Posts

Showing posts from January, 2011

DAY 123 – Chennai to Salem

Friends, The bags were repacked once again, hopefully for the last time before touching down in Cochin tomorrow. Rose, Avirappi’s wife, returned from Kerala just in time to give us a warm send off. After discussing alternate routes I decided to take the NH45/68 to Salem. As it panned out, the road from Ulundurpet to Salem was not good as work to four-lane the stretch is still on. Ajay assumed the role of the Navigator from Chennai. His skills settled any doubts I may have had about doing the journey all alone. If I had depended on such skills I may have ended up back in the North East! Mercifully he discarded the road map and made himself useful by sleeping after a while. The CONCOR terminal in Salem Market was a personal contribution and an immensely satisfying experience in project management. The terminal was given on a franchise to a leading client of CONCOR. The model was innovative and successful leading to it being cloned in some other terminals of CONCOR. Right from the first da…

DAY 122 – In Chennai

Friends, I was on track to complete my journey in Cochin on the 28th of January, as scheduled. The invitation from K. Allaudin IAS to attend his daughter’s wedding in Chennai changed my plans. I decided to extend the journey for 4 days and accommodate the function. Allaudin has been a dear friend from our days as probationers in the Academy in Mussoorie. Hailing from Tamil Nadu and having spent most of his student days there he had a tough time adjusting to the cold and chill of the Hill Station. I will never forget the ‘monkey cap’ which was the trademark of Allaudin in the Academy. After reaching Chennai I called up Allaudin to tell him that I will be at the venue by 11 am. He ‘ordered’ that I be there at 10. I had come to Chennai only for this and hence I readily agreed to meet him early to chat. I landed up at the venue with Abraham and Ajay and was immediately sucked up by the vast humanity that thronged the marriage venue. With strong connections of either parties to the political…

DAY 121 – Bangalore to Chennai

Friends, MC Tom was introduced to me by PG Thyagarajan in CONCOR. If first impressions were anything to go by I would have kept Tom as far away from me as I could have. But I am glad that I got to know this lovely human being; a bundle of energy and a storehouse of information on the Shipping and Logistics Industry. A person completely unafraid to recount his failures and losses, he has learnt his lessons from them all. Tom is a doting father and a loving husband. Tom and Lizi, the God-fearing couple, have provided an ideal home for their children. Before I started the journey Tom told me that they were moving into a new flat and wanted me to visit them when I was in Bangalore. Then he came down with a heart problem and was in a critical condition for a few weeks. I called him up on arrival in Bangalore. He suggested that I vacate the ORH and spend a night with them in the new flat. I did just that and enjoyed every minute I spend with Tom and Lizi that evening. The flat has been so ta…

DAY 120 – In Bangalore

Friends, RSP Reddy is the 23rd IRTS batch mate I met during the course of this fascinating journey. We were a batch of 42 who joined the IRTS following selection in the 1980 Civil Services Examination. Since the late 1950s such a large number in a batch was unique. However, in the next two years the number got trimmed to 34 following the resignation of 7 who joined the IAS and another who joined the IPS. A death, a resignation, a superannuation, 2 movements to PSUs and 4 Voluntary Retirements over the past nearly 30 years means 24 serving batch mates. I tried to meet as many as I could during the journey; I missed some due to poor information and a few due to non-availability in their HQs. I took particular care to meet the serving batch mates for I derived immense delight in thanking them for my daily bread – it is their labor and the sweat of their brows that put monthly pension in my bank account! RSP Reddy holds a unique position in the batch in that he resigned from the organisatio…

DAY 119 – In Bangalore

Friends, When I visited the Shan-e-Bhopal restaurant in Bhopal I found a framed reproduction of the landmark letter written by Okhil Chandra Sen to the Sahibganj Divisional Railway Office in 1909. The contents of the letter were as follows: “I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefore went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with ‘lotah’ in one hand and ‘dhoti’ in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on plateform. I am got leaved at Ahmedpur station. This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train five minutes for him. I am therefore pray for your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report to papers.” The letter revolutionized on board passenger facilities in that it led to the provision of toilets on trains. During my visit to the SWR HQ…

