Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Konkon Reise - Netravati to Sabarmati: Part VI - Vadodara, India’s Chemical Capital

I reached Vadodara early in the morning. It’s was dark outside; so I went to second class rest room and sat there for some time. Here I met Shiva. He was on his way to Delhi to write UGC GATE exam and then to UP to celebrate his birthday with parents. He was sitting in a chair next to me and was quite restless. Later I came to know that, his ticket to Delhi was still in waiting list. So for rest of the night we talked and in between checked the status of his train ticket.
I had one full day in Vadodara. My plan was to see Laxmi Vilas Palace first, Fateh Singh Museum and then to simply roam around the city. The problem was, Palace wouldn’t open before 10 or 10.30.
Anyway, it was better to roam around rather than simply sitting in the steel chairs of Railway station. Hence I went to clock room, unloaded all luggage (except camera bag) and then went outside with Shiva to have some breakfast. By the way he was quite unwilling to use the clock room facilities and carried all bags, which later proved to be a bad choice.
We went to the make shift stalls located outside the station and had some pakoda and tea. Now it’s time to go to the palace. Unfortunately, we missed the bus stop and got down at a different gate. So we had to walk back towards palace’s main gate. Sun was in his early innings and was not fully in form, so the fog stayed in the air for a while. As there nothing much to do, we sat in the benches placed in road sides. Road, its side and the benches were very much neat and clean. We killed the time by talking about quite a lot of things.
I think helmets are not compulsory in Baroda. Most of riders were not wearing that.
Vadodara is the third largest city in Gujarat, after Ahmadabad and Surat. In the beginning of the millennia, Guptas established control over the region. Later it was taken over by Chalukyas. Then Solankis gained power and established their dynasty.
During the rise of Delhi Sultanates like many other places, this region also came under the tight grip of Sultanates. After the fall of Sultanates this region was conquered by Mughals.
When power tilted in favour of Marathas, Gaekwads got this area and Baroda became their capital. In those days, Gaekwads were under Pune’s control. However ‘Third Anglo-Maratha War’ changed the equation and Pune’s control over Gaekwad’s weakened considerably. Then onward till India’s independence Baroda remained as princely state.
Lakshmi Vilas Palace
Finally it was time to enter Lakshmi Vilas Palace. Entry fee was 170 INR and photography was prohibited inside. Shiva was not ready to spend 170INR just for seeing a palace. So he told bye and left for station.
Palace was big and beautiful; there was a working golf course located next to it. From front room audio guide was available. For next two and half hours, I spend my time in that building.
Main attractions in the palace were armoury (guns, knifes, spears, poisoned swords, chakras etc), throne room (some of Ravi Varma pics are displayed here), elephant hall, banquet hall) etc.
Fateh Singh Museum
This museum is located in the palace complex itself. However we need to go through a different gate. Entry fee was 60INR and another 30 INR for audio guide. By the way, this museum hosts a lot Raja Ravi Varma paintings. I spend quite a lot of time in front of Raja Ravi Varma’s works; original and copy of many other artists.
Ranji Match
Cricket ground is located beside the museum. On that day ‘Vadodara Vs Mumbai’ Ranji match was going on in that stadium. Unfortunately, common people can’t go through the gate located next to museum; hence I had to take a long path to reach the other side of the ground. There were not much viewers, some were standing here and there. A small group was near to fence and shouting. I was a bit tired and sat on the grass and watched the match till the end.
By the way, Irfan Pathan was fielding at that end.
After the match I took a shared auto to railway station. Next destination was Ahmadabad. Soon Ahmadabad Double Decker train came. I heard about the introduction of double decker trains in some routes. However, it was the first time I was travelling in it.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

When fakes rules the market

Everyone knows that, there are numerous fake LPG, PDS and God knows what else connections exists in India. It’s an open secret; after all how many doors are there in India which can’t be opened using money? What is shocking is the fact that, one in every 14 LPG connections is fake!!!

As per BS report, "direct transfer of cooking-gas subsidies has revealed 12.73 million “duplicate” connections". UP tops the list with 1.87 mn multiple connections, followed by Maharashtra at 1.35 mn and Assam at 0.99 mn.

I don't think fakes are limited to 1 in 14; it might be more. If government comes with another scheme, more fakes will be flushed out of the system. But the irony is, even at the time of speaking, many more fakes might be finding its way in to the system and enjoying subsidies.

These schemes might occasionally flush out some unwanted growth, but, as long as we are not eliminating the reason - the very people who granted connections - and put in checks and balances, we will be hearing many more horrific stories in coming days.

Another scheme where government has to pitch in is MGNREGA. This scheme may look good in paper, but on the ground its implementation is poor and lacks accountability. It’s better to say nothing about auditing!!!



Saturday, March 28, 2015

A statue at Sea? For whom?

Maharashtra "has proposed an elaborate security arrangement for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj memorial in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai, including a system that will keep it invisible on radars, bunkers and an independent security unit, including the National Security Guard ( NSG)".

And this 190 feet statue is going to cost 1,900 crore!!!

