Our master storyteller of the days of the yore, RK Nagar, described his arrival in Anand in 1969 to join the National Dairy Development Board.
In this episode he shares real life events of our lives while shifting the NDDB Office from third floor of Administration Building in Amul Dairy Campus to the newly built NDDB campus in 1970. We all were then young and very excited to move to the newly built NDDB Campus not realising that shifting also involved moving our household belongings, making fresh arrangements to get food, and above all get used to live in a more disciplined way and to learn to rewire our routine life.
Thank you Nagar for reigniting my memory of those days through your narrative.
On the third day of my landing in Anand, I found accommodation bang opposite Amul’s main administration building. NDDB occupied the entire third floor of which the northern side was occupied by the MMD. The south side of the floor was occupied by the engineering, accounts and administration.
Krishna is to be found everywhere and I found Krishna Nivas in Anand
Since my rented house, I mean a room Krishna Nivas was very close to office – it took barely 3 minutes to reach my work table, it suited the late riser in me. Sleep late, get up late, get ready quickly and still be in time in office. That was cool, isn’t it?
Initially life in Anand meant office and hunting for food, occasional movie in shabby theatres and aimless walks on virtually empty Amul Dairy Road. Once in a while, we crossed railway crossing and went a little further up to Ganesh chowkdi.
It was at this time during one of these aimless walks on Amul Dairy Road that we had a chance meeting with a technical officer of Amul, Khedkar. He was also the secretary of Amul sports club. He knew that we were some young recruits in NDDB.
He after introducing himself asked us “do you play badminton”. “Yes, we do play, but there is no place in Anand where we can play”, I replied. “Come and play with us in Amul club. We play every evening but there aren’t enough players”.
That was unbelievable. I was so overjoyed that my eyes nearly popped out. “But where in Anand can we buy a racket?” I asked.“Anand’s only sports shop is near Juna Dadar. The shop is on the first floor”. By the way, Juna Dadar is ahead of Anand railway station where the road turns towards Laxmi cinema.
We were in no mood to miss this ‘god sent’ opportunity and headed straight to the sports shop. It was late evening and the shop was about to close. We were just in time to make the purchase, rackets and a box of shuttle cocks.
We were getting impatient the next day and jumped out of our seats as soon as office got over, rushed home, had a quick wash, picked the sports gear and headed straight to The badminton court. For me, it was a chance that I got after a very long time so I wanted to make the best of it and played till everyone else called it a day. Wow, finally it felt as though there can be a brighter side to life in Anand-the awkwardly named awful bloody place.
Although housing and recreation was taken care of, food continued to be an issue. Corn-banana-Coke dinner was getting to a point of utter saturation. Mercifully at this very point Khedkar again came to our rescue. He helped us get a cook-Raoji Thakore who had just lost his job because his employer-another Amul employee quit Amul and left Anand.
Now we were feeling all elated. We has all three essentials under our belt- house, home cooked food and recreation.
Anand was getting to feel liveable.
But then good things and times don’t last long. We soon lost our informal membership of Amul sports club. Someone felt that we had monopolised the club and barely a month after starting to play there, Khedkar, with a heavy heart gave us the bad news.
So, now we’re left with house, cook, sports gear but no place to play. Mercifully we had Raoji , who was willing to clean up the open ground in front of Manibhuvan, the place where Shailendra used to stay. With Raoji’s arrival it had also turned into our mess cum ‘adda’ where all bachelors- both uninitiated in family life and the forced ones gathered for lunch,evening coffee and dinner. Naturally we had enough numbers to revive badminton but in an open court in front of our apartment. Soon, we were back on the game.
Nivas to Bhuvan
It was on one of these weekends that VS Behla arrived from Mehsana where he was our site engineer for the cattle feed plant project. He came on a Saturday afternoon. I was at Manibhuvan for lunch when Shailendra asked me if I would like to wait for Behla or have early lunch. I decided to wait.
As it was our first meeting, it expectedly started on a formal note but as the day progressed, we had opened up. We were joking, gossiping and were quite relaxed. Later, after dinner around 10 pm I prepared to leave for my room.
I spent most of my leisure time at Manibhuvan and came to my room at Krishna Niwas only to sleep. Saturday evenings usually ended past midnight as we joked, gossiped, played cards and sometimes went for a late night movie in any one of the four shabby cinema halls. Sunday’s morning English movie in Laxmi cinema, that ran western cow boy movies was a welcome break. The Gujarati translation of the titles (ex. Gun fighters of Casa Grande was translated as ‘गोली गोली पे लिखा है मरने वाले का नाम’ and ‘Cat billou’ as ‘कातिल बिल्ली’ added to the fun.
Behla asked, “Are you sleepy? What time do you normally sleep?”“Past midnight”, I replied.“Then what’s the hurry. Tomorrow is anyway Sunday and we have just begun. Hang in man, my train is at 2 am, so it will be just two extra hours over your normal time”. With this statement, there was no scope of any argument.
Around 1 am, Behla proposed that we all walk down to the railway station for a cup of tea. “By the time we finish with the tea, my train would arrive. Then you can walk back home”. He made another logical point.
At the railway station, about 10 minutes before the arrival of the train, Behla took Shailendra on one side and said something. I thought it proper to stand at a distance since I did want to intrude in their private conversation.
