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Jamshedpur Jacinth

Rita Bhimani

Going back to the town of one’s birth in adulthood brought out a different set of colors. The evening skies lit up by the blast furnaces, casting a jacinth hue, that reddish-orange variety of zircon being the only way to describe the glow. And it was this light that made the jamai to be of Jamshedpur take a fresh look at me as we drove past hills of slag heap and it proved to be our godhuli lagna. An established journalist already, he had been invited by my father to Jamshedpur and the bonds grew, through later commentaries on cricket at the Keenan Stadium.

Photo Credits: Gulmohar High School
Photo Credits: Fakira’s channachoor

For me, the returning in recent years has been to my alma mater, to speak to students (ah the sheer pleasure of being remembered!), and as Chief Guest at a newer school—the Gulmohur School when it completed sixty years of its existence. That was the trip when the affable Ronald D’Costa, a school friend, and the CEO of the Boulevard Hotel, a singular landmark in Jamshedpur since 1940, popped up to proactively host us at the Beldih Club, plan a visit to Sacred Heart Convent, and make sure that one did not leave without a large packet of Fakira’s channachoor, which continues to be a popular item of import into our city whenever friends visit from Jamshedpur. And Nakul Kamani, flashy businessman and again an old friend, throwing an elegant party at his luxurious home − an aspect of the town one had never experienced before.

Photo Credits: Dalma Hills: Team-BHP
Photo Credits: Jubilee Park: YouTube

And then further nostalgia when I recall the 14th of December. For it was this date every year, which for decades spelled romance in our home in Jamshedpur. Our parents’ anniversary, given a roseate hue by my father, P.N. Mookerji, who helmed the Public Relations set up for Tata Steel, and in fact was one of the pioneering figures in PR. His brand of PR with my mother, a writer, was not giftwrapped tokenism, though. For he would be up as dawn broke over the surrounding Dimna hills, and rush to the nursery at Jubilee Park, where, from the rose garden enclosure he would handpick twelve red long stemmed roses as his anniversary offering. The heady perfume that would emanate and the pretty sight of the flowers and a blushing wife to boot, is a memory that still has a lasting fragrance.

Photo Credits: Pandals: YouTube
Photo Credits: Navjote Ceremony

It is that bouquet which has endured with Jamshedpur. We would swell with pride to be part of this model steel township where celebrated visitors – mostly heads of state, and leading industrialists came to visit. We would, unlike the Shakespearean student walking like snail, unwilling to school, bicycle it to Sacred Heart Convent, the crisp air of an early winter touching our faces and pepping us up. We lived in secular surroundings, a Jewish family next door, the Punjabis in a bungalow in front, and Parsees all around us, go pandal hopping during Pujas with the same gusto as we would sing carols at the clubs and watch the elders knock back eggnogs at Christmas, and attend Navjote ceremonies with fervor.

The numerous clubs gave us a chance to swim and play racquet sports and watch weekly movies with potato chips as our mainstay. Badminton was one such pastime, at an international standard Mohan Ahuja stadium, where my namesake and I lined up one time to take Maharani Gayatri Devi’s autograph. She was thoroughly bemused when we chanted in tandem our names, and the same class, and with a twinkle in her eye asked if we were having her on! Rita and I continue our friendship to this day, as do some others from Jamshedpur—that is the enduring nature of relationships formed in that magical town.

Photo Credits: Jamshedpur Airport: Avenue Mail
Photo Credits: Dimna Lake: Mi Community

There was another club, the Jamshedpur Flying Club, where I was to learn how to fly a single engine Pushpak, and did ten hours of it, having a shaky time, occasionally when one had to dodge cows as one landed.

Sir Jehangir Ghandy and Lady Roshan had an avuncular approach to our progress, the latter advising my mother to get an even set of teeth, and to put oneself in the hands of Dr. Piroshaw.

Dr Minoo Dastoor, self-made steel expert encouraged my dad to do translations from his technical papers in German into English and Russi Mody showed us that the casual bush shirt approach to the unions could work wonders.

The picturesque Dimna Lake always took our breath away as we negotiated the uphill drive and turned the corner to see this vast expanse of blue as far as our eyes wandered. The guest house there is full of many different forays, one of them being a gathering of artists from Calcutta who were invited to paint the steel works in different mediums by my father. They sketched and saw the innards of the factory and then came back to Dimna and in the peaceful surroundings, reproduced their perceptions onto canvas, the works to be later reproduced on a calendar.

Picture perfect days, communing with parks and gardens, our own vastly flowering gulmohur tree at home, a school where in those days the parliamentary system was introduced, with us vying for prime ministership and other ministerial “posts”, the 3rd March Founder’s Day celebrations which made us remember and thank the visionary Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata.

Photo credits: Banner Center - Holidify