Saturday, October 6, 2018


Every weekend there are some people known to Neera ji and Rajiv ji, who come over to stay with them at ‘Prem Sadan’, Lansdowne, largely from New Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, and other parts of the National Capital Region (NCR). We ourselves were there for the extended weekend of October 02--Gandhi Jayanti and had yet another fantastic trip. This piece largely enumerates the views and experiences of Rajiv ji, which I am sharing with you in the hope that, like us, you might be motivated to take a de novo look at your life in order that the years ahead of you are as healthy and rewarding as those gone by.

 In recent times, we have been noticing an increased level of stress, hypertension and other ailments afflicting many young and middle-aged persons, males and ladies, mainly due to work pressure, lack of adequate sleep, family problems and other issues. ‘Prem Sadan’, it seems, has become an unwinding retreat for their Lansdowne trip, having comprehended the mantra of Rajiv ji of eating and going to sleep and when tired of sleeping, getting up to eat, and going to sleep again.

Prem Sadan, Lansdowne

With there being nothing much to see in Lansdowne, the lovely weather throughout the year, green and serene environment are the key attractions. Playing board games like ludo, snakes and ladders, chess, cross word, money ply, carom, cards, uno, and badminton, besides chit-chatting and sitting around a bon fire in our large campus are activities people enjoy, going for a walk apart. Many of them get rejuvenated by simply lazing  in the open on a mat in the front or rear part of the bungalow under the sun, watching and hearing a variety of colorful birds chirp, the cool fresh  breeze making the use of a blanket imperative. The fact is that we all wish to lead the kind of life Rajiv ji particularly is leading, but just cannot get out of the rat race. Also, most persons seem to forget that they were playing when Rajiv ji and his wife, Neera ji were working and now they are playing whilst we slog.

It is said that old age, disease, and death are inevitable. After residing in the mountains for the past decade, having spent in the plains the first half of their lives, Rajiv ji now believes that while old age and death are bound to come, disease could be averted to a large extent by living in the hills. With the passing of youth and mid life, old age sets in, till a person departs from this world. Whoever comes has to go. That is God’s plan. However, those born in the hills and living there with some gainful employment, or people, who move to the mountains in good time, without carrying any chronic ailment, can indeed alleviate disease. Here’s why and how.

Health is of paramount importance to life and necessitates the body and mind to be in good shape, irrespective of age, gender, background or vocation. We all wish to lead a healthy, long life, bereft of disease. You feel lousy when you even have a headache, cough, cold, mild fever or an upset stomach. Just think of people, who have cancer. You can well imagine the condition of lepers, who we all wish to keep at bay.  I had no shoes and I grumbled until I saw a man, who had no feet, is an old saying. Those of us bestowed by the Lord God with a healthy body, mind and soul should feel ever grateful instead of complaining about the little things we don’t have.

Given that backdrop, let us briefly spell out what constitutes good health .Well-being entails:

-Clarity about goals and purpose of life
-Sense of feeling good about ourselves
-Having control and freedom over our lives
-Ability to deal with ups and downs
-Coping ability to overcome challenges
-Making the most of opportunities
-Feeling of connection with the community and environment

Most children are born with all they require to grow into vigorous adults, with teenage years being somewhat difficult due to rapid physical and hormonal changes. Adolescence is an impressionable age.  It is best to acquaint and discuss with your child, the repercussions particularly of smoking, drinking, drug abuse and unsafe sex.

Adulthood is a time of robustness. A young man thinks he will never die. However, to keep oneself in ship shape, regular exercise is imperative. You need to have a balanced diet and yet keep an eye on your weight. Take alcohol, if at all, in moderation. Studies reveal that consuming up to 60 ml per day liquor is good for health as it peps up the heart. It does not, however, mean consuming alcohol is a must, the danger being that one peg leads to another and another.
A healthy adult develops healthy habits while still a teenager. Physical fitness consists of:

-Cardio-respiratory fitness, meaning elevated heart rate for a sustained period
-Muscular strength, that is, ability of muscles to exert force during an activity
-Composition of the body or the relative amounts of muscle, bone, fat and water
-Flexibility in terms of range of movement across a joint
Physical strength is achieved through proper nutrition, physical exercise and adequate rest. Besides maintaining physical fitness, it is important to keep your mental and emotional health in check. Accept change as a fact of life or else you will have problems not only with those around you, but also your own self. Conflicts are easy to get into, but hard to resolve. Neither criticize any person nor listen to criticism. Why carry someone else’s dirt on your head?

