Bombay - Part 1
So I landed up in Bombay - from one metropolis to another; from the political capital to the financial capital. In Delhi I was in a General Pool house that was below my entitlement and at Bombay, too, I had to move into a below-entitlement house that was, however, not of General Pool. It was a departmental house. The predecessors, in their wisdom, never thought of getting into the General Pool. Somehow, they seem to have been happy in departmental houses. In one way it was better. I recall having visited the house of a friend that was in terrible condition with balconies ready to fall off. Compared to them our houses were better maintained. Besides, having a departmental maintenance outfit has its own advantages.
With the new breed of packers and movers it was not difficult to move lock, stock and barrel from one place to another. They had taken the sting out of transfers. Besides, the new aircraft were capable to fly cars at tariffs that were only marginally higher than what was admissible if transported by an EVK railway wagon. I flew my Maruti 800 that was only a few months old in July 1984 by an Airbus and it took only minutes to have it delivered by Indian Airlines at Bombay. Within the matter of a week my wife and I were more or less settled in our new place of posting.
My office was in Bombay GPO building which is a heritage structure in the Fort area which has numerous structures classified as such. Bombay GPO is now more than 100 years old and is situated next to the World Heritage Site of Victoria Terminus, now renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. The building is of Indo-Saracenic kind patterned after the Gol Gumbad of Bijapur. It is a building of massive proportions with a circular central hall under its massive dome.
I was appointed as Additional Postmaster General in the Senior Administrative Grade Level II. The Postmaster General was in Level I. He was a Christian from Kerala and was a very amiable and humorous person. There was, however, a darker side of him. He used to make money by hiring huge structures for operative offices. While he took care of the postal operations of the entire city the rest of the state as well as the tiny state of Goa were left for me.
As I had earlier been Regional Director at Nagpur I had seen most of the eastern parts of the state. What I had not seen were parts of Marathwada, the Western Maharashtra and Konkan regions. Among the three Konkan region was considered very charming, offering best of nature – green hills, white and yellow sandy beaches and the blue waters of the Arabian Sea lapping on the shores. One had to take to the coastal highway – a badly maintained road with king-sized potholes. The Konkan Railway was still a few years away in the future.
I made forays into Konkan starting off with Alibagh. The place had found favour with the rich and influential for building farm houses. It seemed to have been another way of concealing illegitimate income. Curiously I came across a huge property of Sardar Angrey, a feudal of Gwalior – a sworn enemy of the Scindias. I met him later in Delhi at a friend’s place. He used to own a Rolls Royce which he sold rather cheap being unaware of the price of a vintage Rolls. He apparently had no end of regrets about the loss.
In the next trip to Konkan I covered Chiplun, a very attractive little town, a taluka town and a trading centre to boot for the King of Mangoes – alphonsos. Its hills were green and a small stream meandered its way down towards the Arabian Sea.
Around 100 kilometres from Chiplun was the famous beach of Ganpatipule. We had booked a room in the guest house and spent a very pleasant 24 hours there. The beach was clean as we saw later in Vengurla. No sand crabs or spiders to bother one. This is true of most of the beaches in Konkan.
As I was close to Ratnagiri I took a shot at it. It is a beautiful place with green hills, small streams, creeks and clean beaches. The added attraction is the Alphonso mango and Kokum, a fruit that is specialty of the region and its cuisine. Besides, there is the Vijaydurg fort. The mountain fastnesses of Konkan and Western Maharashtra are famous not only for their architecture but also for the exploits of Chhatrapati Shivaji and his cohorts. The environment of Ratnagiri ispresently under threat as a nuclear power station with French collaboration has been planned at Jaitapur proximate to it.
On another occasion I went further south of Ratnagiri – to Vengurla, a place which seemed to have terrific tourism potential but had remained unexploited. Its clean and seemingly anti-septic beaches are like an arc similar to Marine Drive in Bombay with a rest house on a hilltop at one end. Vengurla grows cashews and a fruit much like custard apple locally called Ramphal. One understands that the state government is now poised to market Vengurla as a tourist destination.
Savantwadi was a name I was familiar with. Some of my Maratha friends belonged to it or probably would talk about it. It was much like Goa – small, narrow roads, small markets with people trading with gusto. Savantwadi was south of Malvan that had sylvan beaches that stretch out ten long miles from one end to another. Malvani food has been well accepted by people from other regions.
As I did not wish to take to the coastal road again I went up the Western Ghats from Savantwadi to come across a natty little hill station by the name Amboli. It had a lovely rest house to compel us to spend the night. During the night it was cool and comfortable. Next morning we climbed down to Belgaum and proceeded to Kolhapur, on to Sangli, Satara and Pune. Thanks to my Maruti I made it in good time.
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