधेरे को कुछ क्षणों के लिए पराजित तो किया जा सकता है लेकिन उसका जड़ से उन्मूलन नहीं किया जा सकता। हम दिया जलाकर अपने इस निश्चय के प्रति प्रतिबद्धता जताते हैं कि हम अंधेरे से लड़ते ही रहेंगे। 

तामसिक और सात्विक प्रवृत्तियों की इस लड़ाई में तामसिक प्रवृत्तियों का पलड़ा भारी है ऐसा कहने वाला मैं अकेला नहीं हूँ। आपने हजारी प्रसाद द्विवेदी जी की कालजयी रचना 'नाख़ून क्यों बढ़ते हैं' अवश्य पढ़ी होगी। अगर नही पढ़ी है तो पढ़िएगा। इसमें द्विवेदी जी से एक छोटी बच्ची पूंछ बैठती है कि नाख़ून क्यों बढ़ते हैं। द्विवेदी जी इस सवाल पर बहुत सोचते हैं और अंत में इस निष्कर्ष पर पहुँचते हैं कि नाख़ून पाशविक प्रवृत्तियों का प्रतीक हैं और मनुष्य को हमेशा याद दिलाते हैं कि पहले वो पशु था। मनुष्य नाख़ून को काटकर इस तथ्य को झुठलाने की कोशिश करता है लेकिन नाख़ून दोबारा बढ़ आते हैं। और इस द्वंद में मनुष्य को हमेशा लड़ते रहना होगा। वो कभी भी पाशविक प्रवृत्तियों को हावी नहीं होने दे सकता और न ही कभी यह मानकर बैठ सकता है कि पाशविक प्रवृत्तियाँ समाप्त हो गई हैं।

मैं और उदाहरण देता हूँ। हम हर वर्ष विजयादशमी पर बुराई रूपी रावण पर अच्छाई रूपी राम की जीत का उत्सव मनाते हैं। हम दीपावली पर दिये जलाकर अंधकार पर प्रकाश की जीत की खुशियाँ मनाते हैं। लेकिन हर वर्ष क्यों? हम यह मानकर बैठ क्यों नहीं जाते कि अच्छाई सदा के लिए जीत गई है या प्रकाश हमेशा के लिए अंधकार पर हावी हो गया है। क्योंकि हम यह जानते हैं कि यह जीत, यह उल्लास क्षणिक है। क्योंकि हम यह जानते हैं कि तम ही टिकाऊ है। और इसको झुठलाने के लिए हम बार बार लड़ते रहते हैं। आपने देखा होगा, सुना होगा कि संत महात्मा लोगों को सही राह पर चलने का उपदेश दिया करते हैं। और ऐसा वो सदियों से करते आ रहे हैं। मनुष्य को सही राह पर लाने में हज़ारों वर्ष लग गये और अब भी यह नहीं माना जा सकता कि वह सही राह पर आ गया है क्योंकि उनका उपदेश अब भी जारी है। तो महापुरुष हमेशा प्रयत्नशील रहे हैं कि मनुष्य दुर्व्यसनों को छोड़कर सदाचारी जीवन व्यतीत करे लेकिन तामसिक प्रवृत्तियाँ रह रह के हावी हो जाती हैं। अगर यहाँ पर विज्ञान को ले आया जाए तो यह स्वाभाविक हो जाएगा कि कोई भी वस्तु हमेशा उच्च क्षमता से निम्न क्षमता की ओर ही बहती है और निम्न क्षमता से उच्च क्षमता से जाने के लिए कार्य करना पड़ता है। 

अब सवाल यह उठता है कि तामसिक प्रवृत्तियाँ स्थाई क्यों होती हैं और सात्विक प्रवृत्तियाँ क्षणभन्गुर क्यों। इसका जवाब है प्रयत्न। कभी भी यथास्थिति को बदलने के लिए प्रयत्न करना पड़ता है और प्रकृति के हर तत्व का गुण होता है यथास्थिति बनाए रखना अर्थात प्रयत्न ना करना। अंधेरे को चीरने के लिए लौ को प्रयत्न करना ही पड़ता है। उर्जा भी चाहिए होती है। अगर आप डार्विनवाद को मानते हैं तो आप भी मानेंगे कि अगर मनुष्य में जिजीविषा ना होती तो मनुष्य भी इतिहास में कहीं अदृश्य हो गया होता या आज भी बंदर होता लेकिन मनुष्य ने विकास के लिए प्रयत्न किया। और जब यही प्रयत्न बंद हो जाता है तो मनुष्य तामसिक गुणों का शिकार हो जाता है क्योंकि उसके लिए किसी प्रयत्न की आवश्यकता नहीं पड़ती। 

लेकिन प्रयत्न किया ही क्यों जाए? जवाब है आनंद की अनुभूति। सोच के देखिए कोलम्बस को नयी दुनिया खोज कर कितना आनंद आया होगा या चाँद पर पहला कदम रखते हुए नील आर्मस्ट्रॉंग को कितनी खुशी हुई होगी। न्यूटन ने सेब गिरते हुए देखकर गुरुत्वाकर्षण के सिद्धांत की ही खोज कर दी। चाहते तो वो भी मनुष्य के पूर्वज बंदरों की भाँति सेब खाकर बगीचे में आराम फरमाते रहते। विश्वास कीजिएगा तामसिक प्रवृत्तियों मे क्षणिक आनंद आ सकता है पर सात्विक तरीके से पाया हुआ कुछ भी अत्यधिक आनंददायी होता है। मैं यह मानने के लिए तैयार हूँ कि उसे पाना थोड़ा मुश्किल हो सकता है। 