Living in the mountains is like a task in self-purification. When man reads holy texts and scriptures, and is in the company of non-materialistic persons, he practices inner cleaning. He could develop discretionary intellect through the grace of God. He gets down to removing self-conceit from within, tries to get over the dualities of nature, namely, joy-sorrow, profit-loss, heat-cold, pain and pleasure. He, who realizes God’s will, knows the secret of the Lord Master of the world. On the brow of men, who meditate on God, good fortune is pre-ordained. Many utter His Name, but few enshrine it in their heart. You cannot be clever with the Almighty, the heart Searcher, who knows all.

For your own good, perform virtuous deeds and feel lowly. If you do no wrong during the day, you will get the much-desired good sleep at night. Burn the poison of pride. Fanning your ego is a chronic disease. Let your speech be sweet since it soothes everyone. Meditation, arduous toil, self-restraint, contentment, and faith are the essential traits of a happy and healthy person, for they bring in their wake, peace and bliss. Dedicate yourself to almsgiving of at least ten % of your income, as the scriptures mandate. It is the duty of those of us, who have received a lot from society, to give back whatever we can in return, howsoever little.

He, who does what pleases the Lord God, obtains the fruit of his heart’s desire. Search your heart everyday and wander not in perplexity. Without love for God, man is ruined. Meditation on the Supreme Being is the door to salvation. The ignorant person is engaged in worldly love and attachments instead of thanking the Creator of the universe for having given him this precious human body. Seek the Sustainer’s grace and be the dust of the feet of the saints or slaves of God. To every individual, He reaches sustenance. So why entertain any fears? However, there is a limit to need, but no end to greed.

In the mountains, in relative solitude, man realizes that in our hands lies nothing. It is God’s world and His will solely prevails. The Creator is only one. We are mere users of things given by Him. He is the Doer and the Cause. Remembering God constantly while going about the tasks that fall into our lot in life is the real work and reward of man.

With regard to basic health issues, we find infants, pre-school and school-age children suffering from lack of Vitamin D in the cities in India. In the mountains, not only children, but elders too, get free sunshine in abundance. The urban lifestyle is sedentary. There is lack of open space. Pollution is high, with both fog and smog, the Union Territory of Delhi being at the top of the chart world-wide. An average person in the metros In India leads a stressful life with long working hours. A lot of time is spent daily commuting to and fro office via any mode of transportation. Obesity is high with packaged ready-to eat fried snacks, potato chips and aerated drinks, high on sugar, fat and calories being impulsively consumed.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, New Delhi as recent as of September 16, 2018, diabetes in young adults is assuming alarming proportions and obesity takes the cake. Children of 15 years first develop obesity and eventually diabetes strikes them at the age of 20-22. This is particularly true of urban areas, with social factors being responsible to a large extent. Parents in nuclear families pamper their kids and keep ordering outside food for them virtually at the snap of a finger. A nutritious meal cooked at home is given no priority. Perhaps, it is easy and suits both mothers and their children to call for a burger, pizza or butter chicken. The youngest population in the world could soon become one of sick youngsters.

The large cities also have negative psychological aspects, including addiction to exercise, shirking problem, fatigue, excessive competition, peer group pressure, increasing consumerism, and self-centeredness, in addition to pre-occupation with muscularity, diet and body image. You should exercise for yourself and not to show others.

A survey revealed that over 70% Indians in mega-cities are over-weight or obese, the worst-hit being in their twenties and thirties. About 50% of urban Indians with access to the internet showed Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25, with those beyond 23 being considered obese.  India has the second highest number of obese children at 14.4 million across the globe after China according to a study published in The New  England Journal of Medicine.
The outcome of urban lifestyle is:
-No time for exercise
-Eating fast foods at odd hours
-High Blood Pressure
-Unsatisfactory Lipid Profile including Cholesterol

One-fifth of deaths in the nation are from coronary heart diseases and India is regarded as the ‘diabetes capital’ of the globe. Annually, there are 1.7 million deaths due to heart diseases in India. Surprisingly, despite all these warning bells, accelerated urbanization is projected as per the 2011 Census in India, with more people migrating to urban areas, primarily in quest of employment and education.

According to a press report, of the 16,000 villages in Uttarakhand State, about 3,600 are lying vacant. There is not even a single person residing in many of these villages. This trend of exodus from the hills needs to be reversed. With the mercury soaring in the NCR, the day is not far when the human body and skin would be unable to bear such high temperature and people would want to seek the comfort of the Valley of the Gods in Uttarakhand.

