By Richa Sinha,
As I start on a journey of putting my thoughts into words & sharing them with you, it is just befitting that I start from the very beginning. The beginning of me!
I hail from a small town in Bihar (India) called Jamalpur. And, I wouldn’t blame it on you for not having heard of it earlier. I would start with describing it for you as the most beautiful town ever, picturesque, full with its share of hills, lakes & waterfalls. It is best known for hosting India’s first & the largest Railway workshop. It also boasts of churning out in its foothills, the most revered Special Class Railway Apprentices, better understood as the Indian Railways’ top brass, its mighty officers. Thanks to the Railways, Jamalpur has always had a very cosmopolitan feel.
Everything about this town is special… where on the one hand it has that oh-so rustic feel, on the other, its people display such broad-mindedness that could put into shells many of our metropolitan-denizens. It is a town as self-sufficient as could be. After having widely traveled the length & breadth of the country, I still maintain that I have not seen a school as mighty as Notre Dame Academy. This school has some of the greatest teachers who everyday play a very crucial role in churning out an enviable alumni list! You could say I am biased, but I say I have been fortunate to have spent my school years in this wonderful institution. And, I say so after having studied in some of the finest & highly prestigious colleges later in life. Alumni of this school have stormed the world & excelled beyond narration!
Everything about this place, small and big is special. The tinned Workshop boundary with long entwined black pipes welcome you as your train enters Jamalpur Junction. The majestic spread of the Workshop can leave great architects spellbound. As you enter this small town, be ready to appreciate the warmth that its people & buildings have to offer. The Kali pahaad defines the skyline of the town. Climb up and you get to see the Water Works and the ancient Kali temple. Come monsoon and the sparkling waterfalls would be ready to wash down the hills.
No description of this town is complete without mentioning the very famous Golf Ground. I could even go on to say (& not get challenged) that no kid in this Railway township would have attained puberty without having tried a hand at golf. Or swimming. Or tennis. Or billiards. The Officers’ Club has all of these and much more within a 10-minute walking distance; things you would end up spending a couple of grands & traveling tens of kilometers in a city like Delhi or Mumbai or Bangalore. Right from the years of British slavery, people of Jamalpur have been interested in sports & we do have those white men to thank for establishing the JSA Ground (stadium). Not to forget the Gymkhana, the Railway Institute & the Central Institute (CI) all of which gave cultural entertainment an all new scope & definition. The pandal at Children’s Park during Durga Puja would become the hub of all action, boasting of the Who’s Who of Jamalpur & nearby towns.
Jamalpur is also known for some exquisite delicacies. Who would have sampled anywhere else on this planet, Mughlai Parantha the way Cooking House and Madras Coffee House prepared it & served so uniquely with a South Indian sambhar! And, that chicken curry at Hotel Yatrik, would leave behind preparations by the greatest of chefs in our star hotels.
Move a few kilometers ahead and you would reach Munger, Jamalpur’s twin town. The Bihar School of Yoga, established as the headquarters of the International Yoga Fellowship has catapulted this town onto the world map. The Ganga flows serenely through this mystical town, washing away all sins & sorrows, which is why it is aptly called the Kashtharni. This town is also said to have great historical and mythological significance as being ruled by Karna during Mahabharata. The Fort ruins are still an indication of the might it would have commanded centuries earlier.
Having spent half my life in Jamalpur, I migrated to Delhi to fulfill my professional dreams. Today, when I visit my hometown, it embraces me with the same warmth as it did when I was younger. It feels great to fly the world with wings of freedom, but I never forget that my roots are still very firmly planted in the soils of Jamalpur!
(All photographs posted here have been provided by my friend Rajnikant.)/