Before you read further and form an opinion about anything, I’d like to clear some air first hand:
I LOVE WHITE WATER RAFTING! I’ve been doing it for about 8 years now. Every year. Period.
The fad that it is with every thrill seeker here in the Indian capital, I’m really beginning to feel it’s a matter that needs to be attended to ASAP. As soon as the books for the year are tallied, people start to pack their bags and head of to Rishikesh for river rafting with friends & families. Make no mistake, the same goes for me. Why not? Rishikesh is like a mini-Goa for Delhi-people. What is now a crowded beach area with fly by night camp operators & self-proclaimed rafting experts by day and paan-wallahs by night used to be a destination to revoke spiritual harmony.
Rishikesh is considered to be the birthplace of yoga in India. It is full of ashrams and the Ganga Aarti in the evening is a spectacle to witness every evening. Here’s a wonderful post about the magic of Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh featured in The Speaking Tree. But up until recent times, the place has managed to be in the news for other reasons. It’s no secret that Rishikesh is quite the spot for those seeking thrill and adventure. This is practically the closest river rafting spot in terms of distance from Delhi. It has also become the hub for corporate executives to take their teams out for various training programs, weekend getaways near Delhi etc. Now if one is working hard – say about a good 60-80 hours in the week, wouldn’t they love to unwind by the beach with some blaring music, a bottle of fine whiskey & some barbecued tikkas & kebabs to go with? It surely would be a pleasant surprise if you yourself have visited there with your friends without managing to sneak in any alcohol.
With the increase in the no. of tourists visiting this age old heritage spot, the commercialization has grown at a phenomenal rate. This has in turn led small time “businessmen” to park their money by picking land pieces on lease basis and starting “camping outfits” that last only as long as the rafting season. New season, new location, new name but the same old umbrella. Consider it a stale product/service in a shiny new packing. The leases grow higher, the camp gets moved to a new place and ready to pack and leave after the season’s ended. I’m not saying every camp owner is doing this same thing but this has definitely become a trend and it’s only taking the life out of the whole damn thing anyway.
I really hope the state Government of Uttarakhand takes up some strict actions so the beauty doesn’t all go away. Otherwise, it’s a rapidly declining holiday/ river rafting destination with end in near sight.