और जब बात जलने की होती है तो मुझे अपने एक शिक्षक की बात याद आ जाती है जो कि उन्होंने हम लोगों से लगभग एक दशक पहले कही थी कि अंतिम विजय ही विजय होती है। मैं उनकी पंक्तियों को ही उद्धृत कर देता हूँ, "एक बात हमेशा याद रखना कि जलते दोनों हैं। जलते दोनों हैं मगर एक जल कर बुझता है और एक बुझकर जलता है। लेकिन दुनिया उसे ही याद रखती है जो बुझकर जलता है।"

“Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another. But if we face a monopolist we are at his absolute mercy. And an authority directing the whole economic system of the country would be the most powerful monopolist conceivable…it would have complete power to decide what we are to be given and on what terms. It would not only decide what commodities and services were to be available and in what quantities; it would be able to direct their distributions between persons to any degree it liked.” 
Nobel Laureate and a popular face of the Austrian school of economics, Friedrich A. Hayek's legendary work 'Road to Serfdom' was a monumental piece against the socialist and communist movements of the world and against the growing government control over the businesses - big and small. This book is a strong critic of collectivist thought, but we have to see it in the light of the time when it was written. The book was written post World War 2 when the world has seen the dictatorial National-Socialist regime of Germany under Hitler or communist rule in USSR under Stalin. Hayek, a classic liberalist, to be distinguished from those who believe that democracy can survive in a full-fledged socialist state, warned the world of the dangers of excessive, and in some cases absolute, government control. He was praised by later day successful free-market champion governments which brought sweeping reforms like that of Margaret Thatcher. Hayek lived long enough to see his theory turning true in some countries and some other taking corrective steps.

 'Road to Serfdom' by Friedrich A. Hayek
In initial few chapters of the book, Hayek argues against economic planning, till then existing in the form of Five Years Plans of Soviet rule and many other states pitching for central planning. Hayek's opposition to centralised planning was based on two reasons. First, that the centralised planning is too big a task to be executed efficiently by any authority. Any authority cannot decide for all sectors of industry keeping in mind the welfare of all sectors. It is bound to promote interests of a group or an industry and in the process neglecting all others. Thus effectively driving out entrepreneurship from the state because people will have to follow what planning authority have decided for them instead of acting as per the requirements of the market. The second point that Hayek raises against planning is that it creates too powerful a structure against which public can hardly go. This is logical also because  whatever planning authority has decided is to be implemented and if someone does not accept the decision taken for him, then force has to be used. This force is what leads to totalitarian regimes.

The biggest challenge that a socialist or communist state puts before an individual, in words of Hayek, is freedom or liberty. To quote Hayek himself,
”Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
He cites the example of the right to acquire land which was not given in communist regime of USSR. Hayek says that in that case an individual is always at the mercy of the state. There is no incentive to work. Also in a collectivist rule, a person cannot choose his field of interest as his way of livelihood earning. Hayek says that although the chances of a very poor becoming a very rich person in a free market economy are very less but that there is a chance is no mean achievement in itself. In a collectivist state only those favoured by people higher up in administration and hand-picked by them can become part of the influential class. 

Hayek also argues against the notion of security that a collectivist state is thought to offer. Consider a case where a person has acquired a skill by hard work over the years and then a scientific innovation leaves his skill redundant or a natural calamity roots out an already set up business or industry. Although humanitarian side says that government should come to the rescue of the concerned individuals but Hayek advises against that. He says that job security provided to an individual is a loss for others. For another person whose skill was rendered unrequired after an innovation and who now masters a new art for the living is inherently at a loss and that too because he adjusted to changed scenario. He also says that a situation of complete job security does not let an individual to give his best and hampers innovation. 

In one of the chapters, it is discussed how dictators rise from the society. Hayek says that initially that leader has a small following who see their benefit in the rise of that leader. With this set of followers, the leader cannot rise to the top, so they require an issue to get a mass following. Most of the time this issue is emotional one like the humiliating defeat of Germany in First World War and consequent signing of pacts which added to humiliation was used by Hitler to further National-Socialist rule in Germany. When the leader has a mass following and acquires authority, he will enact laws and create authorities to curtail individual freedom necessary for his unchallenged rule and survival of regime becomes the most important task of leader who by now has become a dictator because he cannot tolerate a single voice of dissent. 

Many issues raised in this book may seem trivial because the world has moved since then and most of the communist and socialist regimes have fallen since this book was written and at many points this book becomes monotonous but we have to keep in mind that this book was written in 1945 when the danger of collectivist takeover of the economies was real. Hayek also emphasized the role of government in ensuring competition in the market like governments have to check predatory marketing, and also ensuring that competition does not affect the sustainability of the ecosystem. What Hayek could not see was that whenever a powerful authority is created, it will curtail individual freedom irrespective of whether that authority was created by cronyism or collectivism. 

When a seasoned politician writes his autobiography, it is like a treasure trove. If he is writing it well before assuming a highly significant office, then he does not have to worry about the fallouts of his writings. An example can be given of the Barak Obama's autobiography, which he wrote in the early 1990s. When a politician writes an autobiography before retirement or when he is still in a race for a high office, then most of the time he is trying to make a statement. His writings are more concerned with image creation and also rectifying or diluting the effects of the mistakes committed in past.

Advani's autobiography My Country My Life falls into the second category. He may choose to speak in detail on few topics and avoid others, still it gives an account of his close encounter with events which changed the course of Indian politics. Lal Krishna Advani was Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister during Vajpayee government. He was also the president of a national political party of India.

