Whenever I see pictures of Shimla or any of our tottering tacky hill stations, I am uneasily reminded of my walk-in closet. When I have to open the closet door, I brace myself. Stacked almost ceiling high, higgledy-piggledy one on top of another are decades worth of empty cardboard boxes, brown-paper bags, carry-on luggage and even a couple of perfectly good printers rendered obsolete due to the criminal unavailability of cartridges and miscellaneous items. I open the door and step back. Removing a single item means you have to deal with the consequences — an avalanche of stuff tumbling down at your feet.

Built up as precariously are our once sylvan hill stations. All it takes is a burst of heavy rain, or, god forbid, a tremor, and they will all get washed away or come tumbling down, sweeping away everything in their path. On land, in the air, in water, we’ve been fidgeting with nature for far too long and are now paying the price. We’ve mowed down our rainforests, hacked and mined into the sides of fragile mountains, whether to construct expressways or plunder them for building material and precious metals, erected multi-storied structures on shaky, glutinous ground, dammed rivers back-to-back and are thinking of idiotic ideas such as linking rivers. From the West, we’ve learned the concept of ‘conquering nature’, something indigenous people around the world have always known was a foolish, suicidal idea.