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Snowfall in Uttarakhand, a spotless village

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Chopta (Uttarakhand): The clouds kissed the mountain peaks; the sun played hide and seek, peeking out at times from behind those clouds, its rays cutting across the edges of spruce tree that stood tall on the valley, making their way to reach up to me. It kept raining while I was travelling to the hills – and then it snowed.

Taking a break from my routine, I was heading for Chopta, a small town in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Located 8,790 feet above sea-level on NH 58, the picturesque town is surrounded by mountains that offer glimpses of the mighty Himalayan range.

The road would bend and curve at every possible angle it could; the Ganga river was in its majestic colours – sometimes seablue, sometimes robin and at times skyblue; sometimes calm and then ferocious as it wound its way down, my constant companion as I approached my destination from Rishikesh.

On my way came three main confluences – Devprayag where the Alaknanda meets the Bhagirathi and takes the name of Ganga; ahead was Rudraprayag, the confluence of the Alaknanda and the Mandakini; and Karnaprayag, where the Alaknanda amalgamates with the Pindar.

The weather became cold as it was raining, making for a damp and dull environment. It gradually turned cold, with the wind chilling me to the bone benumbing my body – but my travelling spirit was indomitable.

Travelling in local bus gave me a chance to assimilate the local culture of the Garhwal region in which Chopta falls. The ‘pahari’ song being played in the bus and some small talk with the locals provided some relief during the hectic journey.

Though I thought I was successful in defeating the freezing climate, the demotivating rain and the sharp turns in the road were bearable but something heart-breaking was awaiting me.

As I was approaching Chopta after a tiresome bus journey of almost seven hours, soft white flakes began falling. The road and the valley got a white make-over and the hills were enveloped in a white sheet. Within moments, the road and the adjacent area had turned into a white ornament and the hill range looked no less than a necklace.

By the time snowfall stopped, the day had ended and the road to Chopta was blocked. Far in the distance, the sun bid adieu to the day, smashing the dull sky with a splash of red.

Mother Nature mesmerised me with her art of creating an enchanting scenic view. It looked no less than a painting, where every stroke of brush defined how she played with colours, with the sky serving as a canvas.

With a heavy heart, I settled for the night in a small village called Mandal, below Chopta, whose scenic charm hypnotised me the next morning.

The mountain range was standing tall just across the window of my room, glittering as the first rays of the sun touched the snow-clad peaks. The pine, spruce and maple leaves blinked at the sun’s rays and danced to the tune of the cold breeze blowing across the village.

Along with the whispering of the wind, the tinkling sound that a nearby tranquil stream made as it rushed over the stones on its bed, mingled into the atmosphere, accompanied by the chirping of birds to create a rapturous mood.

The dead maple leaves lying on the wet road welcomed me as I crunched them below my feet while I was engulfed by the wondrous beauty of the village. I recollected a few lines from Robert Frost’s poem The Mountain: “When I walked forth at dawn to see new things/Were fields, a river, and beyond, more fields,” while I strolled across the tiny village early in the morning.

Mandal village exudes a pristine charm. Away from the cacophony of city life, the village turned out to be the perfect gateway to sooth my soul.

While I was returning from the village I remembered another Frost poem, The Road Not Taken: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I/I took the one less travelled by”. I could not take the road that leads to Chopta, but the picture perfect Mandal village was no less a surprise to me with its beauty. (Somrita Ghosh, IANS) (pic courtesy: teambhp.com)

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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

Donald Trump, India
President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)