The book is divided into five parts. Advani was born in the city of Karachi in Sindh in undivided India. The pain of partition runs deep through the community which was rendered homeless and has to cross the border to make new homes, as evident from Advani's account of the prevailing conditions of partition period. He devotes the first phase of the book to his upbringing in Karachi and how his family migrated to Kutch district in Gujarat. In the second phase, he describes his stint as Pracharak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Rajasthan state. He came closer to the politicians like Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and also Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Later on, he would become friends and colleague with Vajpayee, a relation which is alive even today surviving more than six decades.

In the third part, Advani describes the situation during Nehru's and Indira's India till emergency (1975-77) and his role in it. He migrated to Delhi and started working as a journalist for The Organiser. He was elected to Delhi Metropolitan Council and became the speaker of the house. Later on, he entered Rajya Sabha to began his long Parliamentary Career. He was chosen to lead Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the predecessor of Bharatiya Janta Party, BJP) which made him rise to prominence in national politics. The fourth part describes the years as the President of BJP when he spearheaded the Mandir Movement. These were the years which redefined the Indian politics. The strength of BJP increased manifold and it formed its own government at Centre and he became Home Minister, the stint which he describes in the fourth part.

His tenure as the Home Minister was a very happening one. He talks in detail about the Naxalite challenge, the separatist movement in North-East India, cross-border terrorism in Kashmir, the failure of Vajpayee-Musharraf Summit in Agra and the setting up of a committee to review the working of the Indian Constitution. He makes efforts to explain the events of Gujarat riots and gives incidents of his efforts as Home Minister. During a visit to Pakistan, he praised Jinnah which was not well received in India. He also explains his position regarding Jinnah giving historical instances.

Overall the book is easy to read. For those interested in political history, this will be interesting. But to read views of only one side is not recommended. One should read counter views too before forming an opinion on any issue, more so on political issues. Also, read this book for a life account of a refugee who left his home and then gradually rose through ranks to hold one of the highest offices in the Central Government.

मौसम-ए-गुल में छोड़कर जा रहा हूँ जान-ए-फ़िज़ा
कल और आएंगे गुलों के क़द्रदान चमन में मेरे बाद।

मैं जुर्म-ए-उल्फत का गुनहगार हूँ मैं यह मानता हूँ
कौन कहता है कि अमन आ जायेगा यहाँ मेरे बाद।

तुम्हारी तस्वीर जो मैंने तसव्वुर से खींची हैं
आईने के सामने बैठकर मिला लेना मेरे बाद।

मेरे सामने आकर तुम्हारा शर्माना चलता रहेगा
मैं पूँछ लूँगा तुम चाँद से सब कह देना मेरे बाद।

शिर्क़ जैसा गुनाह किया है तुम्हारी इबादत करके
रुस्वा किया जायेगा मुझे क़ाफ़िर कहकर मेरे बाद।

वही सबा वही फ़िज़ा वही उजाले वही अँधेरे होंगे
चार सू देखना कुछ भी नहीं बदलेगा मेरे बाद।

है मक़ाम-ए-इश्क़ क्या यायावर और क्या हासिल
वो सब सोचेगा कभी फुरसत में लेकिन मेरे बाद।

तसव्वुर-Imagination; शिर्क़-Polytheism;

कहानी लिखना शुरू करने के पहले ही
कहानी के अंत के बारे में सोचता हूँ
सोचता हूँ कि मैं कैसे इसके अंत को
अधिक प्रभावशाली बनाऊँ
और लोग कहते भी तो बस इतना हैं
कि फलां कहानी के आखिर के
दो-तीन अनुच्छेद बहुत अच्छे थे
सिर्फ आखिरी पन्ना पढ़ के
कहानी का मज़मून भांप लेने की
लोगों की आदत भी तो जाती नहीं
तो मैंने भी सोचा कि अगली कहानी का अंत
थोड़ा दमदार बनाया जायेगा।

कहानी का अंत दुखद हो तो
थोड़ा वास्तविक लगता है
वैसे भी जीवन में
ज्यादातर कहानियों के अंत ऐसे ही होते हैं
दुखद अंत होने पर पाठक को
झकझोर भी सकता हूँ
सोचने पर मजबूर भी कर सकता हूँ
और यह भी भरोसा रहता है कि
साहित्य के समालोचकों से
दो-चार शाबाशी के शब्द
कुछ तालियां भी मिल ही जायेंगी
कि इस कहानी में जीवन की सच्चाइयों का मार्मिक चित्रण है
फिर सोचता हूँ कि
जीवन से जूझते जूझते
अगर किताबों में भी वही संघर्ष वही लड़ाई मिलेगी
तो पाठक कहानी के अंत में क्या नया पायेगा
जो जीवन है वही कहानी है।

तब मैं सोचता हूँ कि
कहानी का अंत सुखद होना चाहिए
मानता हूँ कि ये थोड़ा वास्तविकता से परे होगा
लेकिन क्यों न पाठक को
कुछ देर के लिए ही सही
कल्पना की दुनिया में ले जाया जाए
सितारों को जमीन से मिलाया जाये
कहानी का मज़ा तब होगा
जब वो दुखों को कुछ देर के लिए ही सही
लेकिन भूल जाये
फिर सोचता हूँ कि
कल्पनाओं में जीने के बाद सच्चाई से
रूबरू होने पर
दुःख आदमी को और ज्यादा दुखी करते हैं
कहानी का उद्देश्य यह नहीं होना चाहिए
कि यह कुछ कराये न कराये
बस सपने दिखाए
कहानी का लक्ष्य तब पूरा होगा जब
उसमे खुद का अक्स नज़र आये ।

