Seeing Ziro: In Two Tone

Homecoming is something I always look forward to, especially when if I stayed away from home beyond schedule. The nipping icy breeze, which welcomes you as soon as you approach the peak of the mountain, is so fresh and invigorating that left you drooling all over it.

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.

-Roto Chobin

(The author is the editor of ZIRO MIRROR and can be contacted at rotochobin@rediffmail.com or ziromirror@yahoo.com)

5 thoughts on “Seeing Ziro: In Two Tone”

  1. Cho, you have captured the basic essence of Ziro life in a concise and lucid manner. It still gives me goose bumps as we start to ascend the hills from Yazali. As one drives through hairpin bends, cool breeze is felt smooching your cheeks and gently weaving through your hair as if mother is running her loving fingers through hair while we are asleep in her bossom. One can smell the pine trees and feel freshness of mountain air coursing down your lungs.
    But this magical scenery lasts till one reaches Ziro town proper. As soon as one enters Hapoli town one starts his life on a war footing, as you have to negotiate with numerous pot holes, dirty drains, spilled sewages,unplanned and ugly houses littering the lovely landscape, pigs, cows dogs and numerous four legged animals fighting with you for teir right to way. Town itself is no better than any slum. I wish we could do something to tidy up this dirt.
    Whenever I come over to Ziro, I spend most of my time in tending my bamboo and pine groves and little forest areas that my father owns. I feel better being outside among the fields and trees rather than Ziro town itself.

  2. My first visit to Ziro was in 97 and last 3weeks back–every time as a tourist.
    I am appalled by the ugly multistorey RCC hotels that dot Hapoli now–though I am happy that hotels are cleaner now(I had to stay in 97 in a ‘hotel’ called Kanyapi–yuck).There are several locally designed “hillstation-type” cottage/residences though which are visually pleasing.

    Since Ziro has potential to be a tourist spot I propose that you people put in the rules applied by municipality in Hillstations like Ooty and Kodaikanal–upper limit of building should be one storey above ground.

    Also the ugly recent deforestation that is now visible in front-left view as we start to enter Hapoli is an eyesore which need to be arrested.

    Then the case of Karsingsa-isation of the pine groves between Yachuli and Joram: what was once comparable to Switzerland is now reduced to patches of pine stumps with locals happily Jhumming on the pine plantations right around the Forest Office,selling the pine wood by the roadside and building their house with it.This is really a sad event and in a few years time we may not even get to see the stumps.Perhaps the Forest Deptt is getting their cut too.

  3. HI Buru
    The thoughtless deforestation is the sad part of modern Ziro. Forest conservation in Apatani society was one of age old social wisdom of Apatanis which they have lost to the greed for quick money. Lets hope the cast away wisdom is picked up by younger generations.
    Ziro has a beautiful landscape and if its growth is planned properly and strict regulations for construction of new buildings are imlpemented, may be it will attract decent number of tourists. But whatever is to be done has to be done with urgency, otherwise it will be too late and the place will be littered with ugly scene of concrete jungle.

    And Buru, yasiyalow can be loosely translated as “reflections in water”. This is literal translation.

Leave a Reply