Recently, I had to go to Chennai in search of a hospital for treatment of my wife. There was a thought back in mind that since it is a metro city, it will be difficult for me to search for anything either a doctor, person or a place to stay. Thus i had to ask help from a friend. He was my classmate at Kanpur some 25 years back. It is his “kripa” help that i got a place to stay, a doctor and other facility for blood test, scan, X-Ray etc. Thanx to my friend Vinod, i am indebted to him for forever.
Once I had to appear in an exam at Ajmer-Rajasthan. I had to search for a place to stay. I stayed at Tanaji Nagar in the house of one “didi”. That didi was living in my colony and had got married in Ajmer. Thus searching their address in Ajmer reached their house.
In 1992 I appeared in an interview at a school in Shillong-Meghalaya. One teacher in campus school IITK came to rescue. Her sister lived near BaraBazar, Gaari khana means the vehicle or taxi/bus stand. I reached Shillong via Guwahati-Assam. At Guwahati i had recommendation of Dr Shukla. His sister &brother-in-law lived there. As per their instructions on reaching Guwahati i searched for the Army truck at Railway station. That took me to their location. I stayed there for few days and from there i went to Shillong by bus. I think that time there was no train link between Guwahati and Shillong.
Return journey was full of difficulties. When I reached the Guwahati railway station a announcement informed the train is cancelled. Now imagine for a person who do not have any place to stay and not much money, Will manage in this type of situation? Whole station was crowded. With three bags how could I have gone to ticket counter for checking? Fortunately uncle with whom I was staying had sent assistance to unload by luggage. Thus I was able to seek information from counter. I asked them pl book any ticket so that I can board any train and move out from this station. There was one train, I tried to board it. Somehow train moved out and with it I also moved out. Train then reached Katihar station in Bihar. There I heard that I have to get out of the train. Immediately I landed at station platform. After few hours one train came they(means few people who were boarding train) told that this train will go towards Delhi. I put my luggage in that train. Later I found those seats were reserved for Army people. When they arrived they saved me from TT. Later I found to my horror that train was going to Kanpur but I had ticket upto Varanasi?
Once I went for an interview at NIV-National Institute of virology at Pune-Maharashtra. Since i could not get any acquaintance in Pune, I had to search for a hotel. With some difficulty i got a small place to stay as per my budget. Since budget was small the place was also small. I had to stay for one night thus i managed. From Pune I went to Bombay(that time there was no Mumbai). Bus took me to Mumbai through Lonawala. The place once my father was posted when he was in Navy.
Once I went to Jabalpur for an interview at Tribal Medicine Research Centre under ICMR. There i got help from one aunt (whom we called buaji) sister of Saxena chacha. She was principal at Kendriya Vidyalaya. From her residence the road lead me to the place of interview. On the way i got to see lots of Army trucks (Shaktiman), different type of tempo, small busses and statues of Rani Durgawati. Dr Tripathi was principal director of that institute.
In 1995 I got call for interview at Goa Public Service Commission. I went to New Delhi railway Reservation counter near Connaught place. Ticket had name of station as Vasco-di-gama. I tried to ask, whether this will be the correct station. Since I had to go to Panjim, but I could not get much information. Thus i got my ticket cancelled after few days. Today, after so many years I think that I should have taken the risk. Therefore lack of correct information and lack of confidence as to where & how i will stay at unknown place lead me to cancel the trip. Somewhere at some point confidence fails.
Most difficult journey that i took was to Port Blair- Andaman Nicobar Islands in January 1996. At first, to reach Madras in 36 hours or almost three days by train was most tiring. From there a three day journey in Sea by ship to reach Andaman Nicobar Islands. There also i had to seek some help for people, on whom i shall depend for my stay. By the grace of God I found one uncle staying in Andaman Nicobar, who was in Navy with my father. In Madras I had two names with me to contact. One was Sudhi Raj Verma, whom i knew since my school days. Thus staying with him was no problem for me. Other was Mr S K Mishra working in Air force and staying at Tambaram, whom i had never met. I searched for mode of transport to go to Tambaram. There was a train, I boarded. On reaching Tambaram station on left side was the road to go to some Air force academy. Walking and walking I reached at gate and inquired about My Mishra. People asked me various questions, I had no reply. I had never seen Mr Mishra. But when I told all descriptions they managed to locate one Mr Mishra and he came immediately I touched his feet. He took me to his home. I stayed there for few days.