तब मन में तीसरा ख्याल आता है
कि कहानी को मध्यमार्गी बनाया जाये
थोड़ा सुख थोड़ा दुःख मिलाया जाये
सबको दोनों से थोड़ा थोड़ा परिचित कराया जाये
तब मन में विद्रोह के स्वर उभर आते हैं
कि ये कहानी कोई कूटनीति का मैदान थोड़े ही है
जहाँ पर दोनों पक्षों को खुश करने से
मेरी सफलता का आंकलन होगा
कि ये कोरा कागज़ कोई वो जगह तो नहीं है
जहाँ मैं समझौते के बीज बोऊंगा
मैं लिखूंगा तो अपने मन की बात लिखूंगा
और मैं फिर से वहीं आ जाता हूँ
जहाँ से हर बार शुरू करता हूँ
फिर से कलम कहानी की शुरुआत के लिए प्रयासरत है
और मन कहानी के अंत में व्यस्त है ।

Operation Blue Star in 1984 - to flush out separatists from sacred Golden Temple - is one of the most controversial and at the same time one of the most impactful incidents in recent history of India. There are several books written on this topic and several accounts by journalists are available. Out of them, I have shortlisted 'Operation Blue Star, The True Story' by Lt. Gen. K.S. Brar and 'Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi's Last Battle'. Even Journalist Tavleen Singh devotes one chapter to the Operation and pre and post-operation scenarios in her book 'Durbar'. I started with the book penned by K.S Brar because he was there for the whole duration of operation and also because I wanted to know how military makes and evolves their strategies. Having said that I have always believed that to get a neutral picture of any historical event one has to read as many contrasting views as possible and then form his own opinion based on arguments put before him for it is very easy to get carried away by reading one side of a story.

'Operation Blue Star: The True Story' by K.S. BrarK.S. Brar was a Major General stationed in Meerut when he was told to report to Western Command of Indian Army. In fact, he was planning a foreign trip with his wife and had to abandon that in view of the task assigned to him. On questions of him not being assertive enough in asking more time for being prepared as Gen. Manekshaw did during Bangladesh Liberation War, Gen. Brar says that the fear of groundswell in favour of Bhindranwale was so real that any further delay would have further aggravated the already serious situation in Punjab. He was given four days to gather necessary intelligence and make his strategy, which he did in due time. All preparations such as cordoning off the area, army's takeover of law and order situation in Punjab and making vantage points outside the periphery of Golden Temple premises were done during this time. 

During actual operation, the army was surprised by the firepower of Bhindranwale and his associates. Also in presence was a battle-hardened retired army officer Shabeg Singh who trained separatists so well that they could hold ground for such a long time as was thought necessary for the news of the attack on Golden Temple to reach to villages and a movement of peasants towards Amritsar could start. Several fortifications and placement of heavy guns, even rocket launchers, tells the level of preparedness and also the acumen of Shabeg Singh. I wondered why Shabeg Singh was so angry with establishment and I got the answer in Tavleen Singh's Durbar. Shabeg Singh was stripped from military services just one day before his retirement on some corruption charges and because of that he could not avail retirement benefits. For an officer who was highly lauded for his role in Bangladesh-liberation War of 1971, this was too humiliating and he said that all this was done because he was a Sikh. No effort was made to address the concern of Shabeg Singh which was a grave mistake.

As army miscalculated the preparedness of separatists, reinforcements were called. Having suffered heavy casualties, tanks were brought inside Golden Temple premises. Although K.S. Brar repeatedly tells us that tanks did not use their main guns and their primary purpose was to provide cover to soldiers but the picture of Akal Takht after Operation tells another story. Although for the fate of Akal Takht, Bhindranwale was no less responsible, as he took shelter in Akal Takht where even no Guru resided. Brar says that the fear of Bhindranwale's associates blowing Harmandir Sahib to provoke the sentiments of masses was very real and that is why soldiers were sent at the earliest possible time. By next day afternoon, the operation was declared successful. 

Brar takes this opportunity to refute many allegations. Brahma Chellaney, then reporting for Western media, sent a dispatch that Sikhs were mass-killed after tying their hands backwards. Brar says that all the persons in the premises including devotees were tied when hostels and sarais were secured so that the militants can be separated from devotees after verification by police and intelligence agencies. In one such a process, a scuffle broke out between a militant and army personnel and he was killed, but Tavleen Singh gives an altogether different account significantly reducing the credibility of Brar's theory. She says that while going towards Amritsar, she saw a truck full of bodies of Sikhs with the turban tied over their mouths and hands tied over their back. It was such a telling picture of the situation in Punjab. Brar also refutes reports that he was seen in person inside the premise. He says in that case if he would have been captured or killed inside, it would have hampered the whole operation. 

One question which Brar brings for discussion is that whom should army has its allegiance to - the nation or the government. Brar says that 'loyalty to the nation' is very vague term until there is an authority which is thought to represent the nation and in this case it was a duly elected government. Army officers and soldiers getting killed in action and later getting blamed for the bloodshed is not acceptable as they were following government orders. Both state and central governments should be blamed for mishandling the situation both before the operation leading to military intervention and post the operation causing mutinies by soldiers at few places and the 1984 riots. With decisive governments, these incidents could have been avoided. 

There are many books on the topic ' the definition of India.' Many of them presenting their own theories, some of them meticulously researched and some of them written with an aim to propagate a particular ideology. The Idea of India is one such book which defines "Indian-ness" from the viewpoint of Sunil Khilnani, a Professor of Politics, and Director of the King's College London India Institute. The author describes the events of past hundred years to tell us what is the unifying us as Indians. Or is there any unifying thing at all? Or is the respect of diversity is unifying India? When the Indian Union was formed in 1947 many in West prophesied that India won't survive owing to its own differences. The Western Idea of nationalism meant that India is a continent with different cultures like Europe is. But India stands today united and stronger than earlier. The author tries to find the reasons behind this. 

