Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thoughts from the Hornbill’s Nest:

Government in the Business

My first reaction when I reached here was that Government should stay away from hospitality business. In fact from any business where we can do without them! I mean the place has all the ingredients of a resort- a lovely location looking at the bay from all sides. A huge piece of land decorated with ancient looking trees and the advantage of height . It is just at a stone’s throw distance from Corbyn’s cove . But then…its Government property ….and you can read it all over the place. Ill maintained , lacking imagination in design and furniture and having indifferent faces of the staff- Welcome to Hornbill’s Nest! --The place that could have been the most sought after resort in Port Blair.
It’s not about this place alone. I feel the same anger the same frustration about most of the prime government properties . In every small and big city of India government owns properties at prime locations – which in most cases are allowed to turn into eyesores thanks to national shames like PWD and ASI . People responsible for their upkeep or those who work inside these buildings, never bother to preserve them. So the stone building of UP Vidhan sabha will have paan stains in the corners…..Coochebhar palace will have a leaking roof destroying the Venetian tiles ,Muir central college building of Allahabad will have posters of student elections and even indecent graffiti on the walls of Majestic Vijayanagaram hall. Kolkata alone will give you dozens of such addresses . Asiatic society for instance…..a so called Institution of National Importance….just on the mouth of Park street . Perhaps the most posh address any institution can dream of. Enter the place and you feel sad that such valuable treasures are placed at the mercy of such incompetent lot. The Historical cannon of Plassey is placed clumsily near the ugly staircase(alon gwith some broken chairs) and the golden statue of Dharmaraj getting more and more black with neglect and dirt with every passing day. They even have an excellent collection of oil paintings, which are decorating the ugly walls of dingy rooms of its officials, who would never pause to take note of the treasure hanging out there . These buildings are Heritage buildings! But what heritage we are carrying with them..and how carefully ? It is the same story with most of the museums and historical buildings in India. Give it to a government agency and they will mark it with an indelible Sarkari mark .

Some time back I and hubby stayed at BNR hotel at Puri. It was a memorable experience . It was just like a period drama of Raj era. A private beach, beautiful garden. Rooms with fresh flower bouquets . A coffee room . Bearers with turban for each room . Tea with a floral designed china tea set and even a tea-cosy. Evening after dinner coffee served with lemon cake . Old styled four poster beds and dressing tables. Mercifully, the quality of the food is still good and the service even now smacks of an indulgence that gave the BNR Hotel its name. But then it has a sarkari mark too…..the bed sheets were torn. Everything has the Indian Railways seal on it . Hotel was understaffed. The telltale signs of drift and destitution are written all over the dining room what with the unclean livery of the bearers ,not to say anything about the state of the tablecloths, the napkins, the crockery and cutlery which, not so very long ago, were the definitive hallmarks of excellence and uniqueness of all railway catering establishments across the country. The place was obiviously facing fund crunch thanks to apathetic bureaucratic red-tape. How I wish the place was with someone who could value its history and its worth. I get the similar feeling with most of the state museums in UP. Be it currency building of Calcutta or Rajbari of Coochbehar- our holier than though government agencies and ministry of Culture have captured all these places by placing a small blue board declaring it as a “preserved building”. But after that, they have no time, fund or intention to preserve it to its old glory. Our media cry fowl when a private businessman tries to get back Tipu sultan’s sword ---may be for his own personal collection but where are our pillars of awareness when our government agencies fail to even have list of their possessions in various museums, libraries and such other buildings. For how long we can quote the archaic laws to take possession of properties which government can no longer afford to maintain.

I can see, hornbills are not making nest at this place anymore ….they also realize the place is in wrong hands.

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