Raulaki Rakh

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This year, Jammu recorded a maximum temperature of over 44°C while Delhi showed the maximum of around 41°C that day and it has not gone upto 44°C on any day during this summer. Jammu is nearer the hills than Delhi but it does not have the same cushion of greenery that it used to have in the past. Delhi has its jungles of concrete like Nehru Place with its multistoreyed structures but it also has parks and woodlands and green patches like Kalkaji district park just behind the old Kalkaji Temple with lots of trees and grassy plots. It is a pity though that such parks and woodlands and other open spaces are fast deteriorating and being encroached upon by slums. I wish Jagmohan were back in Delhi to halt this denudation and degradation of the habitat, even if it would mean a demotion for him from Governor to Lt. Governor. I am sure he would love it and Delhi would benefit.

Jammu used to have three big three big rakhs (reserved forests) around, which provided an excellent green cushion making for a very healthy climate. They were Ramnagar, Raulaki and Bahu rakhs The last two have disappeared like “gadhe ke sir se seeng” and Ramnagar Rakh is not its former self any more.

Raulaki rakh was easily accessible, off the B.C. road behind the Reshamghar and one could walk to the cool Ranbir canal in summer through its shady trees and green grassy meadows. In rainy season, during “Sravan” and Bhadon, it sheltered some pools of water with overhanging branches, creating a sort Vrindavana where Krishna played with gopis in the month of Jhoolas and while they bathed in the water below, he collect their clothes and climbed up the Kadamba tree to perch on one of the branches with his flute, putting them to discomfiture and forcing them to supplication. If I remember aright, there were some Kadamba trees in Raulaki rakh and some Hindu ladies from the neighbourhood went to these pools to bathe on the occasion of festivals of the rainy season like “teej“.

I remember Raulaki because I often used to go there to prepare for my examinations. I had a class-fellow Pran Nagpal nicknamed in the college “Maihl”, (don’t know why), who would walk up to my place from his residence in Mohalla Afghanan and accompany me to Raulaki. He was weak in one subject and wanted to pick my brains and see my notes. He had the reputation of being good in another subject and I thought I could learn something from him. ButI got nothing from him while he got everything he wanted to learn and I felt cheated. Pran came from a rich family of businessmen who had their business in Bihar coalmines and they had come to Jammu to settle down. Pran’s mother, called Beeji by us all, was very affectionate and plied us with stuffed parathas, sizzling hot from the stove while we read romantic stuff, novels like Bhagwati Charan Verma’s “Chitralekha” and Pandeya Bechan Sharma Ugra’s Chand haseenon ke khatoot”: “Chand tasveer-e-butan, chand hasneenon ke khatoot, Baad marnay ke mere ghar se yeh saamaan nikla”.

After I went away to Lahore in 1945, Pran struck up a longlasting and intimate friendship with Balwant Sehgal, younger brother of the dentist of Raghunath Bazar. They both lived in grand style in Delhi when I saw them next around 1950. They were very good in enticing into friendship some lovely looking young females. What is more, they enticed Satchidanand Heeranand Vatsyayan ‘Agyeya”, the famous Hindi writer and published his romantic novel ‘Nadi ke dveep’ and some issues of the literary -magazine” “Prateek”, edited by him.

I feel sad that while Raulaki rakh of Jammu is dead, my friend, Pran Nagpal “urfMaihal is also no more. Balwant Sehgal is reported to be growing mushrooms in Simla hills somewhere and cultivating his own garden.

(Originally Published in the column ‘Jammu Jottings’ on August 6, 1985)