The advent of summer carries with it the chain of holiday packages to the hills. The mighty hills that stand silent and melancholic for months also seem to await the hubbub of the obsessive holidaymaker. The enthralling snow-peaked mountains, natural picturesque beauty, chirping of the birds, the rhythmic melody of the forest and the pleasant weather quenches the thirst of the sundry tourists.
Tourists visiting these hills extensively spend on travel, hotels, restaurants and adventure. Fortunately, shopping is an unavoidable part of a vacationer. Decorating the living room with unique pieces of art and craft and wearing unique dress materials specific to a region is the desire of every rational traveller. But least to the tourists’ realisation, the local people from different tribes in these hilly areas abound with silent astounding skills and proficiency impassively look forward to an earning for their livelihood amidst the hustle and bustle of tourist and pilgrimage traffic.
We tried to evaluate the impact of our holiday expenses. Our refreshed mind after a vacation nullifies the lavish spending during the vacation and we eagerly look forward to plan for the next holiday ignorant of the fact that our poor counterpart in the remote parts of the hills is waiting for the next season with moist eyes.
A visit to few of the hill stations in India showed us this bitter truth. We made an endeavour to study the local culture and traditions and the bona fide man-made beauty lying quiescent in the remote areas of this Himalayan jewel. There is a ‘hidden treasure’ veiled by the breath-taking natural picturesque views and spiritual incarnation. A few in-depth interviews with the local people amplified our search to discover this undisputed ‘hidden treasure’ of the Kumaon region.
Hills are an all time travellers’ paradise with lesser-known diverse culture that is reflected in the traditional and novel crafts. Hand-made products by the people with a unique touch of local skills are appealing to the eye. Fancy and decorative products arranged in the shops and roadside stalls enhance the magnificence of shopping. Bamboo products like baskets; kitchen utility items, mats and furniture made from typical species of bamboo found in the hills try to jog our memory of a classic traditional society lying beneath a contemporary society. Miscellaneous art forms in local languages that once found way only in holy places today demands the tourists’ attention towards the emblematic and stylish designs that unearths itself in the common products like coasters, vases, greeting cards, jewellery boxes, key rings, bookmarks, wall tiles and terracotta products.
Woollen and traditional textiles specific to these regions undoubtedly accomplish our desire to look traditional and different.
Food products and local cuisine
Long drives through the snake-like lanes offer a magnificent view of wild flowers and fruits in the lush green forest. Food products with medicinal effects locally made from these wild flowers and fruits are unheard of but are common to these solitary places. The local appetizing dishes also satisfy an appetite for home-cooked food but with a local taste. Bal- mithai, a popular sweet of Kumaon kept us licking our fingers.
Other similar products lying dormant in the lap of the hills call for an exploration. For those demanding new-fangled products, hilly areas endows the travellers the opportunity to embrace the original and natural hand-made products that is a source of livelihood for the local tribes, beyond our imagination. There are abundant socio-economic activities spilling over the hilly regions that have the power to absorb the enticing wayfarers. However, information on the shopping items is available by a hair’s breadth.
The socio-economic activities of tourist interest of the hills call for full-blown recognition. User-friendly technologies providing intelligent guidance to the tourists can unveil this treasure and accelerate the development of the socio-economic condition of these areas. Focused and group efforts supported by the government are called for by the local communities to develop new initiatives for better and higher quality products to attract more and more tourists.
We generally try to overlook this hidden beauty whenever we are on a vacation. So the next time we plan for our summer holiday let us not leave behind this ‘hidden treasure’ that means bread and butter for our unfortunate counterpart.
© 2014 Ahmad and Ahmad