The correlation between residing at higher elevation and relative disease-free living and longevity stems from the following numerous factors:

-Cool, refreshing, light air
-Lungs breathe in Oxygen in the form the human body badly needs
-Healthier hear-longer life
-Fresh water
-Unique local organic vegetables and fruits
-Good appetite and digestion
-Happier and healthier living in the midst of clouds
-Low temperatures
-No sweat
-Lesser pimples and blackheads
-Better hair
-Active lifestyle
-Keeping trim
-Morning and evening strolls
-Unique driving experience
-Adventure sports, namely, trekking, hiking, rock climbing, biking, skiing and rafting
-Being close to nature
-Free intake of vital Vitamin D by sitting in the sun
-Beautiful scenery
-Lively trees with walking amidst pine trees mitigating stress, hostility, and depression
-Flora and fauna
-Breath-taking views
-Snow clad peaks clearly visible in winter months
-No water clogging despite heavy rains as water drains down and soaks into the ground
-Boost to energy levels
-Development of a positive outlook
-Mood disorders and swings low
-Mental relaxation
-Introspection and reflection on oneself
- Yoga practice
-Meditation in tranquility
-Less traffic
-Low air and noise pollution
-Clear blue sky during the day
-Night sky, an astronomer’s delight
-Adequate time to pursue any passion
-Close knit local community to rely on each other in the event of need

Vigorous physical activity and exercise has positive effects on mental health in as much as it alleviates controllable depression. Improvement in self-image, esteem, and social skills reduces anxiety. Confidence and well-being both improve in higher altitudes. So does sexual satisfaction. Living in the hills increases assertiveness, confidence, emotional stability, independence, intellectual functioning, memory, and perception.

People with higher fitness levels have fewer chronic ailments to fight with in later years of life. The chronic diseases primarily are heart problems, obesity, asthma, diabetes, strokes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. In the mountains, many a person has ever visited a Doctor or gone for a medical check-up.

In the 20th century, the average life expectancy moved up by about 30 years, the highest benefit in the past 5000 years. During the last decade of the past century, centenarians increased by over 50 %. The prime reasons for this were advances in health, education, disease prevention, and treatments. With 10% of the world’s population living in the mountains, they already enjoy the multiple benefits of fitness, good health and longevity.

There are 20 mountain ranges in India from the State of Jammu & Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, of which 7 are the main ones. The Himalayas are the largest comprising of Kanchenjunga, Nanda Devi, and Shivalik ranges, besides the eastern Himalayas.

There are about 200 hill stations in the country with a fourth of them being better known. Hill stations are high altitude towns used especially by European colonists to beat the summer heat and dust of the plains during the British Raj in India. After the 1857 revolt in the country, the British sought to move away from the disease-ridden plains to the Himalayas in north India and Nilgiri Hills in the south. By the end of the 19th century, many hill stations were well-developed.

Unlike the State of Himachal Pradesh in the north, an individual can purchase up to 300 sq. yards land in the State of Uttarakhand. If Dehradun, Mussoorie, Nainital, and Ranikhet in Uttarakhand have become over-crowded and expensive, the pilgrim centers of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri , Yamunotri, Haridwar and Rishikesh apart, several beautiful places like Almora, Bageshwar, Binsar, Chakrata, Chamoli, Champawat, Chopta, Dhanaulti, Dharchula, Gopeshwar, Joshimath, Kanatal, Kausani, Khirsu, Landour, Lansdowne, Marchula, Mukteshwar, Munsiyari, Pangot, Pithoragarh, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi are open to re-location, their outskirts being equally pleasant and affordable.

Let us take up Lansdowne in the District of Pauri Garhwal of Uttarakhand State as a concrete illustration. Many of our friends, like us, are regular visitors to ‘Prem Sadan’, Lansdowne since several years. It is one of the hill stations closest to the NCR. It was originally known as Kaludanda- Kalu (black) Danda (hill), later named Lansdowne after Lord Lansdowne, then Viceroy of India, in 1887. Lansdowne was founded by the British and presently houses the Command Office of Garhwal Rifles Regimental Center (GRRC) of the Indian Army, the principal activity of which is recruitment and training of soldiers.

A Cantonment, Lansdowne, is fast becoming a hot tourist destination, largely due to the internet and word of mouth. Stressed out guys, principally from the NCR, visit Lansdowne during weekends for rest and recuperation. Spending even a Saturday night at Lansdowne helps them relax, with extended weekends being a bonus. Of course, the months of May and June are the peak season, when families come with their children for summer vacation.

Lansdowne, well-connected by motor able roads and rail up to Kothdwar, where from it is an uphill drive of 40 kms., is at an altitude of 1700 meters above sea level. It is surrounded with thick oak and blue pine forests. The weather is awesome during the entire year. It has one of the single best views of the snow-clad Himalayan range for the six winter months from October. The sunrise and sunset are a visual treat. The starry night sky is an astronomer’s delight.
Neera ji and Rajiv ji live at this prime old family property known as ‘Prem  Sadan’  on the Mall Road at Lansdowne Cantonment . They have not taken ill any time in the past decade. Except for two local residents, who had cancer, they have never gone visiting anyone there, who has fallen ill. An average person walks 5 kms   or more daily in the mountains. The nutritious food gets automatically digested. This is called disease-free living and we believe, people living at Lansdowne, which is a one of the sixty-two well-maintained Cantonments in nineteen States India, are all blessed.

