Destination Travel

Jamshedpur: One hundred years of fortitude

One hundred years of fortitude A view of the steel plant and the landscape surrounding the town

One hundred years of fortitude A view of the steel plant and the landscape surrounding the town  

Scraps from the steel plant adorn the streets, wide tree-lined avenues invite you for a walk; marketplaces with small shops and tiled rooftops take you back in time, and large bungalows with beautiful lawns make you want to retire in them. Jamshedpur is a town made of dreams. And so, even though we have just landed here, we are so enamoured by its charm that we are already out and about. Our first stop, presumably, is the world-famous Tata Steel factory.

“It is unusual to see a factory in the middle of the town. But, since the entire town was set up because of the steel factory, it makes sense that the factory sits in its centre,” says Sudip Das, a resident out on his morning walk. We nod in agreement, even as we gape at its scale in awe. A little distance away is another place pivotal to the town — Jubilee Park. A tall statue of Jamsetji Tata overlooks the 237-acre garden that he had lovingly set up for his people. Interjected with lakes, jogging tracks, children’s parks, and even a zoo, it was designed by Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel (who also landscaped Bangalore) on the lines of Mysore’s Brindavan Gardens. The park, I am told, is decorated like a bride on March 3 every year, to celebrate the birthday of its founder Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. Incidentally, the day is also celebrated as Jamshedpur’s foundation day.

Tatanagar, as the town is aptly called, is a haven for a design aficionado. Its colonial buildings with clean lines, open spaces, and minimalistic design are lessons in architecture. Interestingly, some of these were designed by Ratan Tata himself, much before he took over the reins of the empire.

The affinity for design is reflected not only in its bungalows and tree-lined avenues, but also in its public institutions. The Russi Modi Centre of Excellence with romanesque columns and Egyptian pyramids is one such place, as is the bison horn-shaped Tribal Cultural Center. The GPO, Regal Cinema, D’Costa Mansion, meanwhile, display a deep Victorian influence on the Steel City. Design, however, is not limited to public spaces in Jamshedpur. A walk along the residential areas highlights how even the most basic houses here are made with care. Public spaces, parks, stadiums, playgrounds, marketplaces, all find a place in every neighbourhood.

“If you like Nature, you will love our town; if you don’t, it will make you fall in love with Nature.” We are now at the banks of the Subarnarekha, the river that surrounds Jamshedpur, and Krishna Dey, a housewife, is showing us around. From where we stand, I see hills and jungles beyond the river, a lone boy is swimming across and locals are helping themselves into a boat. “The ticket is only one rupee, do you want to go across?” Dey asks me. I choose to stay this side and explore the town some more.

To go with AFP Story by Adam PLOWRIGHT (FILES) This photograph taken on January 30 2007, shows a general view of an illuminated Tata Steel plant in Jamshedpur. India's environment ministry, run by the oil and gas minister since late December 2013, has issued approvals for projects worth USD 40 billion in the last eight weeks in a pre-election bonanza that has alarmed green campaigners, February 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FILES

To go with AFP Story by Adam PLOWRIGHT (FILES) This photograph taken on January 30 2007, shows a general view of an illuminated Tata Steel plant in Jamshedpur. India's environment ministry, run by the oil and gas minister since late December 2013, has issued approvals for projects worth USD 40 billion in the last eight weeks in a pre-election bonanza that has alarmed green campaigners, February 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FILES  

You can tell a lot about a place by its markets. We are now in the oldest and the most populous bazaar of the town, Sakchi. Colourful, crowded, and noisy, the place is like any small town bazaar. Rows of food carts line the square; vendors peddle their wares. The small shops, old-fashioned things, and simple people transport me to my childhood, but am brought back by the shrill noises made by the clanking of the dosa man’s griddle.

Food is everywhere in Jamshedpur: in every market, on every street, along the shady boulevards, and of course, in fancy restaurants. Being a cosmopolitan place, the influences on its food are diverse and varied, and not restricted to Indian cuisine only. “In the initial years, the town was full of Europeans. There were Germans, English, Americans, and they needed their kind of food. That is when the bakeries in Dhatkidi opened,” a stranger at Howrah Bakery tells me. Set up by Abdul Hamid Midda in the 1930s, Howrah Bakery still caters to the town’s requirement of cakes and cookies. The variety and the prices make me want to buy everything, but I make do with a few plum cakes.

With sun down, the horizon has come alive with the crimson hue of the burning slag in the factory. The streets glow in the golden light of lamps. Locals congregate at their favourite food stalls and students throng ice-cream parlours. Walking along the main avenue, Bishtupur, I come face-to-face with the unadulterated charm of window-shopping in a small town. Small shops, still untouched by commercialisation, line the avenue. Swank cars parked alongside tell you that it is not the dearth of money but the appreciation of simplicity that keeps the place thus.

As I walk back on the glittering road, I am reminded of Tata’s brief to the architect of Jamshedpur. “Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick-growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens; reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks.” When he had said these words, 110 years ago, he would not have thought that his town would remain unparalleled even a century later.

On the wings of a dream: On February 10, 1929, JRD Tata obtained the first pilot licence issued in India. He later came to be known as the father of Indian civil aviation.

Off the radar

* Jamshedpur stands inconspicuously in a remote corner of the country and is home to XLRI, the famed school of management.

* Surrounded by dense forests, overflowing rivulets, fluorescent fields, and fierce Naxals, it is nothing like a regular tourist destination, and therein lies its charm.

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Printable version | Sep 15, 2020 4:20:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/on-its-birthday-month-a-walk-through-jamshedpur-the-charming-city-with-a-heart-of-steel/article23310672.ece

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