Today’s Anand is no longer a sleepy overgrown village that it was when I first landed here on 23rd July 1969 to join NDDB as Apprentice Executive. Although I had visited Anand twice before- for the first time as a student of agriculture on a college tour in 1964 which was essentially a day trip, and for the second time on 8th July 1969, for a job interview with NDDB, this third trip was with a difference. Since on the second trip, I stayed with a friend of mine in the PG hostel of Agriculture College, I had no idea in what sort of a place I was going to end up when I landed here post getting my appointment letter.
Now that I have spent nearly 50 years of my life in Anand, I often wonder what made me stay here for so long. Frankly, I had not expected an offer from NDDB as I was pitted against 3 gold medalists from well known universities for the position of Apprentice Executive in economics. My second class degree from a new and relatively unknown “Udaipur University”, hardly gave me a chance and therefore it never occurred to me to check anything about Anand- from housing to food. So, although I got selected and went through medical tests late in the evening, I left for my home town, the beautiful city of Udaipur very next morning without even thinking that I will soon return for a longer stay in an unknown town.
NDDB Anand then (1968 )
For those who now come to Anand to take up well paid jobs offered by a number of institutions in and around Anand, today’s Anand is a dream place. It has everything-nice hotels, multi-cuisine restaurants, new age cinemas, clubs, modern multi speciality hospitals, quality English medium schools, at least 5 universities, shopping malls that look like straight out of a western country, show rooms of all major clothing brands, around 50 gyms and a buzzing life on wide well lighted but over crowded one-way roads, show rooms of every major auto maker, new gated residential communities, and a student population of approximately 50,000 youngsters. This has given the small compact twin towns of Anand-Vidhyanagar, spread over a radius of five kilometers, a mini metro feel. It’s logical extension of course is Karamsad, the birth place of the Ironman of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Compare this with Anand of late ‘60s. Anand city limits began with the railway colony on the east, ended with the town-hall on the west. On the southern side, the deserted road from Ganesh chowkdi to Borsad chowkdi marked the town boundary while the northern boundary was marked by Bhalej Road. And even this was not so densely populated. Almost entire area between Salvation Army hospital-Krishna society area to Anand-Khambat railway line was agricultural land and so was the entire area on both sides of the road leading from Town Hall to Vidhya nagar. Motikaka’s chali being the landmark indicating the starting point of Vallabh Vidhyanagar, the hub of education in Kheda district.
Anand-Sojitra road between Borsad Chowkdi and Vitthalbhai Patel statue circle at Vitthal Udhyog Nagar-vidhyanagar junction had more traffic as a number of small industries dotted on both sides of the road. Two prominent industries with large campuses were Elecon and Vallabh Glass. The later-Vallabh Glass boasted of its own residential campus with sports facilities-a cricket ground and a tennis court.
NDBB Anand now
Picture taken from website of NDDB Anand
Now let me take you back to the time I arrived here to get an idea of what “life” in Anand was. I landed here on a rainy evening on 23rd July 1969. I was interviewed on 8th July, reached Udaipur on 9th July and the appointment letter virtually followed me and reached on 10th July. That indeed was very fast considering how slow the postal services then were. I had less than two weeks to wind up, get out of ‘student mode’ and prepare for a new life that was to follow.
It was almost dark when I reached here after eight hours of bus journey and started looking for transport to take me to a hotel-sorry, a place to park myself. I came out of the bus stand which was right opposite the railway station, and looked for a horse carriage. By the way, there were no auto rickshaws and only 4 horse carriages as public transport in Anand and, they could be hired only from the railway station. I hired a carriage to load my precious belongings- a steel trunk and a hold-all. It was raining so I wanted to reach a safe place as early as possible.
Johnny, the carriage man took me to the nearest place-Pathikashram, bang opposite the railway station. I checked for a room but no luck. He then took me to another place ‘Anand Bhavan Lodge’ on station road not far from the railway station, but as the luck would have been, there was no room there either.
Johnny then took me to a third and the last place where there was a slight chance of getting a room. This was ‘Patel Guest House’ on ‘Tunka Rasta’ and warned me that if I did not get a room here, he would drop me back at the railway station, where I could spend the night and look for some accommodation next morning in Pathikashram.
His ultimatum was horrifying. I was hungry and tired after a long journey. I badly needed a bath, a change and something to eat. Apprehensively I entered the Patel Guest House and asked if they had a room.
