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 the first on the list. The vows taken by the gathering on the 10th of October 1956 is considered to be the largest religious conversion in the world. The meditation hall has a few photographs of Baba Saheb in various meetings and events. The most prominent are the ones concerning the October 1956 function.
I had first visited the Orange City in December 1979, when I was a student in St Stephen’s College, Delhi. My God Father, ZV George, who worked with Hindustan Petroleum was posted then in Nagpur. I remember having a wonderful time cycling through the streets of Nagpur with my cousins, playing cricket, tennis and table tennis. When I drove through Nagpur city today I could appreciate the changes that have given Nagpur a modern look - the streets have become wide, four lane in most places, flyovers, signals that work, new residential and commercial complexes, etc. All the erstwhile landmarks looked different in some way – the railway station, Ravi Bhavan, CMs house, the Vidhan Sabha, the Zoo and Park, etc. The only landmarks that remain almost unchanged are the Medical and Dental Colleges; it had the stamps of ‘Government’ and ‘neglect’ all over it.
Anoop came over to the ORH and we had a very good interaction. He was very active in Student Politics during his college days and held very high positions in the National firmament, including that of National president of NSUI. Bowing to his parents’ wishes to change his professional pursuit he took the Civil Service Exams and joined IRTS in 1993. Despite having experienced a lot of harassment and ‘victimisation’ Anoop remains cheerful and hopeful. Instead of leveraging the strengths of such bright officers the ‘system’ tries to mute their initiative and label them as deviants. Thanks to Anoop I was able to get in touch with a long lost friend, MAK Swain, who was a BJP MP from Orissa for 10 years. He has now floated his own party, Utkal Bharat, and is presently involved in building up the party in his home State.