The train arrived in time and Behla left for Mehsana. His parting comment was that the Mehsana project would be completed in another 6 months or so and then we will have more Funtime together in Anand.
Next morning I went to Manibhuvan for breakfast around 10 am. As I reached, Shailendra asked me for my room keys. He took the keys, asked Raoji to fix our breakfast, handed him my room keys and asked him to bring all my belongings to Manibhuvan. “Nagar Saab is vacating Krishna niwas. Inform his landlord also.”
I was perplexed. “What is going on”. “I have to pay the rent. What would the landlord think of me.” I protested.“Ok. Do you have cash on you to pay the rent? Then give it to Raoji. He will pay”. Shailendra was virtually ordering.” Your staying alone there doesn’t make sense. So last night at the railway station, Behla decided to move you here with me”.
So,in the next half an hour, my belongings arrived at Manibhuvan. My first ‘transfer of residence’ in Anand had taken place.
A couple of months later, Naithani joined us and then came in Behla from Mehsana. Now we were four bachelors in an apartment surrounded by three families, two of them with children.
We had no adjustment issues. Our neighbors were very nice,they tolerated us.
Behla didn’t stay in Manibhuvan for long. Barely 4 months after his return from Mehsana, he was posted as site engineer for Pondicherry Dairy project. Around this time, first phase of our campus was nearing completion and in a staff meeting Dr. Kurien unveiled the time table to move the office to NDDB campus, along with allotment of accommodation.
Bhuvan to Heaven on earth in Anand the newly built NDDB Campus
We, the bachelor officers , all Assistant Executives ( Dr. Narayan Raj, PV Mathew, Shailendra and I ) were allotted the ‘Chummary’. We were to move there soon after Diwali that was after a month.
And since we were to move to campus, Shailendra very generously offered Manibhuvan apartment to Ashok Koshy, IAS who had just joined NDDB on deputation as executive assistant to Dr. Kurien.
Ashok had relinquished his office as assistant collector Petlad and had to vacate his official residence. It was all well timed- we move to campus and after two days, Koshy moves to Manibhuvan with his cousin PT Jacob (Prakash) and stays for a few days before moving to his newly allotted house in Amul Campus. It was to be an arrangement for a few days only as the Amul campus house for Koshy had to be made ready.
By the way, Shailendra was designated as leader to coordinate our move to the campus.
Since we were to move to campus after Diwali, I took time off to go home and celebrate with my family. When I returned to Anand after a week, I met with a surprise.
But plans are plans. They seldom materialise the way you want.
Amardeep society-the transit camp
Ney, it wasn’t a surprise, it was a shock. When I reached Manibhuvan, I was greeted by Ashok and Prakash with a smile, “you don’t live here anymore”.
“What? Has Shailendra moved to campus with my stuff too?”, I asked.
“No, he and Naithani have moved to Amardeep society, near campus. Campus accommodation hasn’t been allotted as yet. But since Shailendra had promised this accommodation to me, they moved out yesterday evening”. Ashok’s reply wasn’t embellished. He gave me directions to Amardeep society.
I was tired and hungry after an eight hour long bus journey and badly needed a bath. When I reached Amardeep, I was greeted by Naithani with a smile, sitting on a cot while there was a heap of clothes and rest of our belongings on another cot. “Throw the stuff on the floor and go to sleep. You must be tired”, he said with a wink.
“Give me some water to drink. I am thirsty. I will then have a shower, eat something and then retire”.
“Eat that orange. That’s all that we have to drink/eat. And forget about a bath. We will have water only at 5 am, when municipal water supply will come”? This nonchalant reply from Naithani nearly blew my top.
“Where is Shailendra? And where is Raoji? Why hasn’t he cooked?” I asked angrily.
“Shailendra knew you will kill him for this sudden move. So he has gone to Bombay on tour. He will return day after morning. And Raoji has been given leave since there was no time to set up the kitchen here”.
You can guess my mental state at that time. I was fuming mad, but was helpless. Here we didn’t have water even for a gargle. This duo had left all water storage in Manibhuvan for Koshy. We had only one empty bucket in the house. And we couldn’t even borrow a bucket of water from neighbour.
In Manibhuvan, we at least had a fallback arrangement- we could draw water from neighbour’s storage tank since he, a wealthy bidi merchant lived in Orissa and came to Anand only once a year for 3 days during Diwali.
This must be the only incidence in human history where someone (Shailendra in this case) followed Lord Ram to the hilt. Remember what Goswami Tulsidas said? “रघुकुल रीत सदा चली आयी, प्राण जाये पर वचन ना जायी”। I am not sure if that also meant coming on the road! He honoured his promise.
Well done Shailendra.
Next 24 hours were really hard on me. I had to hold my nerve. Next morning as soon as Shailendra arrived- he came directly to office- I told him to make sure that we move to the campus in the next 24 hours or else……..
Mercifully it all worked out. Both me and Shailendra moved next day to Chummary.
P V Mathew followed the next day. Since Naithani was not entitled to accommodation on the campus, he had to stay behind in Amardeep society.
I ended up in room no 4 of Chummary. It was south facing overlooking lush greenery of agriculture college farm. It was a large furnished room with an attached bath, a writing table and a beautiful view. Finally, we had landed in campus.
But we lost our cook. We were asked to make our own arrangement to run the kitchen. We had to start all over, right from equipping the kitchen.