St. John's Church, Lansdowne

Mountain living is like a dream for most people.  To turn dreams into reality requires prioritization, and courage to move away from an existing comfort zone. Mall walkers of the metros could get bored in a day in the silent mountains. They would not know what to do and how to pass their time. Living in the mountains is difficult as there is no social life and doing the daily chores poses a problem with domestic help not easily available.

Collecting dry twigs for evening bonfire

Relocating from urban areas to the hills poses its own problems such as a shift from a fast-paced to a laid-back life style, drastic change in environment from jungles of concrete to jungles in reality, lack of good sources of entertainment, education and health-care. Above all, to digest solitude is not everyone’s cup of tea. Only those who are at ease and happy with themselves and wish to pursue some passion such as social service, reading, writing, painting , bird watching, gardening and such hobbies can live in the hills. And, of course, man’s eternal quest of seeking God through meditation can be best pursued in the quiet of the majestic mountains.

It is not essential to set up a resort to stay in the hills unless you have that kind of money to invest or are into asset creation. Why not manage an existing one? There is an acute dearth of talent in the relatively small but growing hospitality industry in Lansdowne for instance. Likewise, is the dire need for school teachers in all subjects, be they for primary, middle or senior classes.
The simple local people own vast tracts of land in the hills, but have hardly any skills. They have very limited financial resources, but are able to survive due to their needs being few. The problem is one of marketing and managerial deficiency even if they set up home stays. Growth and development of hilly areas in India can be attained through a combination of tourism and education. This is where people from cities can step in and make it a win-win situation for both.

Excessive liquor intake is a major problem in the hills. It is not because of the cold weather or low temperatures, but more due to idleness, be it due to lack of job opportunities or not wanting to work, even if available. And, you simply cannot motivate people, who do not wish to work. It is much easier to hit the bottle even during the day, drinking after sunset being virtually a must. In the mountains, most men folk drink, ladies work and the children don’t study. That’s the way of life.

If you wish to settle in the mountains, you must strike a chord with the local people. There are small villages all over the State of Uttarakhand. The residents there look upon outsiders coming from cities as a threat to their survival. They are largely shop keepers living there since decades. Instead of stepping on their toes or throwing your weight around, help them improve their standard of living. Stay away from the local politics. The smaller the village, more is the internal strife among the residents. When there is conflict between them on even small issues, how do you expect them to even listen to you, till they realize that you have no axe to grind and are one like them? Remember, if you have a big ego, they have a bigger one and they care two hoots about anything or anyone. You have to realize that they are relatively less educated and lack exposure.
While better the earlier you decide to move away from the disease-ridden, stressful big cities to the mountains for your own fine health, it is possible that, like us, you might be unable to do so owing to various commitments, be they due to serious illness of your aged parents, your jobs or good education for  children. Perhaps, the best time for you to consider shifting from an urban area to the mountains is when your children have completed their schooling and moved to college for further studies in the field of their choice. They can stay in a hostel or find suitable paying guest accommodation.

It is not at all a bad idea to purchase some land with a clear title in the outskirts of a hill station of your choice. But, it should be near a motor able road in an inhabited village, close to a source of water and power. However, build the type of accommodation you need only when you are willing and in a position to shift and stay there. Otherwise, it will be just another house lying locked and no one to take care of it. Whenever you get time to visit, you will just about end up cleaning the place. You cannot remote control a home in the hills from the city. A local person will only convert the place into an alcohol center and misuse the place.

 You need to do your homework thoroughly before taking the plunge. Pay major attention to minor details. The moot point is that you cannot eat the cake and have it too. You cannot enjoy the facilities and conveniences of urban areas and the intoxicating cool fresh air and disease-free living of the mountains at the same time.

To help you have a memorable holiday and improve your health has become the mission of Rajiv ji, in particular, with his wife, Neera ji, a Kathak and Folk Dancer, spending a major part of her time at Gurugram pursuing her artistic passion. Rajiv ji is busy doing nothing in the midst of beautiful people he gets to meet. Friends, while we surely are travel addicts, we are neither qualified Doctors nor trained in health care.  We can only tell you that like that of Neera ji and Rajiv ji, our life would certainly change for the better change if we were to re-locate to the mountains as they did a decade ago.  Rajiv ji is care-free and lives in a perpetual state of inner wellness. Perhaps, he has become a better human being.