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Land Of The Perennial Spring
ON the eastern wing of Mussoorie where I live, the steep fall of land to Barlowganj combined with large, jealously-guarded school estates has allowed a fair growth of forest to remain. The best evidence is the perennial spring that rises above Sikandar Hall, family home of the Skinners. Luckily the Forest Department has taken over a vacant estate that commands the spring and are gunning for resort developers who try and foul its catchment by discharging their sewage into the public domain. This estate was formerly a thermometer factory that provided employment to the locals. For a couple of years the hillside rang to strident union demands for a better deal—till the factory closed down. Later, the chief landmark of Barlowganj, the castle that once housed the brothers who staffed St George's School (K.P.S. Gill is a famous old boy), was pulled down for a huge five-star hotel built by the Tehri Dam contractor. His manager made local history by spending a night in lock-up for felling timber. Thereafter trees were not felled, instead the earth around their roots was bulldozed to comply with the spirit of the law. Another resort colony further down the hill piped its drinking water from below Mussoorie's burning ghat, but such is the cost of timber these days that it is simpler to take hill bodies to Hardwar to be burned.