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Thursday, June 16, 2005


I am sure that there will be spots in India now where icy gusts cause one to pull on one’s muffler tighter, where windy draughts catch one unprepared, and where on can marvel at the snowy spectacle of Mother Nature. I am sorry to state that Nagpur was not one of these spots.

Not the rollicking start hoped for—typed in the wrong PIN on the ATM machine thrice and was debarred from withdrawing dough temporarily. Had to plough gingerly—and frugality and forbearance were the watchwords.

This epitome of Central India is a towering figure among the minions of these parts, and though geographically part of Maharashtra, comports itself more as if it were in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. It had served as the capital of the formerly existing Central Provinces & even MP once. Many business houses use Nagpur as the base to monitor large parts of MP and Chattisgarh and its 24 lakh populace strive to make it among other things—the Orange City , the Winter Legislative capital and a forgotten bastion of a withered statehood movement

To be fair, it’s not much fun working outdoors in 45 C—a different kind of heat, not quite the humidity of Madras or Bombay, not quite the intensity of sun shards of Hyderabad, and not the manic murderous swelter of Delhi; but a benignly increasing temperature that is even capable of being ignored, albeit with near fatal results.

I was taken with the quality of the roads—wide, bereft of potholes and speedbreakers,; and the omnipresent greenery-leafy outgrowths and lush brambles line most terrain. I was told by sources that this pather panchali was hummed admirably by the Congress Government over the last three years. In fact, at no time did I feel that it was reeling under a space crunch, and I breathed easily.

Well, there are aberrations and significant ones at that, water is scarce although I did not come across water wars. This causes enterprising tykes to flood the city with water sachets- utilities that are used by princes and paupers alike ( Rs. 2, 300 ml, Bhartia is the bloke—for those into such). I was told that Nagpur had the most number of millionaires in India, but I did not run into any of them They are reticent and unassuming chaps, in these parts. Education is a problem area with most folks “migrating” to bigger and better cities—there are over twenty colleges and scores of schools but none really stand out. A sizeable number is employed with Public owned organization where I fear ennui might trump enthusiasm.

Trade is broadly divided into East & West Nagpur—parted by a sleek bridge. Of West Nagpur, I marched down Wardha Road, an elegant stretch smelling faintly of genteel wealth; visited Deonagar & Dhantoli, found Dharampet to be an upcoming yuppie kinda place, and also briefly saw Sadar and Chavni—those ubiquitous names that encompass so many lives and tales in Central India. I could not find the time to visit the Itwari wholesale market, putatively one that made Bombay feel capacious but did hot the Dawakhana, deemed the second largest medicine market in Asia. Ramdas Nagar was given a heave-ho and Mominpura gave me the creeps as once again I can only agonize over the insularity that we seem to be perpetrating and tacitly promulgating, well into the 21st century.

As it was too hot to notice pulchritude, I close with a remembered fondness at the Marwari meal at Haldiram’s where of course they are based. The restaurant was called Thath-Baath and seemed to me ,an oasis in a desert. After a strenuous session at work, I found it easy to forgive myself the indulgence of eating half a dozen bajra rotis marinated in desi ghee and eaten with jaggery, other assorted vegetable preparations and dals, and topped off with nine tall glasses of buttermilk ( The bearer gave me a grudging look of admiration at my bibulations and even refilled the glass after the bills had been settled ) . I think much better after meals. Culinary bliss !

Plan to do this again in winter !


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