'The Idea of India' by 'Sunil Khilnani'In the first section named 'democracy', Khilnani talks about how India transformed into a democracy and he presents a timeline which starts from British Raj. The aim of the British Raj was to sustain their rule in India and in the process they introduced few steps to improve the social living of India or they presented these steps like that. Although congress was established in 1885, it did not demand independence till a decade or two after its inception. It was used a platform for debate, but as the representation of different sections of society increased in Congress, it considered itself true representative of India masses and rightful inheritor of Raj. Gandhiji dominated the Congress from the 1920s till his death and he had his way as in the case when Subhash Chandra Bose had to step down as Congress president. With the demise of Gandhiji, the idea of village self-rule was dropped and India adopted a democracy then popular in the west. Khilnani also shows the contrast between Nehru and Indira. He also considers the 1962 war with China as his greatest failure as does Ramachandra Guha in India after Gandhi. Khilanani says that while Nehru was inclusive and tolerated dissidence to a level, Indira Gandhi was more authoritarian and she established a direct contact with masses giving them hopes. She portrayed constitution and other authorities as hurdles coming in her way while she was working for the masses. During Indira's days, the party became merely an instrument to bring votes and young people in youth congress saw politics as a shortcut to reach the top. Among many of the deformations that entered the democratic system, there was one positive point too. Public's faith in the voting system increased more and more, and it became a norm for voices standing for suppressed people to enter the election system.

In the second section titled "temples of the future", the discussion is on the economic policies and their achievements since independence till 1997. The author starts with describing socialist democratic policies of Nehru in early 1950s and ends the section with an account of India's situation post-Liberalization drive of 1991. Nehru gave priority to heavy industries and along with Planning Commission, a body formed to give economic policy directions, India wanted to achieve economic growth and security through these heavy Industries. It is a different story that we did not succeed too much in that initiative and most of the state-owned enterprises started incurring heavy losses. Planning Commission itself lost its authority that it had in Nehru's period and economic policies were being decided by Finance Ministry after Indira Gandhi's rule. The author discussed in detail the role of P. C. Mahalanobis in giving scientific direction to India's economic policy formulation. During Indira Gandhi's rule, actions like the abolition of Privy Purses, nationalization of banks and expansion of state-owned enterprises, aimed more towards getting political mileage than being guided by economic thoughts. State-owned enterprises became a symbol of patronizing and they failed to create any wealth for the state. Although the rate of inflation was in control for most of the period since independence till the late 1980s, things started deteriorating so much so that in 1991 we had foreign reserves enough for only two weeks of imports. India was on the edge of a serious fiscal crisis and faced the possibility of defaulting on its own borrowings. IMF gave loans to India on one condition that a range of comprehensive structural reforms will be carried out. At that time, a new government was formed and liberalization of economic regime started. 

The third section is devoted to the development of Indian cities, the seats of colonial power. The author describes the tendency among early nationalists of Congress to unseat the British from these cities and occupy the high chair while everything else remained unchanged. That tendency changed only after the advent of Gandhi in the political landscape in India when the focus shifted to villages, although Gandhi himself had started off his political career in a city and was successful because of his ability to mobilize people in cities, but he refused to follow the British model of power blindly. Big port cities of Bombay, Madras, Calcutta were huge commercial and economic centers but British Raj needed something more magnificent, something which does not mix with the past and can be shown as an example of modernity to the Indians. And thus was born the city of New Delhi. The author agrees that the  British control of India existed because the cities existed. What Raj tried to do with New Delhi, Nehru did same with Chandigarh, a city built as an example of modernity. In near future, India can become the country with the highest population in cities because of increasing pace of urbanization.

In the fourth section, the author tries to find the answer to "Who is an Indian." Then he travels through history to say that there was no geopolitical entity called India and it was British Raj which created India by amalgamating different princely states and declining Mughal Empire. Even after fifty years of independence it is asked that what is the definition that defines an Indian? While searching answer of this question, the author describes various nationalist movements which happened in India during last two hundred years. He also describes the version of Gandhi, that of a village rule with daily tolerance among all communities and the version of Nehru, that was based on his version of, sometimes imaginative, history where "India appeared as a space of ceaseless cultural mixing, its history a celebration of the soiling effects of cultural miscegenation and accretion." The author also contests against the Idea of Hindu Nationalism and described them as something inspired by Western nationalism movements but which was unlikely to work in India because here we do not have a common language, religion or ethnicity, but a mixture of these. The political developments of the late 1980s and early 1990s also cemented the identity of different regions and communities. In words of the author one who honors all these diversities is a true Indian.

While describing these things the author could have been more neutral instead of sticking with a particular ideology. The author heaped lavish praise on Jawaharlal Nehru for his thoughts, comfortably ignoring his few deeds such as the Sino-Indian war in 1962. In fact, author rues the war because it led increased military expenditure and military officers ending up having more say in strategic matters. What author fails to emphasize that the Idea of India can flourish only if its borders are safe. Also, the author criticized home-grown nationalist movements more than he did British Raj for colonialism. Overall this book is an interesting read especially first two chapters even if you do not agree with author's viewpoint, presented in nice story-telling style. 

'Falling over backwards - an essay against the reservation and judicial populism' is one of the most meticulously researched and persuading book written by a person with a zeal and a mission in his mind. And the mission was to make it a point that individual should be the unit of the governance, not the interest groups or communities. The author Arun Shourie who has written many more books on the topics which just do not get too much attention in the public discourse predominant today. Written in 2005, Shourie took many cases from the history,  words from the constitutional amendments, and excerpts from the judgments of the High Courts and the Supreme Court just to debate on the merit of the reservations being given on any basis. In this book, Shourie emphasizes on basically three things : first, the tendency among the public to register as uppers castes during British Raj and subsequent loosening of the caste boundaries; second, the politicians' approach to identity politics and seeing this as a chance to rise in Indian political landscape; third, the response of High Courts and Supreme Courts and the arguments given by progressive judges. These are three main areas in which the author researched and put forward his arguments. Let us look at them one by one. 

