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Jamshedpur: A Great Winter Destination For Friends Or The Family

Tehnaz Dastoor

I recently visited the town of Jamshedpur for a couple of days (during its 3-month winter fiesta which is culminating on the 4 of March 2018), and was over-awed at the hospitality of the city and its people, the number of activities and events taking place and the interesting dining experiences from street food to gourmet which is available here. The Tata Steel and Jusco-sponsored festivities were a natural draw for tourists to this spot.

From Kolkata, we took the Janshatabdi which brought us to our destination in a quick 3 hours 45 mins and on arrival we got settled into our hotel rooms quickly.  After freshening up, we decided to drive around this well-planned town, with tree-lined streets, interspersed with parks and greenery. Our first stop was the Brubeck Bakery situated in a charming 1940s building. This patisserie provides a meeting place for friends who spend hours at this customer-friendly hang-out ordering anything from pizza and pastries to patties or pasta accompanied by their signature Chocolate Truffle, New York Cheese Cake or their delicious Fudge Brownies. We ate a light breakfast here and proceeded to our initial destination − the Jubilee Park − a 225 acer well-manicured park bang in the center of town housing a lake, fountains, a recreation center and a zoo. Making the most of a sunny morning we decided to explore the area, taking a long walk to work off the calories consumed earlier and found people of all ages relaxing with their mates, some taking photographs of the blossoming plants, children playing badminton others catching up with friends, and families picnicking with large hampers of food laid out over checkered cloths. No one appeared to have a care in the world and what was pleasantly absent, was the constant and loud, penetrating chatter over cell phones, disturbing the peace.

Having worked up an appetite we soon decided to go for lunch at Chop Sticks, which was conveniently located above the Brubeck Bakery and within the Boulevard Hotel. Walking through the corridors on our way to the restaurant, we noticed the sepia colored photographs of the British and Allied troops which had been housed here during the 2nd World War.  Despite its name, the restaurant had a special Christmas menu on offer. We thoroughly enjoyed the sumptuous Goan meal of spicy Pork Vindaloo, a flavorful Goan Prawn Curry with Yellow Rice followed by a lightly Crumbed Fried Fish, reminiscent of our Anglo-Indian Christmas meals served at some of the Kolkata clubs during the winter season.

We then jumped into our car and headed for the carnival parade and were greeted with the jiving sounds of the music band Latin Sensations trailed by a group of Royal Enfield motorcyclists. Following closely in tow were numerous dancers and performers from the different states of India, dressed in traditional outfits, some doing the bhangra, others displaying their dandiya skills, still others in costume amidst the various floats. Karatekas displayed their expertise with head high kicks n punches which drew large crowds and the rear of the parade was brought up by some well-maintained vintage cars.

We were told that Jamshedpur has a number of wellness centers and as time was short we managed to visit the Arogya Bhawan Sonari Center which provides Ayurvedic healing for a number of maladies including chronic back pain, skin diseases, treatment of diabetes, de-addiction, arthritis and sinusitis among others. We were given a tour of the premises and promised an hour-long massage upon our return.

We then decided to visit the iconic Regal Cafe having been informed that one of the surplus beams from the Howrah Bridge supported the ceiling and it had its famous maker’s name ‘Tata Steel’ engraved on it. The restaurant itself reminded us of an old Parsi home, with the wooden doors, large windows and period furniture including a time-worn gramophone and an old Statesman sign installed above the bar. On Sundays the restaurant serves authentic Parsi food. We ordered ourselves some coffee and indulged in a quick game of old-fashioned ludo.

In order not to miss the opening act of the Dance Competition, we rushed to the Gopal Maidan just in time and were in for a treat! The entire seating area was filled with an eagerly waiting audience and they were not disappointed when the dance performance was opened with the Delhi-based Zenith dance team, kicking off the evening’s program with some death-defying feats which left the audience gasping and clutching at their hearts each time these little performers were hurled into the air and spun around at top speed. The school dance competition was no less a treat to behold with both local and out-of-town schools showcasing their skills in Bharatnatyan, Hip Hop, Salsa etc. and their performances were augmented with some beautifully created back drops and well-choreographed moves.

Finally, around 8.00pm we returned back to our hotel, freshened up and headed for a wonderful continental meal at the very ‘pucca’ Beldih Club on invitation by a friend. Not only was the food, conversation and ambience wonderful, but the service was exemplary too.

On the following day we arose bright and early and after a quick breakfast headed for a 2 hour tour of the Russi Modi Center of Excellence accompanied by a very engaging guide, Swarup Sengupta. We walked through large corridors with the most amazing set of Hussain Glass paintings we have seen. Thrown into the fray were works by other eminent artists and beautifully rendered sketches by Laxman too. The most interesting part of the tour was the gallery displaying information on the formation of the Tata Steel company, the work ethos aspired to by the founding fathers, the exceptional role of their wives, especially Lady Meherbai Tata in spearheading the Women’s Rights Movement in India and being appointed to the Tata Board in the early part of the last century. The Tata policy towards labor welfare was well-documented in a photograph of a crèche in their factory nearly 100 years earlier, as also the provision of humidifiers, ventilators and fire sprinklers and a soda machine to ensure that their workers were sufficiently hydrated too! The center was an eye opener to us and we vowed to return for a more in-depth tour during our next trip back.

One of the recommended sights for those visiting Jamshedpur is witnessing the confluence of the rivers Kharkai and Subarnarekha, at Domohani, a popular spot amongst the locals. It is quite easily distinguishable in that the different water colors to the 2 rivers meld together here. The greenery and eucalyptus trees make it an ideal spot for watching the boatmen ferrying passengers across whilst others are bathing or washing their clothes.

We excitedly enquired about visiting the house where Gerald Durrell grew up and our hosts promptly drove us to it. Excitedly we surreptitiously clicked a few photographs for posterity (as the house is currently occupied) and drove to our next destination – The Tribal Culture Center located in Sonari.

The Center preserves the rich heritage of the Santhal, Ho, Oraon, Munda and other tribes and is the focal point for tribal cultural activities and vocational training courses, and has a large amphitheater on its well-manicured grounds. It is involved with the revival of tribal music and their fast-disappearing scripts. The Tribal Heritage Hall showcases the musical instruments, scripts, objects of daily use, farming implements and other artefacts.

Finally, at around 2.30 pm we decided to have a quick luncheon at the highly recommended Hotel Karnail’s serving some delicious Punjabi vegetarian food. Our meal consisted of Dal, Rice, Tandoori Rotis, Palak Paneer, Chola and Jeera Aloo, all cooked to perfection. The current owner is the fourth generation to run the establishment and proudly regaled us with stories about Russi Modi’s visit to his dhaba. We were told that upon one such visit, the waiter had accidentally dropped a chappati on the floor and Mr. Modi instead of making a fuss, quietly picked it up, dusted it off and put it on his plate.

Opposite the dhaba we discovered other equally interesting and unique little specialty shops. Bhatia ke Jalebi had the oddest clock with the numerics written backwards yet reading the correct time and Manohar Chat’s owner, (a self-proclaimed ‘greatest fan’ of Madhuri Dikshit) provided us with the best chaat in the town. We found the entire restaurant filled with the actresses posters displaying social message on traffic and health safety issues.

Our final stop was at the world famous Fakira Chanachur from whom we purchased a few packets of different kinds of chanachur to bring home and share with our families and friends, hoping to regale them of our memorable stay at a wonderful town called Jamshedpur.