Do the state really need such a statue; that also at sea? When people don't have enough toilets for sanitation and pure water to drink, how the state government could even think of taking such a decision?


1. Z++ security for Rs 1,900 crore Shivaji statue - TOI

Monday, March 16, 2015

Konkon Reise - Netravati to Sabarmati: Part V - Mumbai, The Maximum City (Day 3 & 4)

As I wrote earlier, I wanted to visit BSE on a working day. So I walked from CST and reached BSE building. To my disappointment, there was hardly any chaos or scenes like traders running around in hurry. Calm and quiet building; surroundings were equally calm. Only difference on that working day was, BSE was open, and employees - wearing their tags - were frequently coming in and out.
After spending some time there, I walked towards ‘Gateway of India’ to catch a boat to Elephanta. Ticket cost was 160 INR. By the way, Elephanta Island is located some 10km away from Gateway. I boarded a boat and slowly started our journey towards the caves.
It was an interesting journey through Arabian Sea. Apart from being the biggest city of India, Mumbai also have one of the biggest harbors in India. On both sides, there were ships waiting to enter the harbor; oil tankers emptying out their stomach to big oil storage tanks located at Butcher Island.
After a while the journey becomes monotonous. This lasted till we reach somewhat close to the island. From there onward birds joined us till Island’s jetty. There is a toy train running from the jetty till the steps (ticket - 10 INR). From here one has to climb a lot of steps to reach the entrance to the caves. Vendors selling souvenirs are located on both sides of the steps.
Finally I climbed last of those steps and reached in front of the white board indicating ‘Elephanta Caves’, a designated UNESCO world heritage site.
History of Elephanta (aka Gharapuri in Marathi)
The debate is still on the question of who built the caves at Elephanta. It can be Konkan Mauryas, Kalacuris, Chalukyas or Rashtrkutas.
The Portuguese named the island "Elephanta Island" in honour of a huge rock-cut black stone statue of an elephant that was then installed on a mound, a short distance east of Gharapuri village. The elephant now sits in the Jijamata Udyaan zoo in Mumbai” - Wikipedia
Many accuse Portuguese as the main culprits for the destruction of these caves - “Portuguese soldiers used the reliefs of Shiva in the main cave for target practice, sparing only the Trimurti sculpture. They also removed an inscription related to the creation of the caves.” - Wikipedia.
Apart from first cave, there were hardly any statues/carvings or rock works on other caves. After spending some time on first cave; I just checked other nearby caves, but skipped caves on other side of the hill (there were some renovation work going on there.
I was so hungry that, I had a veg biriyani from a hotel located in the island. That was one of the worst Veg biriyani I ever had; and I believe that, it was the reason behind by stomach sickness started from next day.
Naval Area
While coming back to Gateway, one can get a good view of naval area. A number of naval ships were docked there. One is not allowed to point their camera in that direction and take photographs!!!
Vile Parle
On the way back, I met a couple of localites who was standing on a queue to board a boat to Alibagh. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time left; hence I politely declined the offer and went back to CST. Probably on another day…
There wasn’t any plan for the afternoon. So I thought of having some good street food. After going through some food related articles, finally decided to try street foods along western line, starting from Vile Parle. Needless to say, Vada Pav from there was really tasty.
Mumbai Monorail
After trying metro, I decided to try monorail as well. At the time of writing this article Mumbai monorail is operating from Ghatkopper to Wadala. A skywalk from Ghatkopper station took me to Monorail station. This is a combination of Metro and Mumbai local. A journey through excellent air conditioned coaches at local’s ticket rate. I believe that, constructed and operated by government agency, this is going to become another white elephant. At this ticket rate, Monorail may never breakeven or generate profits.
Last stop for Mono rail was at ‘Wadala Road’ and I got down there. Security guards at station told me that, GTB station is closer than Wadala. I walked and walked, but GTB was nowhere in sight.
This is a big problem in Mumbai (and later in Gujarat as well). People often say a place is very close and I start walking, only to discover later that the destination is quite far away. So whenever someone tells you that a place is close, never rely on that info!!! Check in maps and board some bus or hire a taxi!!!
Finally I reached GTB station and boarded next train to Seawoods.
Next day, veg biriyani - from Elephanta - showed her real face I wasn’t able to wake up properly form bed.
That was my last day in Mumbai. For all those days I was staying at Ammu Chechi’s home with Ammu chechi, Setuettan and Saju. As a matter of fact, I was seeing them after a very long time. All those moments were really great and enjoyable. Without their help the journey would never have been so easy and comfortable.
To Vadodara
Setuettan came all the way to Seawood Station to drop me. From there I went to Kurla Station, and then in an auto to Bandra Terminus through ‘Bandra Kurla Complex’. It was a place I wanted to visit for a long time. In that night, I was able to see the board of NSE building along with so many other famous names in the industry.
I reached Bandra Terminus just on time; therefore I had to run through platforms and tracks to reach Avadh express. Fortunately, I was able to make it.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Supreme Court should discontinue one and half month Summer Vacation

Can anyone tell me why Supreme Court of India (SC) requires a one and half month summer vacation – half of May and full of June?