'Falling over backwards' by 'Arun Shourie'When the census was started in British Raj, the caste-based census was also started by them. Among other reasons, this was also done to see if different communities can be given proportional representation which was then strictly based on religion. When this was started there were two main trends visible among people. First was caste consolidation, in which many similar caste and sub-castes formed one umbrella group and wished to be enrolled as such. One example that author gives in his book is that of Yadav surname which was adopted by different castes such as Ahir. The second trend was the tendency among people to enroll as upper castes. So many castes so far deemed as lower castes enrolled as different categories of Kshatriyas and Brahmins. People were eager to leave the lower caste stamp on them. The other advancements such as Railways also contributed in fighting with this taboo. People sitting together in railways won't ask the caste of the fellow passenger whereas in villages untouchability was still prominent. The overall effect was that caste boundaries were slowly and slowly getting less relevant. In fact, different communities enrolled as different caste or caste groups in the census and as an altogether different caste or caste groups in the subsequent census. This had a hit on the reliability of census data. British Raj discontinued the caste based census in 1931 citing the unreliability of data so collected.

The second part that Arun Shourie touched upon is the politics over the reservation. With reservation for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes firmly in place, demands started for reservation to other backward classes. But with no criteria to define a backward class upon which everybody agreed, castes became synonymous with classes as far as reservation is concerned. Politicians losing credibility resorted to the identity politics and during 1980s demands were so strong that it was possible to achieve those demands from a weak government. Here too it is noteworthy that many times the proper procedures to define a caste as backward were not followed. Procedures said that a backward class commission will study the social, economic and educational status of a community before awarding the status of backward class, but in practice, those groups who had enough electoral clout and those who could protest were included in the backward classes list. The trends that we saw in the early twentieth century where people enrolled them as upper castes are reversed now and there is a clamor in these communities to be declared as backward classes. Then this fact should also be not ignored that the reservation was given based on the data of last caste-based census of 1931. This basis has two arguable assumptions - first, the rate of population growth has remained same and second, the demographics of various regions have not changed despite uneven economic development in different areas in fifty years and a large scale migration due to partition. 

The third thing that Shourie studied was the response of the High Courts and Supreme Court. To cite the many examples given by Shourie in his book, many times courts would deliver judgments citing Manu Smriti, the impact and influence of an ancient text itself under question and many time they would leave the decision on the executive (the government). Arun Shourie makes one point that in the Western countries, the prospective law officials have to study the judgments of higher courts. In India, this was hardly the tradition leaving many monumental judgments go unnoticed and escaping academic scrutiny. In India, whatever new acts and constitutional amendments were passed by the political class in parliament were later given nod by courts. This has the result that reservation looked more like permanent although it was implemented for a predefined time-period. 

It would be wrong to say that reservation did not bring any benefit to the communities for which these were enacted, but the point is that these benefits should be debatable and how more deprived people can be given benefits in other ways, apart from the reservation, should be considered too. The fact is that reservation is a reality and no political party can reverse that, we must analyze in retrospect the effects of the reservation and its alternatives. In this book, Shourie's love for detail is impressing but many times many arguments become repetitive and same characters keep coming in at different places for different points to prove. This book is not that an easy read but it is a well-researched book on a political topic full of facts which are hard to find anywhere else.

सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त, भोर और साँझ 

प्रकृति की दो प्रक्रियाएँ हमेशा से ही आकर्षित करती रही हैं। वो हैं - सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त। भोर की वेला का आकर्षण होता है सूर्योदय और वैसे ही साँझ वेला का मुख्य आकर्षण सूर्यास्त होता है। मुझे अच्छी तरह से याद है कि बचपन में स्कूल की दीवारों पर लिखी हुई सूक्तियों में एक यह भी हुआ करती थी कि "सूर्य न तो अस्त होता है और न उदय, हम ही जागकर सो जाते हैं।" अब बाल मन ने कहावत पढ़ी और अनदेखा कर दिया, हर दिन। उस समय इस कहावत के खगोलीय और दार्शनिक महत्व के बारे में ज्यादा पता न था। और अब हालत ये है कि सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त को देखते ही मेरे अंदर का दार्शनिक जाग उठता है। हालाँकि दिनचर्या ऐसी है कि इनको देखना कम ही हो पाता है। और ऐसा भी नहीं है कि सूर्योदय को देखकर सबके मन में सिर्फ दार्शनिक विचार ही आते हैं। लेखक जरॉड किंट्ज़ ने तो सूर्य के चाल-चलन की ही शिकायत कर दी। कारण भी ये कि भोर में सूर्य रेंगते हुए खिड़कियों पर चढ़ आता हैं और वहां से झांकता है। लेकिन घबराइये नहीं। सूर्य के चरित्र-हनन का मेरा कोई इरादा नहीं है। 

उखीमठ, उत्तराखंड में गढ़वाल मंडल विकास निगम के गेस्ट हाउस की एक भोर आज तक नहीं भूलती है। वैसे तो हिमालय में सूर्योदय के उत्तम दृश्य देखने के लिए कुछ जगहें ही उपयुक्त कही जा सकती हैं और वो इसलिए क्यूंकि ज्यादातर पहाड़ी बस्तियां पर्वतों से घिरी होती हैं। जब तक सूर्य पहाड़ों के ऊपर आता है, तब तक दिन काफी चढ़ चुका होता है और सूर्य अपना नवजातपन खो चुका होता है। मुझे याद है कि एक बार हृषिकेश में सूर्योदय देखने के लिए हमने रात्रि-जागरण किया था लेकिन सुबह सूर्य दिखने तक भोर का नामोनिशान गायब हो चुका था। खैर उखीमठ ने हमें निराश नहीं किया। वहां से हिमाच्छादित पहाड़ों की छटा बस देखते ही बनती थी। सामने गुप्तकाशी और बीच में घाटी में बह रही मन्दाकिनी नदी की कर्णप्रिय आवाज और फिर बादलों से अठखेलियाँ करता हुआ सूरज। जनवरी के महीने में सूर्य की गुनगुनी किरणें किसी वरदान से कम तो नहीं लग रही थीं। और सूर्य की लालिमा से बादल और बर्फ से ढके पहाड़ भी लाल लग रहे थे। 

