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By Mr. Kumar ALFA
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The Deccan Tale

The historical city of Nagpur located in Satpuda mountainous region saw the birth of RSS in 1925. Presently, the hinterland of Nitin Gadkari, former BJP supremo, it is the winter capital of Maharashtra having the needed infrastructure, viz, CM residence, Assembly, Minister Cottages, High Court, RBI etc. It also houses National Fire Service College, a famous institution of the British Era.


Talking of British, many buildings not only look colonial, they have been also kept in a commendable shape. Restriction on high rise culture, large lawns and backyards appear to be the redeeming features in this part of Deccan. The noticeable architectural masterpieces are: Assembly, GPO, Commissioner’s Office and Zila Parishad. An attempt has been made to give old, Gothic touch to the High Court building (too massive a structure to cater to 12 Judges) but something is amiss somewhere.


The Zero Point of India situated in the vicinity of Assembly has a non-descript pillar having four miniature horses in stone on the one side. An inscription shows that Hyderabad is 585 kms away. The semi circular green spot is hopelessly small for such an important landmark. One wishes, the State authorities will make it bigger by acquiring nearby private structures and subsequently highlight it in the tourist map. Close by is another important spot where 113 farmers agitating for ST status had died in a pandemonium in 1993.


The Deeksha Bhumi, where Dr. B.R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism on 14/10/1956, has a replica of the Stupa and typical gates of Sanchi. Also having a Bodhi Peepal Tree, this structure is much bigger than the original. But one supposes, surroundings can be spruced up. A large round hall on the first floor was avoidable. Owing to it, the visitor is not in a position to have a full view of the round ceiling as in other monuments. It also prevents meditation. One should not defy the basics of architectural rationality.


Coming to water bodies, appreciable steps seem to have been taken in cleaning and making a sort of joy cum picnic spot on the one side of vast Futala Talab. It may be giving breathing space to otherwise dense city. It was pleasing to see Swans and Ducks competing with boats full of youngsters and young couples. Bollywood music was all pervading.


The city has wide, well maintained roads, divided by many squares, notable being, Ahinsa, Rajarani, AIR and GPO. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, all are seen in solos or pairs in the morning when the streets are being swept well. Who does not wish to lead a healthy and happy life? One does not see any road rage anywhere. Garbage management and social forestry seem to be the order of the day. The weather appears very pleasant between 7.30 to 9.30 am. after being slightly cold, previous night. It is nice to see some individuals practicing Pranayam in the busy areas. It is equally encouraging to watch young girls and women using scooties and four wheelers rather than depending on their men folk. Meeting Ashok Deshbhratar, an unassuming civil service aspirant and Dr.Anand (reportedly MA in 19 subjects),head of a coaching institute, were memorable pleasures.


Ravi Bhawan, the epicenter of our official activities is buzzing with activity from 7.30 am onwards. It is a huge area having 25 ministerial cottages, accommodations, committee rooms, dining halls etc. Regional history and culture depicted in Marathi along the corridor is a masterpiece. Late Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, the former CM of MP is reported to have owned this vast estate. His ancestral property is reportedly located close by. The new complex is rightly named after him.


Coming to the residents of Nagpur or for that matter, Vidarbha region, they are conspicuous by their Gandhi caps, nine yard Marathi Saris, umbrellas and high level of awareness. Fond of spicy and chilly dominating food, they look simple and well behaved compared to the Delhi-ites. Politicians and officers put together formed a bunch of criminals, candidly opined Dr.P G Dande.


No description of Nagpur is complete without throwing light on its large sized and juicy oranges. Apart from standing apart, they are also available throughout the year. Another popular product is the Orange Burfi, made famous by Haldiram. When tasted, both reflect a certain class.


Carrying sweet memories of barely 24 hour sojourn at the Orange City, one lands late in the evening at the land of dreams. The Air India flight bereft of a dinner offering, is best forgotten. A relatively short journey became a bit long, for no rhyme or reason. After an interval of three and a half years, while the interiors of the airport look more spacious, the approach road outside still has to be widened and improved. Like in September 2009, one drives through a couple of flyovers and Worli Sea Link (6 km. plus long).It is a marvelous experience apart from enabling one to save valuable time.


The Palm Beach Road, a 13 km sea front sandwiched between mangroves and plush sky scrapers, on the other side, has now taken shape. It would prompt the people of the area not to throng Marine Drive for a view of exotic birds or relaxation. The road, cars and concrete towers, all dazzle. They look stunning. I am reminded of having availed of a few photographic opportunities with Ankoor in 2009. One wishes that equal degree of cooperation is extended for the up keep by the citizens and the authorities. The erstwhile anti-social elements active in the area will also have to be eliminated.


Munna, the cute, young driver proudly shows many sky scrappers, till recently deserted. He does not forget to mention the rent or the cost involved. One gathers that land is more costly than gold in this part of the country. Soon we see the highest (110 storied) building, under construction, from a distance. Reportedly, each flat therein was going to cost Rs. 30 crores. Ignoring the night crowd of the Chaupatty beach, I take a de-tour to pick up an essential medicine from a famous Mumbai Hospital at Chruchgate. By the time one checks into Hotel Marine Plaza at Marine Drive, it is well past 11.30 p.m. Delhi-ites might be snoring by now but for the Mumbaikars, night still looks starry in the land of stars.


