Made of steel, gilded with gold

Made of steel, gilded with gold

Jamshedpur, a growing fascination

Russi Mody Centre of Excellence
Though Jamshedpur has grown into a city, the small-town spirit of camaraderie still exists.

The city of Jamshedpur, which evolved around the Tata Iron and Steel Works, has been around for a century. Hard to believe it for a city that always seemed young at heart, even when I was growing up there, and also on a recent visit.

In the absence of direct flights to Jamshedpur, the usual practice is to opt for surface transportation, from Kolkata or Ranchi. My husband and I choose the famed train, the Steel City Express, which connects Kolkata and Tatanagar, the name of the city’s railway station. I do recall the excitement when the Steel City Express was first launched when I was a student. Everyone wanted to get on that fast train. Sitting on it, this time around, the train appears in need of a serious facelift though.

I am excited to find a Karnataka connection during my tour of the city. Dimna Lake, which is the place that every tourist is asked to visit, was set up by our very own engineering wizard, Vishveshwariah, to supply water to the city. The topography of Jamshedpur is such that pipes could be laid underground to meet its water needs. Only in case of an overflow is the dam opened up. However, I was also disappointed to find the place dumped with plastics; the fate of many tourist spots across the country.

A welcome addition

Growing up in Jamshedpur, Jubilee Park seemed the most exciting thing with its fountains that lit up with shifting fairy lights. It is only later when I visited the Brindavan Gardens that I realised what my most loved park had been modelled upon. The park has also changed a bit with a zoo added to it. A huge statue of the founder still smiles down benignly on all those who visit the park.

Another thrilling place for me is the Rivers’ Meet or Do Mohni, where the Khadkai and Subarnarekha rivers meet. It brings back memories of splashing at the shallow end, with which began my love affair with swimming. Today, the stretch past the rivers has a lit-up road called the Marine Drive. Seeing the Dalma Mountains looming over the city, it is time to reminisce about the picnics of yore.

But the new addition that is the most thrilling for me is the Russi Mody Centre of Excellence, which details the history of the founding fathers and their vision for the city. Ayanica, the young lady who shows me around, adds to the charm of the place with her enthusiasm as she takes me from one hall to another. There is a room dedicated to the founder, Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata, and another to his successor, JRD Tata. The many models, photographs, artefacts and the handwritten letters of the technocrats who built up Tata Steel and the city are fascinating to peruse, and one could spend half a day here. Even for an insider, a visit to the centre is a reinforcement of the humane philosophy and philanthropic ideals of the founders. Whatever else one may skip, this is a not-to-be-missed place.

More ICSE schools have been added in the city, and the women’s college that I went to is now going to be the only deemed Women’s University in that region. Derek O’ Brien is said to have remarked that he could never forget the name Jamshedpur and schools like the Sacred Heart Convent, Loyola, DBMS etc — the reason being the number of times they wound up being all-India champions at the one-time popular Bourn Vita TV quiz contest for school children. Derek should know as he was long-time quiz master there.

Priyanka Chopra, Madhavan and Imtiaz Ali are some of the Tinseltown celebrities with a link to the city. To my question to Imtiaz at a Lit Fest, his reply was, “Jamshedpur is the best city in the country to grow up in, on account of its cosmopolitan nature.”

The Tatas hired technocrats from across the country, so we grew up with a diverse crowd of friends and neighbours, though my father did not work for this group. Lovely quarters are available for the company’s employees at different levels and lives revolve around the various clubs, which are the hallmark of smaller townships. All forms of sports are accessible through these memberships, besides the weekend movie screenings, which turned many of us into film buffs.

Nerve centre

Like most small towns, this one also spans a radius of 10-12 km. One can never get lost as somewhere or the other all roads connect to the Bistupur Main Road. This could be Bengaluru’s MG Road but is nowhere near it, either in terms of the shops on display or the hustle and bustle, but one is certainly glad to be free of the traffic jams and signals that have beleaguered Bengaluru. The Main Gate of Tata Steel and the almost-heritage Boulevard Building (housing the iconic Boulevard Hotel, started by an adventurous Goan, John D’Costa) are also worth a sighting.

The most enchanting thing for me is that though Jamshedpur has grown into a city, the small-town spirit of camaraderie still exists. Someone just offers us his car to drive around in; a friend calls up the Centre for Excellence and provides me an opportunity to visit on a day that it is closed for visitors, because I missed out on the timings earlier. A bunch of friends get together and organise a party for a friend’s son because his father passed away just a couple of months before his wedding. In my mind, Jamshedpur, the Steel City, is one where people’s hearts are burnished with gold, just like it was with its founders.