हृषिकेश में सूर्योदय देखने का सौभाग्य हमें प्राप्त नहीं हुआ, लेकिन सूर्यास्त जरूर देखा यहाँ पर। त्रिवेणी घाट से हमने सूर्य को नीचे मैदानों की तरफ जाते देखा। उस जगह से गंगा नदी भी एक मोड़ लेकर आँखों से ओझल हुई जा रही थी और सूर्य भी अस्त हो रहा था। ऐसा लग रहा था कि उस जगह तक प्रकृति की सत्ता है और उसके बाद मनुष्य की। मसूरी की साँझ भी कम शानदार नहीं कही जा सकती। पहाड़ों से रहित एक साँझ में हमने पूरा सूर्यास्त देखा। सूर्य को धीरे धीरे लाल होते देखा और फिर पूरा क्षितिज लाल था, पहाड़ों का बस धुंधला सा खाका देखा जा सकता था। कुछ देर बाद सूर्य जब और अस्ताचल की ओर बढ़ चला तब आसमान में एक रेखा साफ़ देखी जा सकती थी जिसके नीचे अंधकार था और जिसके ऊपर लाल रौशनी जगमगा रही थी। जब सूर्य दिखना बंद हो गया तब लाल आकाश के नीचे देहरादून शहर में जलते हुए प्रकाश बिम्ब साँझ की शोभा बढ़ा रहे थे। 

कभी कभी सोचता हूँ कि मनुष्य को सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त क्यों अच्छा लगता है। सूर्योदय को अच्छा लगने के पीछे यह कारण हो सकता है कि मनुष्य की इस धारणा की पुष्टि होती है कि अंधकार नित्य नहीं रहेगा। हमारी संस्कृति में अंधकार को बुराई और प्रकाश को अच्छाई का प्रतीक माना गया है। प्रतिदिन सूर्योदय उस बुराई पर अच्छाई की विजय का प्रतीक है। और सहज ही समझा जा सकता है कि पुराने समय में लोग सूर्योदय की इतनी बेसब्री से प्रतीक्षा क्यों करते होंगे। और रही बात सूर्यास्त की तो उसको भी अच्छाई-बुराई से जोड़ते हुए यह कहा जा सकता है कि लोगों को पता है कि यह जो अँधेरा सूर्यास्त ला रहा है वो क्षणिक है, कल फिर सूर्योदय होगा और अंधकार पराजित होगा। इसलिए वो उत्साह से भोर का इंतज़ार करते हैं। 

कभी यह नहीं सोचा था कि सूर्योदय और सूर्यास्त में ज्यादा कौन अच्छा लगता है। मुझसे यह प्रश्न हिंदी साहित्य जगत के नवांकुरों में से एक ने पूछा था। मैंने थोड़ा सोचा इस बारे में, लेकिन बुद्धिजीवियों को संतुष्ट कर पाने वाला जवाब नहीं मिला। मैंने बताया कि सूर्यास्त ज्यादा अच्छा लगता है क्योंकि वो आँखों को ज्यादा सुखदायी होता है। तब उस नवांकुर ने बताया , "किसी चीज की सुंदरता का एहसास तब ज्यादा होता है जब वह हमसे दूर जा रही हो, बजाय इसके कि जब वह चीज हमारे पास आई हो और काफी दिन तक साथ रहे। और जब हम किसी चीज को जाते हुए देखते हैं तो हम उसे देखने के लिए रुकते हैं। उससे आत्मीयता का एहसास होता है। उगते हुए सूरज की वैसे तो कुछ लोग पूजा भी करते हैं लेकिन उसे उगते हुए देखने के लिए कोई रुकता नहीं है जैसे कि लोग अस्त होते हुए सूरज को देखने के लिए रुकते हैं।" सचमुच इस प्रश्न का इससे खूबसूरत दार्शनिक जवाब संभव नहीं था।

मसूरी की एक साँझ
मसूरी की एक साँझ
(तस्वीर धर्मेन्द्र कुमार  के सौजन्य से )

From Barot, we went to Kasol, another small town of Himachal Pradesh situated in the Parvati valley. From Ghatasani, we boarded a bus to Bhuntar via Mandi. We came through a tunnel in Aut, which is situated little before Bhuntar. These engineering marvels always fascinate me. Bhuntar has a small airport with few flights to Chandigarh and Delhi, mostly catering to the tourists arriving for Kullu and Manali. Kullu is just 5 km away from Bhuntar. I bought, at last, the traditional Kullu topi in Bhuntar as a souvenir of this trip. In Bhuntar, Parvati river meets Beas river and they continue their journey as Beas river. One could easily distinguish two rivers at their 'Sangam', one was rich in silt and other was cleaner and greener. 
Sangam of Parvati and Beas rivers
Sangam of Parvati and Beas rivers

