The people in the neighbourhood of Jail Road to Dabagardens have several tales to tell about development and meteoric rise of the residential township and the then narrow and insignificant road leading to Dabagardens. The oldest landmarks of the once residential locality include the LIC building complex, Central Jail, Posts and Telegraphs quarters, Kamala Nehru Girls High School building, Prema Samajam, Amrutha Restaurant and the Income Tax Department.

Of the nearly 40-year-old landmarks, the Central Jail and Girls High School building have disappeared. The oldest educational institutions were Annapoorna Tutorial College, Girls High School, Prema Samajam School, MGM High School and Bharath Tutorial College. Andhra Stationery Book Depot operating since 40 years is still located at the same place.

V.Lalitha a resident of Dabagardens since 1970s, recalls the wonderful days as a student in A.T. College which was known for its good studies, English speaking and discipline. The lanes in Dabagardens were very narrow and the whole area looked like a sub-urban village. The noted hotels were May Fair Hotel, Ooty Hotel and Welcome Restaurant. Noted photographer Rajgopal had his studio on the main road.

LIC building which came up in the 1970s was the tallest structure in the entire city. When the building was under construction the general public used to visit the site to see the rising tower as a wonder of the town. The building in the 1970s and 80s resembled a lighthouse which was visible from all four corners of the city. Dabagardens those days had mostly independent houses with only ground floor accommodation.

Kondala Rao, one time resident of Lalithanagar in Dabagardens, recalled that the main road was so narrow that if a bus passed the road, two wheelers had to wait by the side. The only giant vehicle that would pass the road was the public transport bus No 13 and 31 operated by private transport agents. The roads used to be full of cycles and rickshaws and a few scooters. Very few people had Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle (350cc) and those who rode the motorcycle were considered elite class. Sreenivas recalls that the culture of those days was different from today. “There were no roadside eateries then as we have now. People loved to sit in restaurants and pass time sipping coffee or tea discussing politics or events of the day,” he says.

Satya Bai, one time teacher of Prema Samajam High School, says the samaj has been caring for orphans, destitute, leprosy victims and people in old age since 1960s. It had been a beacon of light and hope for many hopeless and the uncared for. The Institution is the most famous landmark of Dabagardens.

Somayajulu talking of real estate values in 1970 in Dabagardens says one square yard of land was a mere 25 paise. Today it is more than Rs.10,000 per square yard. People who casually bought land those days have become multi-millionaires today.

The old Dabagardens faded into history. All the independent buildings are replaced with high rise commercial complexes. The road is widened and spacious but narrowed once again by the city vehicular traffic which had grown in leaps and bounds. Most of the houses in the lanes in the area were purchased and occupied by commercial and business agencies. Saraswati, Leela Mahal and Jyothi theatres witnessed the transformation caused by time and tide.

Leela Mahal used to screen good English films and the elite of the day was the daily audience for the films. People those days felt elevated to tell someone that they had been to Leela Mahal. It is the oldest English films screening theatre.Very few old residents of Dabagardens are there to tell the story of extinction of once beautiful and serene residential area with pristine beauty. Vidyasagar says roads are in a bad in shape lanes and by-lanes of Dabagardens. Not much development had taken place in the areas inhabited by the economically weaker sections. There are no parks at all except the small one in Lalithanagar.

Most of the local people wanted the GVMC to develop the proposed ‘Central Park’ at the Old Jail premises with facilities like boat riding, swimming pool, rope way and water world for children especially instead of merely developing greenery. A world class park should be developed.

More In: Visakhapatnam