“We have only one single room, charges- Rs 10 per day, toilets and bathrooms are at the end corner from the room”, came the reply. This worked like a magic charm, I booked the room, paid a two day advance, off loaded my belongings, paid and thanked Johnny and hurriedly occupied the room. I was so scared that if I don’t act fast and if someone comes looking for room, I will loose the only roof over my head. Johnny’s warning had surely started to ring in my head.
After a quick freshening session, I went out looking for something to eat. Since it was still raining and I couldn’t find anything in the vicinity, I returned to the room empty stomach and crashed.
Next morning I was in a deep thought. “Was I a fool to reject not one but two offers of lectureship-one each in Economics and Dairy Science, in my home town at double the salary of what I was to get as stipend in Anand? Did I act wisely in choosing to work for NDDB that did not even promise a job on completion of one year of apprenticeship?”.
I had no answers. I decided to grab some breakfast. I thought a two egg omelette would see me through the day, so as advised, I went to the railway refreshment room. I ordered a two egg omelette and the response was shocking, “we don’t serve egg omelette, we only have tomato omelette”.
“ what is that”, I asked.
“Made of gram flour and chopped tomatoes”. I had to obviously leave the refreshment room without eating anything. By this time I had developed a severe headache. My head was about to explode.
I explored nearby places to find something to eat. Gopal restaurant outside Anand railway station was another most popular place but I couldn’t find anything that my taste buds could relate too. Finally, someone directed me to the Amul shop at the corner of Tunka Rasta where I could pick a bottle of pasteurised milk. He also advised me to buy some bananas from “Kela Bazaar”, the most prominent fruit shop on station road.
I did that, 4 Bananas and two bottles of milk and then headed to the Vyas medical store nearby and asked for “Aspro”. “Show me the prescription”, the shop keeper asked.
“ I don’t have. It is just a strip of Aspro after all. Why do you need a prescription for it”, I asked.
“No prescription, no medicine”, he turned and went inside the shop.
I tried three other medical stores nearby with the same result. I finally ended at Varma Medical store and asked him if he could sell me a strip of Aspro. He too asked me for a prescription. At this I turned and started to walk away.
The shop keeper, his name was Mr. Kanhaiya Lal Varma called me back and asked me, “are you new to Anand”. “Yes”, I said. “I came last night and I am on may way to Amul dairy to join NDDB”.
“Where are you from?”, he asked. “Udaipur, Rajasthan”, I replied.
He didn’t know what NDDB was but he smiled and handed me a strip of much needed Aspro. “If you need any help, do not hesitate to contact me”, he added and wished me luck. I guess my conversation with him in Hindi bailed me out.
By this time, I had made up my mind. If I don’t get a place to stay in next two days, I am heading back to Udaipur and take one of the two university teaching offers.
This was on 24th of July 1969. At 10 am, I reached office and reported to Dr. Aneja. I gave my joining report and started inquiring with Shailendra and others about getting a room on rent near the office.
The real ordeal was to begin now. No one was willing to rent out a room to a non Gujarati bachelor. Their polite way to say NO included asking exorbitant rent for a small detached windowless basement room. I had only two days in which I had to find a place and thanks to Shailendra, on the second day, he got me a 10×10 feet room in Krishna niwas opposite Amul main office building on a monthly all inclusive rent of Rs 50. I finally had a place to stay but food continued to be a big challenge. Amul’s workers canteen was the only option and after eating there for two days, I felt that the next meal there would be my last in this life.
Anyway, days passed. We made arrangements to have ‘lunch’ at the counter of a general store opposite Amul. The owner, Chandubhai was kind enough to get us a fresh loaf of Modern bread daily from Baroda, we got some butter chiplets from his store, applied butter and some pickle on slices (we bought a pickle bottle from him and kept in his store), made a sandwich and washed it down with a bottle of Coke. For dinner, we has roasted corn cobs, bananas and Coke. It lasted this way for a good three months.
Barely a couple of weeks after I joined, on a Sunday evening while strolling on the Amul Dairy Road (the only traffic on this road in those days used to be milk procurement trucks and that too within the procurement time window) Dr. Aneja asked me,
“How do you like Anand?”
“It is an awkwardly named awful bloody place” I answered. My answer must have shocked him but I didn’t care.
But if someone asked me the same question today, after spending half a century in Anand, my answer would be very different.