December 20, 2010 10 Comments
December 16, 2010 1 Comment
Our hopes of having juicy , cheap Oranges in the Orange city – Nagpur had already dashed when the locals told us that the crop this year was not very good. “So what else to see here”, I thought out aloud.
“Nagpur is the centre-most place of India”, Ankit updated me. “And there is a point which is geographical center of our nation”.
The explorer in me was excited. Something new, something worthy to see. So on the last evening there, with help of some directions over phone from Sanchit we left to find the center of India. We asked the taxi driver to take us to “Center point”.
“Center Point hotel?”, he asked.
“No. The center point of India”.
Some more on-phone enquiry led us to Sadar Bazaar area in front of a huge Blackberry showroom where three roads diverged (Later we actually took the one less travelled). The guard of the showroom was asked the same question about “Center point of India”. No answers again!
Finally the showroom manager guided us and let us know that it is called “Zero Mile”. With a new name and renewed hope of witnessing a historical moment of our lives, we started walking. Finally on emerging on to a major road, we were informed that the next traffic crossing is the Zero Mile.
Eagerly, we reached there but the only thing magnificent there was the huge RBI building. The hopes were coming down and the body was tiring but then we saw a huge pan masala hoarding, one of many in Nagpur at that time which said, “Shauq bade cheez hai“. Motivated, more inquiries were made and we walked to the next crossing.
There I saw it.
Standing discreetly, discarded and forgotten, in a dark corner of a busy intersection was the pillar which is the geographic center of India. A nearby building formed one of its boundary wall and various political and advertising banners surrounded it. From no angle it looked like an important monument of India. Ankit actually didn’t believe that this was it. Finally a shopkeeper nearby confirmed it. We jumped the small boundary wall into the compound, all the while trying to find our way using the Mobile’s light and then had our two minutes of fame of standing right at the center of India. The pillar had its usual “A loves B” with arrow pierced heart signifying the ‘Love’. At the bottom of the pillar, distances of some cities were marked. Hyderabad was the only known one. We couldn’t click any photographs and came back for a quick visit the next day when the light was still in favor.
Interestingly, the Zero Mile Stone/Pillar was in news in 2008 when it was renovated and dedicated to the citizens of Nagpur (whatever that means). Times of India took the responsibility of maintaining it for five years. May be the definition of maintenance encompassed only cutting the grass in the small compound. MOIL (ya the same which gave 50% returns in IPO yesterday) had undertaken the maintenance responsibility initially but was barred by the Municipal Corporation as it put up a banner showing distance of different cities from that point. May be that banner was much better than the present banners showcasing ugly politicians and in all probability put up by the MC.
(On a side note, ToI’s photo gallery of the dedication ceremony doesn’t have a single photograph of the pillar with which the present condition can be compared. Photos of only people who attended the ceremony). A ToI article explaining the state of neglect before it took over.
December 6, 2010 1 Comment
A cold Sunday afternoon warmed by a bright sun is a nice time to venture out for a walk around the most powerful area in India. A metro was taken to Central Secretariat. As I emerged out of the impressive, gargantuan station a pool of stagnant water met me. A long canal along Rajpath is supposed to be an attraction but has been barricaded away from view because of the obvious conditions.
I turned right on the magnificent Rajpath towards the Raisina Hill. The last time I was here, some apprehension had led me to avoid jump across the last crossing after which there is a slight climb onto the hill. The presence of overwhelming North and South block buildings had made me think that we – the aam aadmi would not be allowed to encroach the domain of the powerful. But that apprehension was absent this time – I saw plenty of auto rickshaws take the road uphill.
But before walking up to Raisina, I turned right at the crossing. People were lazing around in the adjoining gardens and I day dreamed of sitting there and leisurely reading a book in the winter sun. Close by a horde of news channel vans were idling away in what seemed like a special parking made for them. A familiar looking news reporter was packing up after a monologue with the camera as I moved closer to what was her background – the Parliament House. Somehow it was incredible to find that the primary government offices are a mere stone’s throw away from the parliament.
Parliament House – it is not as far away as it looks
After getting as close as possible (which was not much), I turned back and climbed the hill towards the buildings which house the offices of Prime Minister and other top ministers. I don’t know much about architecture but some observations point to it being a mix of Indian and English architecture (which it actually is according to books). For example, the trapezium kind design of lamp posts seems English – photos and movies being my reference. While the red color of the building is perhaps the favorite of Mughal era and the dome structures also seemed to be inspired from Indian culture. An interesting sight on the way was a foreign tourist on an old ‘Hero Cycle’ (the ones we look down upon!). He was wearing an industrial helmet, a mask worn in hospitals, dark sunglasses (hopefully not bought for Rs 100 at CP) and was standing right in the middle of the road trying to find his way in a map. Quite obviously he had learnt the ‘Jugad’ – something that we Indians have stamped our ownership on.
North Block which houses the Ministry of Finance
Moving ahead I ventured inside the North Block building. 2 guys ahead of me were showing some identification to the 2 policemen guarding the door. I tried to show him mine but the sentinel of the building waved me inside without even a glance. There was nothing much apart from a hall inside. You can see the actual offices from the windows but they have separate entrances. Further down the stairs, was a small police control room in a corner and a gate further north opened up on the street behind the building. I reversed, climbed up the stairs back to the Rajpath. Standing atop the hill you can see an extra ordinary side of Delhi – wide silky smooth roads, greenery all around and a wonderfully straight avenue which on a smoggy day like today seemed like a road to heaven. Far away I could see a faint silhouette of the India Gate. On a clear, bright sunny day there would be a completely different kind of awesomeness to the view.
The hall inside the North Block
Behind me stood my next stop – Rashtrapati Bhavan. There were a number of tourists on the way – most of the young ones clearly posing for the facebook and orkut (if it still finds favors) albums. One thing that everyone was trying to do was click a view of the presidential palace from behind the closed gates. The gates blocked the access to huge green expanse that are the gardens of the palace. Ironically, there were plenty of monkeys having fun in the finely pruned grass but for a common man this is where the road ends. It was time to do a U-turn back to the ‘other’ Delhi.
Closed doors of the President of India