It is that time of the year..
March is more important a month than the other months of the year- for two reasons.
One is aesthetic: it heralds Spring, king of the seasons. Myriad flowers bloom as the harsh winter gives way to warm summer. The strong sweet smell of mango flowers pervades the misty evenings and mornings. The festival of colours- Holi is just round the corner. It is a busy season for poets and lovers or both.
The second reason relate to finance. It happens to be the end of financial year. The salaried get busy to file Income Tax returns and the business men to close the annual accounts.
No other season has so different reasons to get busy about.
Recently I was in Agartala, the capital city of Tripura to attend a National Seminar on Applied Ethics organised by the Department of Philosophy of Central University of Tripura.
At the first look, as I was taken from the airport to the University Guest house, some 22 kms away, Agartala seemed like a semi-urban Bengal town, with many tin-roofed houses as you find in Guwahati, fenced off with bamboo wall and almost all the sign boards at the markets written in Bengali. But later as I moved around and especially after the visit to the State Museum, now located at the Ujjayanta Palace, the erstwhile residence of the Manikya Kings – I found out about the glorious past of Agartala.
Perched on the banks of River Haora, the history of Agartala town (the name is derived from the words 'Agar' and 'tala', a reference to the density of Agarwood trees in the region) dates back to 1760 when it was shifted by the Maharaja Krishna Chandra Manikya Bahadur (r.1829–1849) to present old Agartala. To pre-empt frequent invasion of the Kukis and also to keep easy communication with the British Bengal, the Maharaja Krishna Chandra Manikya started the process of shifting the capital to present Agartala in 1849. It became a municipality in 1874–75. By 1901 it had a population of 9,513.
Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur is called the founder of the planned city of Agartala. He had gone for a tour in the United Kingdom and after returning to his kingdom in 1940s he attempted to re organise the town area was re-organised in a planned manner with new roads and a market building.
Rabindranath Tagore had friendly relations with the royal family and visited the city several times. Tagore also built a house at Agartala that still exists. He wrote several novels and plays on the backdrop of Tripura royal family.
However, the city grew in size and population only after 1981. Presently it is the third largest city of North East with an area of over 76 sqare kms and a population of over 6 lakhs.
Agartala Book Fair
Agartala Book fair was on when I was there and I took this opportunity to visit it. It was bigger and better organised than I expected it to be. There were several decorated sitting places for visitors to the Fair and dozens of waste bins. There were no litter strewn around. Stalls were not just rows of books but were decorated aesthetically. The food stalls were located outside the Fair. There were graphic arts and installations with varied aesthetic appeal. And I found more people actually flipping through and buying books than we find in Book Fairs in Bhubaneswar. Incidentally the literacy rate of Agartala city according to 2011 census was 93.88, higher than the national literacy rate.
And yes, as I was strolling inside the fair, the CM arrived with the least fuss and with just a handful of security persons. No spectator was hassled to make way for the CM's arrival. No swooning party workers following the CM in posse. A welcome change from many of the States of India.
A visit to Bangladesh Border
From Agartala, Bangladesh borader is just about 2 kms. I have not yet visited Bangladesh. So I thought I would at least see the soil of Bangladesh.
Off we went to the Akhauri border check post located on Bangladesh border. We were told the Border Security Forces have started a flag dismounting parade like they do in Wagha border in the afternoon, but at a much smaller scale.
However, we were late and were told by the jawnas that the parade was over. As the evening was descending we strolled till the last stand post with India written over it. We could see the roads and trees and paddy fields of Bangladesh.
“Sir, it is evening. You must leave now”, told the moustachioed jawan wearing fatigue. As we were coming back, I saw the glow sign across the road: 'Welcome to the republic of India'. It felt kind of strange. And as I cross the glow sign gate I felt good. It felt like a return to the mother’s lap after a brief separation.
Jahar to khamokha hi
Najar ghumake dekh lo
Es duniya me
Sakkar se marnewalo ki tadat hi
(Poison is bleamed. But look around, in the world more people die of sugar)
(Courtesy: Social Media forward)
Mrinal Chatterjee, a journalist turned media academician lives on the valley of Paniohala Hills at Dhenkanal, Odisha. He can be contacted at email@example.com