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Nanda Devi

Nanda Devi

Charles S. Houston And there she was!

Cresting the ragged rocks, casually scattered

By some huge force, we gaped

Star-struck across the flowered fields

To where the Goddess rose.

Like some vast sculpture made

By powers not conceived by man,

The Goddess rose

From calm and quiet meadows to the

Unviolated Sanctuary.

We — not the first to burst

Upon the scene — were yet to be

The ones who reached the Goddess’ crown

Not conquerors but pilgrims, seeking

Light not fame.

In those past days,

We came from far to love, enjoy,

And cherish mountains and the lands

About them. Not to foul or spoil

Their timeless fragile peace.

A poet wrote, “High mountains

Are to me a feeling, felt in the heart

And felt along the blood.” He said it well,

But only part. He might have added

“For my soul’s sake.”

My son and my son’s sons

Will never see or know what I have seen

And known. They’ll get the leavings, scraps

That greedy, careless, selfish men have

Torn and spoiled.

My son’s sons will find

The virgin forests gone. White mountains

Fouled with trash and scraps. Clear waters

Fouled with human waste that time

Cannot remove.

Green wooded slopes

Stripped bare for wood to burn or waste.

The scars bleed soil and wash to the sea.

Sheep graze in mighty flocks where only

Bharral singly grazed before.

But man’s the foe of nature.

Man knows better and does worse to other living things.

Man fouls his nest and cuts the trees

And burns the brush and forages

His flocks which kill the soil.

Years ago we made our way

Along the mighty Rishi Gorge into

The Sanctuary. Found it sweet and pure and new.

Climbed the great peak and left it

Sweet and pure.

Since then a score — no, more —

Of others came that way and climbed.

They cannot foul the Goddess, no man could.

But they have fouled her garden

For their sons’ sons.

But wait! There’s time.

For God and Time to heal these wounds if man

Will let them heal. It still can be

That men both wise and brave can halt the

Rape and save the wilds.

We need to count the blessings

Given us and save and hand them on

To our son’s sons — and daughters too, of course.

We must, there’s time, we must cry “Halt” to those

Who are too blind to see.

The Nanda Devi is but one

Of scores and scores of wild and blessed hills,

Islands of peace and joy and home to many

Living things. Man’s future rests on holding these

As dear and safe as life itself.

So many years ago

We were the happy, lucky ones to be there early on.

Now we must help to save what’s left

So our son’s sons can have

A little of the joy.

Not greed, not fame

Must draw man to the woods and hills

And sacred places. Not noise and trash and wastes

But only memories must mark his visit

To the holy places.

Now! Act now, my Lords.

Think now of what you wish your sons

And their sons too, to know and love.

Know well that what you do or fail to do

Will save or kill the future

For us all.

(The Editor heartily agrees with this special pleading on behalf of all the beautiful but threatened fairy world of the mountains. He was with the poet when we were the second group to enter that then unspoiled Paradise. Recently, The Nanda Devi Sanctuary has been closed for a few years in order to preserve this unique area from further damage by trekkers and climbers. This came about principally through the untiring efforts of Nalni Jayal. However, a few unscrupulous shepherds have sneaked their flocks in with serious destruction to the flora and fauna. The Indian authorities are threatening to open the Sanctuary again. We urge our readers strongly to encourage the Indians severely to restrict access to the unique Nanda Devi Sanctuary, probably the only remaining area in the Himalaya that has not felt seriously the heavy hand of man.)