DAY 118 – Bellary to Bangalore

Friends, Tapping alternate energy sources is a must to optimize the use and allocation of scarce resources. At the same time it should also ensure that it does not engender waste of other ersources. I remember the heated debates we had in Hubli in 2003/4 at the time of setting up the facilities in the new ORH, where many of the Officers were resident. The Chief Electrical Engineer, Mr. Bajwa, swore by Solar Power to produce the hot water requirement in the ORH. He even harnessed it to meet his cooking needs. The arithmetic he produced in favor of energy saving carried the day and solar panels were installed in the ORH. The enormous waste of water before the Solar Power heated water flowed through the tap was considered inconsequential in comparison to the saving in the energy bill. What was not accounted for, deliberately I feel at times, is the cost to entire society by way of wastage of another precious resource, water. When I wanted hot water in the Hubli ORH yesterday all I got was…

DAY 117 – Hubli to Bellary

Friends, As I was completing my blog post for the day I got a call from Baskaran who wanted to meet me before I left for Bellary. He bounded into the ORH room with a packet in hand. My ‘Guru’, Amreetha, had sent a boxful of candles through her father to be given to me. It was overwhelming. By this time we were joined by Mohan Menon. He came to wish me luck for the rest of the journey and had also brought breakfast of dosa, ‘Kerala’ chutney and sambar. Last evening’s session resumed with a discussion on Baskaran’s affinity for and proficiency in Golf. He is as passionate a golfer as can be found, but with a difference. He claims that he can coach anyone, with the right intent, to play a decent game of Golf in 15 days. He narrated many examples of his coaching prowess. By the time we parted Mohan was quite inclined to wield the clubs under the guidance of Baskaran. Last evening, while taking a round of the Officers’ Colony with Baskaran and Mohan, the former showed us a tree with many nat…

DAY 116 – Vasco (Goa) to Hubli

Friends, The day started with a breakfast invitation. Bhanu P Tayal, MD KRCL, had evidently tried to contact me after I hit the sack last night. As he found no response to his telephone calls he sent me an SMS asking me to join him for breakfast in the KRCL GH in Madgaon, Goa. I responded in the affirmative as soon as I saw the message. This also meant that I opt for the NH63 to Hubli, which I was informed, is a better route than the one through Londa. While working as Chief Freight Transportation Manager of SWR I was also ex-officio Trustee of the MPT. The Board meetings used to be held almost every month and I took the opportunity to interact with the MPT officials as well as to inspect the Londa-Vasco section. Such visits also strengthened the network with customers. As ex-Trustee I settled the bills in the MPT GH at concessional tariff. I was in the KRCL GH ten minutes past the agreed upon hour of 8 am. I had informed BPT that I would not be able to stay for more than half an hour f…

DAY 115 – Rathnagiri to Panjim/Vasco (Goa)

Friends, Room No. 1 in the KRCL ORH in Ratnagiri is designated as the MD’s Camp. It is primarily meant for his stay while on tour and for his special guests.The room is comfortably fitted out and the service is excellent. Wherever I have stayed during the journey, except in accommodation provided by the Police in the North East (not the one with bars, of course!) and while staying with friends, I have insisted on being given a lock to secure the room when I move about. However, last evening when I was told that the GH staff will take care of the belongings when I am out for sightseeing, I agreed on the arrangement. I had asked for a cup of tea at 6 am and it arrived promptly a couple of minutes before the appointed hour. With the tea in hand I opened the door to the huge L-shaped balcony and was greeted by a jet of fresh, cool breeze. The ORH is surrounded on three sides by trees, which is dense in the North face. I luxuriated in the salubrious environment and watched the Sun rise in f…

DAY 114 – Mumbai to Ratnagiri

Friends, There is a standing joke in the Railways that the wife of a Railway Officer can stay without the husband but cannot without the Bungalow Peon. Besides the privileges of free travel, well located accommodation and excellent medical facilities the Officer and his family get used to the ubiquitous BP. With domestic help becoming scarce the value of the BP goes up. The BP is an extremely useful person to have around in the house, especially when the lady of the house is employed. She/He becomes a confirmed railway employee often after 3 years of ‘probation’. In a Railway the ‘duty list’ of BPs has been published, apparently to prevent ‘misuse’! When I was to leave the Railways the BP thankfully did not enter the equation as my family and I had, by then, got used to a life without one for 10 years. Girish had asked his BP to stay over so that I could be sent off with a cup of tea and breakfast. I insisted on having breakfast on the way and had a cup of tea after settling the luggag…

