Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jampot Daze

A recent article in the Sunday TOI[dated July13,2008—‘Jampot Jalwa’, brought back memories of my own Jampot years. Jampot is the affectionate term Jamshedpurians use occasionally when speaking of Jamshedpur, the industrial town in Jharkhand [formerly Bihar], home to truly Indian companies like Tata Steel, Tata Motors and a host of other well known names, many of whom fall under the Tata Umbrella. Jamshedpur is a unique town, well run, cosmopolitan, neat and clean for the most part, administered in main by the eminent companies that inhabit it. The town grew along with its flagship occupant Tisco[now Tata Steel]—and in fact has been named after Tisco’s founder Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata. While I was growing up there during the sixties and seventies, we spoke of being a part of Tisco area, Telco Colony and so forth. In fact this was quintessentially a Tatatown. Actually, the railway station is known as Tatanagar. Now you can’t get more Tata than that.

Bella Jaisinghani’s TOI article describes Jamshedpur as ‘a gleaming oasis in the jungles of Bihar [now Jharkhand]’, ‘a place where youngsters are traditionally bred to be managers and engineers courtesy institutes like NIT and XLRI… a town whose spotless roads denizens claim you can eat off… a town where most people work for Tata affiliates, where everyone knows everyone else.’

I left Jamshedpur in the  late seventies , post marriage, but visited it frequently till 1983, when my father retired from Tisco after 38 years of service [people worked a lifetime in those salad days—and why on earth would one even dream of leaving a Tata company? Even now 25 years on, he still gets invited to the occasional Tisco employee meets, here in down south Chennai. With the Tatas, the umbilical cord never snaps].

In Chennai, my present place of residence I keep running into Jamshedpurians---and we never fail to have a warm glow, while reliving our Jamshedpur years. Of course, even nostalgic hindsight cannot fail to erase the boredom one occasionally experienced while growing up in a small town. There were only a half-dozen cinema theatres—and only one really good one, the Natraj, attached to the one decent hotel [again the Natraj]. But there was fun to be had if one looked for it. We attended the functions of the various regional associations, had a blast pandal-hopping during Durga Puja time, birthday-lunched at some good reasonably priced places [the Soda Fountain on Bistupur Main Road, the Chinese restaurant thereabouts, Natraj, Bombay Sweet Mart…], book browsed at Sanyal Bros [and bought a paperback Wodehouse for Rs 5/-], attended school fetes, watched East Zone cricket team being walloped by the West Zone team [ starring new hot shots like Sunil Gavaskar & Eknath Solkar; my brother even took photos]….life was ok. But one did yearn to move on to a bigger town or city.

Yes, as Bella writes, the roads are spotless, at least were so during my time. One rain shower did not turn the roads into swamps—rather the gleaming tarred roads would be washed absolutely clean since the storm water drains actually worked.

Bella also mentions ‘the pitched rivalry between the highbrow Loyola school students and the DBMS [Dakshin Bharat Mahila Samaj] school. Well, when I schooled at SHC [Sacred Heart Convent], DBMS was still in its infancy, and the rivalry was between us girls at SHC and the boys at Loyola [which we affectionately referred to as Koyla]. SHC was prim and proper and terrific. I am told that the school recently celebrated its golden jubilee.

The article talks in main about Jamshedpur’s Bollywood connection— actors Madhavan, Priyanka Chopra, Tanushree Dutta, Simone Singh, screenwriter Bijesh Jayarajan, hotshot newbie director Imtiaz Ali [Jab We Met]—all of whom have lived and experienced Jamshedpur. The author has left out of her list, one of the earliest Bollywood connections— character actor Manmohan, best remembered for his villain acts of the sixties & seventies—he was the wicked maama in Aradhana [1969], the one who gets killed by a young Rajesh Khanna. This Gujarati gentleman was said to belong to a Bistupur family in Jamshedpur. So the Bolly connection goes back to those masala times.

Britain based Bollywood scriptwriter Farukh Dhondy [Bandit Queen, Mangal Pandey] is another Jamjshedpurian missing from Bella’s list.

TV cum film actor Simone Singh talks about the flavours of the food at Beldih Club—the name brings back in memory, another club, the less posh, but equally popular United Club. Both clubs showed the English films that cities like Calcutta featured in their theatres; sadly Jamshedpur cinemas did not do so, except on Sunday mornings. And so , not being a club member, I continuously missed out on great ‘must see’ films.

Now, it hardly matters whether one lives in Jamshedpur or Jaipur or Jolarpet. Technology has changed our lives, and the townie need no longer envy the city-slicker.

Ultimately though I am happy at having been a Jamshedpurian. In many ways, Jampot shaped my thinking, made me the cosmopolitan Indian I am proud to be.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Two years since
This scribbler left
To wander the world wide web.

Back to the pond,
Blogging, hoping,
Believing that one will be read.