As they say, life isn’t a bed of roses. And as I say, travel is not just about the most picturesque surprises. With a neat, ever growing stack of travel magazines growing under my bed, I deemed travelling to be some fairy-believer’s whim. Khajjiar, the place in these almost picture perfect photos, had caught my fancy years back. Ever since then, my itchy feet had been itching harder.

Thus, off I went to Khajjiar, hailed as Mini Switzerland of India. The drive from Dalhousie, the two road hill station that is still tucked away from the probing tourists, to Khajjiar was breathtaking. Flower strewn gardens of boarding schools added a spark to the green landscape. While the pine smell had me on a strange high, the first sight of Khajjiar Lake came as a shocker.

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Instead of a quaint, mesmerising lake, what came in sight was a patch of slush. I couldn’t fathom what brought such havoc on a place so beautiful.

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The giant pines there were perfect, swaying in strange harmony with the wind. Their rendezvous with the clear, blue sky made for a backdrop so beautiful that it was almost hurtful in its beauty. But, the lake, the main attraction was there, a patch that was seemingly alien in such a location. A patch that used to be brimming with clear waters till some time back.

I still don’t know what brought the disaster, the apathy of Himachal Tourism, that boasts of being one of the best in the country, the natives, who were offering horse rides, happy with getting a few hundreds in return, or us. I talked to the owners of small eateries, to the manager of the government-run cottages, to the temple priests and more. None of them had an answer. For it seemed to be a game of passing the blame, one on other. Some even said that the lake will be its beautiful self once adventure sports start at the sight, clearly hinting at some sort of ROI!

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Maybe, as travellers, we have only learnt to enjoy nature’s wonders, disrespecting it on our whims. Leaving a bottle of beer on a trek, a few packets of potato chips, a cigarette butt here and there, dead batteries in the jungles, and tonnes of plastic to add to it.

And yes, throwing some thousands of flowers, with (of course) some incense, oils and more in the river water that’s considered as holy almost all over India, is clearly how we pay respect to nature’s bounty.

All and more of this doesn’t deserve a call from the conscience.

Does it?

I suppose it’s time to learn some words, like, responsible tourism.

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