DAY 113 – In Mumbai

Friends, Prakash Tendulkar was a dear friend and colleague. I got to know him in Mussoorie, where we were probationers together and shared accommodation in Stapleton Hostel. He was a master at Yoga and gave demonstrations in the Academy. He was such an avid practitioner that he trained fellow probationers and the Academy accepted it as an alternative to the morning PT when we came to Railway Staff College. A very simple human being with an insatiable affinity for trekking and mountaineering he underwent a lot of physical and mental stresses to pursue them. I learnt with dismay that he had lost his life in a car accident in June 2007, while returning to Ratnagiri from a temple visit close to Mumbai. I have known his wife, who teaches in KG Somaiyya, since my days as a probationer. I have been to their house for a couple of meals. I vividly recall meeting him in April 2005 when I visited Mumbai with my family. He had come to the ORH and spent time with all of us. He always referred to me…

DAY 112 – In Mumbai

Friends, Waking up later than usual with a heavier than normal head, the pre-noon session was devoted largely to ‘recovery’. Girish’s brother, Madhu, and I chatted for a while on developments in the Insurance Sector and the scrips that should seriously be evaluated for good buys. A sumptuous breakfast and I was ready by noon to visit friends in the Railways. Mehboob Rab is a batch mate who is now posted in Western Railway as the Chief Claims Officer. He used to be an ace Bridge player while in the Railway Staff College, Vadodara. All his three children are well placed with the eldest daughter working as a Doctor in the Railways. A cup of tea and I was on my way to meet another batch mate RD Tripathi, Chief Passenger Transportation Manager WR. As it turned out, he was proceeding on leave for a month to ‘accommodate’ a colleague. This is a feature I have seen all over the Railways during my journey, with affected officers upset about the ‘coercive’ method employed by the ‘management’ to p…

DAY 111 – Aurangabad to Mumbai

Friends, Last evening Joe and Linu had brought me a Puran Poli, the local delicacy. I had ‘saved up’ a half of it for the morning. The Poli and a mouthful of water set my sights for the SH60 – Jhakre and Joe had coached me till I could have got to the highway blindfolded. The tolled SH60 is reasonably well maintained to negotiate it at decent speeds. The villages and small towns en route dampen the speed a bit. After Ahmednagar, which came within an hour of starting the trip from Aurangabad at 7.30 am, I stopped just as the ghat road began at a restaurant for breakfast. It was amply evident that they had not served a customer before I happened along. However, I was served a huge helping of Poha and a cup of tea. Even the ghat roads on SH60 are wide and well maintained. The undulating roads that have been cut through short hill faces are a fascinating drive. The sun’s rays falling on the jagged rocks provide an ideal background for adventure sport. I was scheduled to take the Express Hi…

DAY 110 – In Aurangabad

Friends, Jahkre had promised to come by 8.30 am to do the Ellora–Daulatabad round. To get ready in time I walked to the entrance arch of the railway station for a cup of ‘bed’ tea and to buy a couple of newspapers. While returning to the ORH I found the distances to Ellora and Ajanta mentioned on one of the walls of the old ORH. What arrested my attention was the notice that Ajanta Caves are closed on Mondays and Ellora on Tuesdays. And today being a Tuesday meant that the plans so meticulously laid out and rehearsed many times over the previous evening have to be surgically recast. Jahkre felt miserable telling me the ‘bad news’ of the Ellora holiday. He suggested that we do Ajanta instead and I agreed to it immediately. The Ajanta Caves are nearly 110 kms from the railway station and the road is passably good. We reached the ‘View Point’ in less than two hours. The magnificent location affords a panoramic view of the horse-shoe shaped caves, numbering 30, that overlook the Waghore Riv…

