The landscape of Ziro is full of wonder and always amazes me. No matter whichever place or spot you are, you’ll be surrounded by hills and it feel like you are being trapped amid hills. The perpetual green in profusion and the valley lush with paddy fields in summer, the unpredictable rain and the occasional rainbow, and the low-slung mist that resembles lake and deceives onlookers, not only enthralls but also nourishes soul.
Over the years, things have changed. The atmosphere of purity has waned a little. The rain no longer drizzles but pounds. The forest is being cleared and the paddy fields are receiving rapidly to accommodate the growing population or to convert it into cash. With the forest diminishing at breakneck pace, the flora and fauna too had seemingly vanished. I learned to respect the birds when my father used to tell us the mesmerizing stories of hornbill. And my mother still loves to narrate how she encountered deer at our paddy field. Indeed, things have changed. The valley is not what it used to be. It’s gloomy and ugly with houses built messily and so compactly that it look like a slum, and if you happen to be in one house, you can almost discern what’s happening in the neighbour’s house.
Two decades ago, there were few people and fewer houses, and everybody knew everyone in the town and there were two cinema halls to entertain them. And when I was very young, my whole body would itch to see a movie as soon as the cinema operator would play a song in a gramophone-to beckon the viewers. If I would help my parent in the household chores, they would allow me to go with my friends and watch a movie on weekend. It was quite an experience for a young mind then. The cinema hall had conked out a long time ago.
Now; our folks, young and old, derive little happiness from the episodic social events that usually fizzles out as soon as the VIP leaves the podium. Youngsters especially are seems to be in delirium as the town lacks in infrastructure to nurture their talents, thus making them highly prone to drugs and substance abuse, and which could also lead them to the world of crimes.
Ziro, in a way, is a cost-effective town and boon to misers like a breeze to sailors. Fruits and vegetables et al are comparatively cheap and the vicinity of town is within a stone’s throw distance – enabling the commuters to save great amount of cash unless you choose not to own a vehicle of your own. Unlike the metros or cities, that are flooded with different branded items, we don’t need to decide which to pick out and which not to. So, it’s almost sure, you’ll end up buying Nestle’s Nescafe from one of the many, but analogous shop, if you are looking for a packet of coffee. But alcoholics are lucky or unlucky in this case as they have an option to choose from variety of liquors that are made available by more than five wine shops in Hapoli alone.
For the tourist at Ziro and Arunachal as a whole, it’s a sad story. Ziro has all the potent to emerge as a veritable paradise for both foreign and domestic tourists. But, unfortunately, doesn’t have too much to offer to tourist excluding anthropologists and sociologists. “There’s literally no place in Ziro where the tourist can spend some money” a local ourist guide points out. When I was at Delhi University, some of my friends from Geography Department went on study tour to Arunachal. On their return, I expected that they would remark and argue on the under development of physical and civic infrastructure in our state and that I would defend my state, but what they complained was, they couldn’t find single eateries where local delicacy was served, and it vexed me altogether.
The people of Ziro are still friendly and helpful to large extent. But they have become a cynical and insensible too. By the way, who has not? The rich peoples are busy making money – to stash the cash in their already fatted coffer and the poor – to get rich. Though the Cable TV, Internet and all sorts of electronic media had opened a window to the outside world, it hardly influences our sectarian mindset. Despite what’s been said, there’s no denying the fact that it indeed introduced the culture of consumerism to the people. Hence, we vigorously pursue our quintessential character – hunger for property and property related disputes.
In summary, Ziro (Hapoli, in particular) has almost all the things that gratify basic human being’s need, not everything though. There is an internet facility that takes ages to connect to the server, and then there is a drinking water (sic), catered to every household, provided we purchase our own appurtenances. And the wall of Hapoli Ground, which serve as a urinal for migrant labourers and traders. We have an access to Telecommunication, Banking system, Health Care, Post Office, Gas Station (Petrol Pump) and so on but, regrettably, all labeled with ineffectual service and apathetic customer care to large extent. And it seems as if some stale porridge had been prepared in a hurry for equally hurried guest.
To conclude, Ziro, I daresay, is still reeling under the clouds of rustic existence and trying very hard to shudder it off. But without the solid foundation of basic infrastructure, it is staggering. And if we compare with other district headquarters, it may fare a little better. But to compare with coequal, I believe, is worst thing to do. As we should be competing with the best.