Vantage point

Saturday, May 10, 2003


..and still I had to go to Panipat. Had to visit the National Fertilisers plant there and take feedback from a bloke. For all those planning to go to Panipat from Vasant Kunj, here's a tip - Start 4 hours in advance. It takes half that time to just reach the outskirts of Delhi.

The highway was quite good, 4 lane, and in 2 hours I reached Panipat. I got down at a place called Gohana Mod, and asked a rickshaw-wallah if he could take me to the NFL factory. he said - "Below the bridge?". I told him this was my first time in Panipat and I had no idea where it was. He told me to sit and started driving the rickshaw. The road we took...oh wow! You know how in New Zealand they bring a pitch from somewhere using a helicopter and drop it in the cricket ground? I think the Haryana road Development(!) guys took a helicopter to the moon, cut a long strip of land, and heli-dropped it in Panipat. Each one of my 206 bones got a richter-scale level shake and I was afraid my eyeballs might just drop out. The rick went below the bridge and came to a halt in front of some railway tracks. there was no crossing so i wondered what the hell we were doing here. The driver looked at me indicating that we were there. Now I could not see even a sack of fertiliser, forget an entire factory.

I asked him "Where is the factory?"
He said "I don't know, but I have brought you below the bridge"
"Why the hell? Do you know where the NFL factory is?"
"Me? No, no, I don't know."...reminding me of a dialogue from Pu La's Mhhais.
I told him to take me to the start of the bridge. there I found out where the factory really was and took a "shared rickshaw". Now this shared rickshaw is a dangerous concept. 6 people sit at the a space where the law in Mumbai-Pune will allow only 3. Two guys sit next to the driver. And three guys are hanging from the body of the rickshaw, like those lifeguards in Baywatch hang from the jeep. This rickshaw too, did to my bones what a blender does to fruit.

Finally, I reached the NFL gate. After i reached there and called up the guy i was supposed to meet, I came to know he had left for the day.

Now I started getting frustrated. I thought of pulling a Mahadji Shinde (for those unfamiliar with Maratha history, that means - "Running away from Panipat"). But the guy at the reception, by a curious twist of fate was a guy named Shinde. I thought he might be a descendant of the so called 'Great Maratha', but then remembered that the descendants now go by the surname "Scindia". Anyway, he saw my name and realised I was a Maharashtrian. He understood my predicament and said "I will call up his residence and see if he is there". he called up the guy who agreed to see me at him home.

So I had to go to the NFL colony, which again entailed travelling by the boneshaker rickshaws. This time the rickshaw which stopped seemed choc-a-bloc with people. But the driver still said to me "Oh you can get in". I jumped into the mini-sea of humanity in a manner which would have made Sadashivraobhau nod with approval. Half an hour later I was at the fellow's house. I spoke to him for about an hour and decided to head back to Delhi.

On my way to the place where the buses would stop (notice I am not using the term 'Bus-stop'), I saw a statue. It showed 2 angry looking guys pointing their spears at a dude on a horse who had a sword in his hand. I craned my neck to read the plaque at the base of the statue. It said "Om Prakash Chautala". My experiences in Lucknow, where I have seen many statues of various descriptions bearing the name "Sushree Mayawati", have taught me that the biggest name at the bottom of a statue in North India is not indicative of the identity of the person, but of the politician who unveiled it.

On further examination, I spied the words "The Third Battle of Panipat" and visibly brightened. I stopped the rickshaw and got down, I crossed the street and stood in front of the statue. It was a new one, installed only in January this year. I looked at the the image of Sadashivraobhau, the enigmatic warrior. I must have stood there for about 15 minutes, thinking about the battle. How 340 years ago, thousands of Maharashtrians marched North, how they gave the Afghans a tough fight at this very place (not exactly that place, the actual scene of the battle was some km away). The story of the third battle of Panipat is similar to the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. It is said to be a glorious defeat. Yet, I have my doubts about how big that defeat was. Some say that an entire generation of Maharashtra was wiped out. If it had been that devastating, the Maratha army would have been crippled. Yet, just 10 years later, the Marathas inflicted on the Britishers, what was probably the biggest defeat they ever faced in india. Anyway, this is a subject for an independent post in the future.

I bowed my head and paid respects to the martyrs of the third battle of Panipat.

Then i caught a bus and came back to Delhi.