DAY 109 – Nagpur to Aurangabad

Friends, Aurangabad was not originally in the schedule for the journey. With the inclusion of Jabalpur in the itinerary I decided on Aurangabad as a break of journey point and also since my nephew is stationed here. However, when I was told that the trip to Aurangabad from Nagpur will consume all of 12 hours and that the roads are not so good, I permitted certain misgivings to take shelter in my mind. I wondered if it was a good idea to take the route and if I was putting additional stress on the car, which has so far been at its best behavior. Taking heed of the preparatory warnings I mentally prepared for 12 hours over pot holed roads as I set out close to 7 am from the Nagpur ORH. Within the city I lost my way a couple of times. That is how strong I am with navigation. But what the heck – I have travelled close to 20,000 kms this way and I have loved it. I must say one thing about seeking directions from people on the road – they are so forthcoming and helpful; you find people getti…

DAY 108 – Jabalpur to Nagpur

Friends, NH7 is the longest NH in India covering a distance of 2370 kms from Varanasi to Kanyakumari. It covers 6 States with AP (750kms), TN (630kms) and MP (500kms) logging more than 500 kms each. Considering my experience with the NH7 between Bangalore and Hyderabad I anticipated that the Jabalpur-Nagpur route would be a lovely drive. The anticipation was belied and so were the reports from acquaintances in Jabalpur. The Jabalpur to Nagpur road condition was much like the curate’s egg - good in parts. Of the 280kms just about half of it was NH standard. The rest of it was quite bad. The roads that wind through Teak plantations and the Pench Forest are scenic. With precise directions from SCJ I reached the SECR ORH in Nagpur by noon. SCJ had arranged a very comfortable room in the ORH. After lunch the Sr.DSO, Anoop Satpathi, deputed Niazi to show me around the city. Deeksh Bhoomi, the memorial where Baba Saheb Ambedkar renounced Hinduism and took the 22 vows to embrace Buddhism was th…

DAY 107 – In Jabalpur

Friends, Dr. Shirish and I agreed to meet after 7 am to visit the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat. Eager to be ready in time I woke up at when I thought it was 6 am. After I got ready I realized that I was an hour early even after being to the Railway Station for a cup of tea and the TOI. I informed Vijayee Ram later in the day that the absence of waste bins on Platform 1 forced people to throw them all over the place and requested him to suitably address this matter. Dr. Shirish arrived as appointed and the drive to Bhedaghat went by quickly discussing tehcircumstances that led to my taking VRS from the Railways. We stopped at the ghat to enjoy the Marble Rocks by boat. While mulling over the options before us to get the best boating deal we decided on some Poha, Jalebi and Tea. Dinesh Barman and his team gave us a glorious guided tour through the magnesium-limestone rock formations that look like marble. The River Narmada is the Holy River of MP, akin to the Ganges. There are many bathing …

DAY 106 – Bhopal to Jabalpur

Friends, With little time in Bhopal for the local sights I had planned to deviate from the Jabalpur route to visit the Bhojpur Temple, which is reported to have the tallest Lingam in the world, and the Bhimbetka Caves, which house prehistoric cave paintings that are believed to be as old as 12000 years. With these deviations in mind I left early and reached the vicinity of the Temple, where I was asked to park in an open ground. Vehicular restrictions were imposed anticipating heavy rush for the Makar Sankranthi worship. Since the people manning the parking area looked a bit dodgy and I was the lone visitor I decided to skip the visit. This brought me too early to the diversion for the Caves and I had to skip that too. While the initial part of the NH12 was just about okay, the road turned bad at Badi. The situation obtained thus till Jabalpur. The condition was extremely bad in some stretches. It was indeed a concern that when the SH18 was maintained beautifully, the NHs in MP are in …

DAY 105 – In Bhopal

Friends, The first born is VVS, very, very special. The delightful bundle that arrived in the afternoon of the 13th of January, 1986 in the St Philomena’s Hospital, Bangalore was truly special. She kept all of us waiting for 10 days more than when she was due. We decided to call her Maya, for that’s what we are told the whole world is, an illusion. She meant the world to Beena and me. As she turns 25 years today I wish her, with Beena and Ajay, all the best during the years ahead. Children branch off and make their own nests in good time. Maya has with her Kiron, in far away Botswana. We understand our parents through our own life. I trust that she will understand her father sometime through her own life. Hemendra Kumar is the Sr DOM of Bhopal Division. I fixed up to meet him in the office after the morning routines. I had wanted to get the Testimony of Visit from him and leave for a tour of the city. The interaction with this Engineering graduate from BITS PIlani lasted over an hour. H…