We boarded a bus from Bhuntar to Manikaran. Manikaran is 34 km away from Bhuntar. Kasol is 3 km before Manikaran. Manikaran is a famous pilgrimage destination and we saw many pilgrims flocking to Manikaran having orange and yellow flags on their vehicles. Manikaran has a famous Gurudwara, Manikaran Sahib, a temple and a hot water spring. 
Parvati river in Kasol
Parvati river in Kasol

The journey from Bhuntar to Kasol was the most pleasant one in our journey so far. We were on a bus with the mighty Parvati river flowing in the valley, lightly raining, cool air blowing and with mind lost somewhere. Not to forget the dangerous roads. On our way to Kasol, we saw baskets moving on wires from one hill to another on the other side of the valley. This motorised apparatus was installed to transport materials to inaccessible villages. 
Road to Manikaran
Road to Manikaran 

We reached Kasol in the evening and after searching for hotel rooms, we settled for one cottage on a hill slope, little secluded from the main market of Kasol. We then went near Parvati river. The roar of running water was splendid and so were the rapids formed by rocks. On one side was Parvati river and on the other side was a jungle of chir trees. It was a beautiful setting. From Kasol, we could see snow capped peaks in distance shining because of the reflection of the red sun. 
Snow capped mountains towards Manikaran
Snow capped mountains towards Manikaran

We continued our journey along the banks of Parvati river on the road to Manikaran. There we came across a small bridge on Parvati river meant for a small village on the other side. While crossing this bridge, it started vibrating which frightened us, more so in the backdrop of the river colliding with rocks and increasing turbulence. 
in Kasol
in Kasol

It was already dark and we started to return towards the market area of Kasol. This small village was particularly famous among Israeli tourists. We saw many of them. In fact, one of the shopkeepers told us they have been living here for months and are hundreds in number. Many of them are living in villages on the outskirts of the Kasol. The importance of Israeli tourists can be understood by many signboards which were in Hebrew. One of the signboards described Kasol as Chabad of Israel. Even restaurants served Israeli cuisine. 

I have visited many towns and cities in hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, but there was a desire to travel to a Himalayan village, an isolated place where life is not so fast-paced and where I can sit back and relax while being surrounded by hills. One of my friends had been to Barot and when he posted pictures of this small village, I was impressed by them. I wanted to visit this village then, but this place is difficult to reach in winters due to snowfall. We got to know from the villagers in Barot that snowfall continued till early may in Barot that year. Even this was a spontaneous plan made a day before the actual travel. After considering few places, we zeroed in on Barot.
Way to Barot
Way to Barot

There are two popular routes to reach Barot. First is by bus via Mandi. Second is by bus via Joginder Nagar. Even while coming via railways from Pathankot station, one has to reach Joginder Nagar. From Mandi or Joginder Nagar, buses are available at regular intervals. On the Mandi-Joginder Nagar highway, there is a small diversion at Ghatasani for Barot. Barot is around 25 km from Ghatasani. Roads till Ghatasani were in a good condition, but after Ghatasani we saw typical Himalayan Roads : narrow, curvy, single lane although not one way. We crossed the Uhl river near Tikkan village. It took us little less than two hours to reach Barot from Joginder Nagar. 

After reaching Barot, we got to know to our surprise that most of the good places to stay were already booked. We had in our mind a small village which would not be crowded by visitors and which was yet to become a popular tourist destination. We got a room at one River View home stay. In Barot there are many homestays, rooms that people spare from their daily usage during tourist season. Ours was in Multhan, a small village situated on the other side of the river, falling in district Kangra. 
Multhan village near Barot
Multhan village near Barot

When we reached Barot, the weather was sunny and it was not particularly pleasant, but after a couple of hours, there were clouds and cool winds started blowing. It was nice to roam around in such a weather. The first place that we went to was Haulage Trolley. This trolley was built during British reign and was used to transport instruments and materials for building Shanan Dam and Reservoir. Currently, it is operated by Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). This trolley was used for transportation till the 1970s when Barot was still not connected by a road. 
Haulage Trolley
Haulage Trolley

When we looked from the start of trolley tracks to it going high and high towards the peak, the first thing that came to my mind was 'Stairway to Heaven' a famous song by Led Zeppelin, although in this case it was 'Railway to Heaven.' These tracks invited a visit and we accepted happily. The initial part of the tracks was not that steep and we had no problem but then it became very steep. So steep that we had to use all our limbs to reach beyond first of such steep parts. We stopped there to take rest. Then we met a resident of nearby village returning from school. Travelling 5 km to and fro for schooling was a tough task when it involved climbing hills also. While coming to Barot, we also saw very young children going to school, standing in a jam-packed bus, something we experienced while going to Kasauli as well. He told us that there were three such steep parts in trolley tracks and with this speed it would already be dark by the time we would return. Then started rains. We abandoned our plans to go to the other side of the hills with heavy heart as we had seen in pictures that the other side of the hill provided breathtaking views. 
River run-off in Barot
River run-off in Barot

We then went in the valley to be with river Uhl. The clean water moving with speed and small falls made that place a beautiful one. Next on our list was the Shanan Hydel Power Project. this hydel plant was built on Uhl river in 1932 during British Raj. It was the first Megawatt capacity hydropower plant in India. There were two diversions for stream which were used to send water to Shanan Powerhouse situated few kilometers downstream. There was also a water jet like structure sending water upwards, that was the attraction of the evening for us. 
With Uhl river in Barot
With Uhl river in Barot

We also went to the Trout Fishing area. One has to take a prior license for fishing. There we saw colorful fishes of different sizes. During the night, we wandered on the empty roads of Barot and Multhan. Times like this are the ideal setting for our bakaiti sessions. Next day we got up late in the morning and missed the first bus from Barot to Ghatasani. Next bus was after two hours. We went again to the Dam and in the mean time also tried hands on a sling-shot. Then the bus came and we left for our next destination, Kasol