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. He worked for a while with ABB before joining IRTS in 1998. Despite opportunities to travel abroad and work there he chose to serve Mother India. During the course of conversation he requested for my date of birth as numerology is one of his hobbies. He is deeply interested in the study of human behavior and psychology and recommended “The American Beauty” and “The Making of the American Quilt” as movies with a message. He made a few interesting observations after reading my palm. A man of many parts, such persons are a delight to interact with.
While waiting to meet Hemendra I met Rema, the Steno. She hails from Trichur and has been in Bhopal for over 25 years. She mentioned that most of the stenos in the railway office are from Kerala. Her own brothers and sisters-in-law are working in government offices in Bhopal. With such a large Keralite population she said she feels very much ‘at home’. There are many social organizations which facilitate regular interface among the Keralites in Bhopal.
The DB City Mall is among the biggest in Bhopal and offers a different shopping experience combined with entertainment and a wide choice of food stalls. Despite it being a working day the Mall was crowded, especially the food stalls. The Hypercity promotes value buys and its own brand of provisions. I found the prices quite reasonable given the ambience. I picked up some ready cooked chicken for dinner. The Chole Bhature i ordered for lunch was good and so was the Chikoo juice.
Hemendra deputed Om Prakash Pathak to accompany me to the Lake. What Pathak did was to use the available time optimally. Naturally the first visit was to the Upper Lake. The view of old Bhopal, the VIP road and the Mazhar on an Island in the Lake are sights to behold. The Bhopal Zoo is different in that one can drive through the zoo and watch animals in as close to its natural habitat as possible, albeit in an enclosed environment. While I had to be content with pug marks in Sunderbans and Corbett NP, and not even that in Kaziranga, I was fortunate to see three Royal Bengal Tigers here. Large numbers of migratory birds have made temporary homes on trees in the Zoo. What was interesting to note is that each variety had a separate tree; no two variety of birds could be found on the same tree – mohallas among birds? By the time we finished with the Zoo it was too late for the Museum of Man. The restaurant of MP Tourism near the Lake offers panoramic sunset views of the Lake and its surrounding from an elevation. The pink minarets with white domes of the Taj-ul-Masjid dwarf all other structures viewed from the restaurant. The Shan-e-Bhopal railway coach restaurant is unique and is the brainchild of Mr. Lohani, the then MD of MP Tourism and presently the DRM of Delhi Division. A passenger coach has been renovated and stationed in the ITDC Hotel. Inside the coach one gets a feel of being inside a moving train. There are many nuggets about the railways on the plaques displayed in the coach, both facts and jokes. For those who want an outdoor experience there are tables on the ‘platform’. The Jehan Numa Hotel is an erstwhile 19th century royal residence. The Hotel has displayed many priceless photographs on its walls which reinforces the importance of Bhopal in the British scheme of things. The passion with which Pathak conducted me around made me feel I should have had an extra day in Bhopal.