One admires the ravishing beauty of Queens Necklace from the large window, even if the sky looks blurred. The Arabian Sea is vast and infinite. One is once again reminded of my visit here with family almost at the same time in September 2009. Failure, rather reluctance to avail of a Victoria ride is still fresh. The call or the awakening from the stomach, in the meanwhile has to be responded to with the leftover of the dinner packet affectionately given by Suresh Pendam, my ever smiling L.O. at Nagpur. I complete the formality, sitting in the adjacent small office room. The food/club sandwich promised by the hotel did not come till mid night. Good, that instead of calling reception, I surf various channels after a gap of two days. Sometimes, it is nice to be ‘away’ from the world.


After somewhat disturbed sleep, day breaks for me at 6.30 a.m. I was expecting a bright clear day like in North India. But it eludes me for quite some time. I attempt a snap like last night but do not approve of it myself. In view of the fact that the day ahead was going to be hectic, I decide to relax for some more time on extra comfortable bed, even if sleep appears a distant possibility. Finally, I decide to face the semi dark, gloomy and foggy weather at 8.00 a.m. Inspiration comes from the hundreds of morning walkers and joggers. Ocean has not turned blue as yet. The transparent, hexagonal lift of the hotel looks very modern and attractive. Two yanky women are found sleeping to glory in the lounge. After saying good morning to a few friends and braving a bit of morning traffic, I see the following while doing brisk walk along the beach :


- Free hand exercises by men and women, young, old alike at the ‘Landsend’, while looking at Sun in a devout way. Enlightened and disciplined folk!
- Large number of crows seated closely on the embankment. A sight to behold.
- Plethora of pigeons and other white birds relishing the cool atmosphere of morning.
- Chunk of people sitting in pairs and groups. Some serious, some whimsical. Bambaiya style Hindi dominating.
- Brisk and slow walkers, mostly in shorts, some talking passionately on cells.
- NRIs strolling with their newborns in prams.
- Surya Namashkar by ladies even while wearing inconvenient dresses. Some making an effort in Burqa.
- Individuals in love, huddled together, unmindful and oblivious of passing onlookers. Perhaps determined to show charm and elegance.
- Some amount of skin show is noticeable. May be, weather is like that. It is never too cold nor too hot. No staring or stalking, whatsoever.
- Impromptu rehearsals by budding cinema artists and stunt men.
- Each was having his/her own agenda and pursuing the same in a manner in a much decent fashion than what one sees or experiences in North.
- Sight of Orange colored fishing trawlers off and on, completes the vivid picture.


Subsequent to the morning feel of the metropolis, I have a relaxing bath in the mini tub in the room. A hearty breakfast of predominantly south Indian items follows in the company of Rathod. When I get an inkling of possible delay, three of my colleagues enter the medium sized dining hall. Chaupatty beach is still brimming with activity when we hit the road. We reach our ‘business’ venue at Malabar Hill, ahead of time. It is both rewarding and upsetting, listening about and to the slum-dwellers. As expected, Medha Patkar, the stormy petrel, was spirited, convincing and commanding in highlighting education, health, nutrition and livelihood issues. One had heard that 65% of Mumbai lived in slums but one was denied a close encounter of this kind. Compared to this face to face interaction, other two items slated for the day were without much meaning and impact. The silver lining of course was an opportunity to meet two of my batch mates and rubbing shoulders with top echelons of state bureaucracy.


The retreat from the city gave some moments of tension due to extremely dense traffic and warming weather. The last minute discovery of flight being international too required one to report ahead of schedule. Instead of getting an hour of relaxation, I was destined to be in vehicle all the time like an average Mumbaikar. To add insult to injury, the battery of my cell showed the signs of being low. Despite approach to international terminal being narrow, dirty and full of constructions, I manage to reach in time.


After check in, a long wait follows. The ‘domestic’ immigration counter looks as crowded and chaotic as of Delhi airport, a couple of years ago. Once you reach the lower hall after security check, it is a different world. Mostly red and orange colors dominate the backdrop of innumerable shops and eateries. Apart from consumer shops, spas and health clubs are also down the corridor, Thai and many other Asian female workers are seen attending to male customers rather openly. It is good to have such facilities keeping in view fatigue part. But they come with an exorbitant cost. Next to duty free shops, the Spice India restaurant steals the show while offering expensive meals (Rs. 299 for B.F. and Rs. 499 for Lunch/Dinner). Additionality of course is the display of all the spices used, presumably for the non-Indians. A ‘must see’ is an auto rickshaw placed in the corner.


Yet again, I find people of this city orderly and well behaved. Things look easy in Mumbai due to ‘Bindas’ nature of city-dwellers and perhaps their being tolerant and law abiding. After thirty minutes, monotony breaks when music blares from one corner. A group of young men and women cracking jokes rush to form a queue behind a bunch of designer Burqa-clad women. They do not forget to cover their T-Shirts/sleeve-less tops with woolens. Afterall, destination Delhi was going to be very cold. The boarding announcement of AI-310 ultimately proves to be the dividing line between the commercial capital and the political one. I am not to be left behind in the fading light of the day.

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