I took the journey of Sea(read as -the risk). On the way in the ship i got to know one Mr Shukla of Navy, posted at Port Blair. I stayed with him. He took me around the city to locate my uncle. To my surprise they stayed near the place where I was staying with Mr Shukla. Thus I could attend the interview conducted by UPSC. I was selected and joined the post at Port Blair on 7 November 1996.
The idea of smart city is a nice concept. I had to travel a lot for various reasons. First after school i travelled to appear in competitive exams at Aligarh(AMU), Benaras(BHU), New Delhi(AIIMS, DPMT), Lucknow(CPMT), then for interviews & exams for jobs etc. to Rae barely, Allahabad, Pune, Jabalpur, Shillong, Madras, Patiala, Ajmer & Port Blair. I got to see many modes of travel such as Train, Bus, Seaship but now Air also. First and foremost requirement in traveling is a place to stay. That includes daily requirement of food, accessories of basic necessity. A smart city should have adequate place of stay for visitors. As an unemployed person i needed a safe place to stay wherever i had to go for exams or interview. Most vulnerable situation was when i did not know what to do in event of cancellation of train. We use reservation just to have a security for travel. Otherwise, if there are facilities, why we rush for reserving a ticket. Often whole one day is lost just to get a train ticket reservation. That too, if i join the queue at railway booking counter sharp at 7 in morning. By the time my number arrives tickets become RAC or waitlisted. Meanwhile the lady at the counter books many tickets for those who had given her the slips earlier (by agents or people known to those counter clerks). If I asked any query she always pointed to the assistance counter and thrown my slip on me. Claiming she don’t have time and this is not assistance counter. Go to that counter. But she is so expert that all through this she managed to book many tickets in front of my eyes. I had experience of New Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow. Since i was regularly visiting regularly thus those faces at counter became familiar to a great extent. Their habits were also known to me. I had lost lot of time under that building where hordes of people come to get their tickets booked.
Now another problem i face since past many years. The flight to Port Blair is scheduled at 5 in morning. Thus we have to reach Chennai or Kolkata a day in advance so as to catch flight next morning.
Often to save time of holiday i try to reach these stations in the evenings. If i travel by train then i face difficulty of staying at these places. If travelling by train then i have to reach one day in advance since we know the condition of trains, their speed and weather also. Coming from Kanpur or lucknow we have to keep enough time as safety time with us. On Many occasions we missed our trains. Coming from Port Blair to Chennai by sea, i have to keep one or two days in hands for safety. Three days kept for the actually journey and one or two days extra for unforeseen things. Thus starting from Port Blair if i had booked ticket for early morning of fourth day i could not catch the Madras Lucknow train. The ship reached on fourth day morning. Train left madras i think at morning 4 or 5 am.
New Delhi-Kolkatta Rajdhani reaches around 10.10 am at Sealdah or Howrah. From there i try to reach airport as soon as i step out of train. The rumours of traffic jams in Kolkata jam my brain. The fear is so much that as soon as possible I try to reach in vicinity of airport. After that i search for hotel/room to stay so that I can fly next day morning. The hotel people charge whatever they like. Then we have to lookout for safe water and food. But when i land from flight at Netaji Subhas International Airport in evening or in morning i don’t rush outside. The rooms at Airport are always found booked so i don’t get rooms at airport. I then try dormitory. Earlier i had stayed at dormitory with my family. The lady at the manager room gave me dormitory pitying on us. Often we stay whole night sitting at airport itself. I saw huge walls of glass at Kolkatta, Delhi & Chennai Airport. I have an idea why they cannot be utilized as dormitory. I mean spaces between two layers of glass panes are enough for a small room. That space is enough for me to stay whole night. Thus they can make several small rooms in those walls of glass and lent us those rooms to stay at night at Airport. At Airports there must be some facility for passengers to stay. Not like that is available at present. I am sure there is need to have more rooms at cheaper cost. Waiting lounge at T3 is always full of people. At T3 New Delhi IGI, i stayed at Centaur Hotel. But as an afterthought i found the stay was not good. At Madras i could not muster the courage to go to one km far from airport to stay, obviously, for security concerns.
I don’t know as to how many visitors are there who want to stay in vicinity of airport. Actually i am afraid of staying at hotel. Either I am prejudiced against it Or i don’t have courage. I had stayed at Yatri Niwas and rooms at Howrah Railway station. The rooms were at high above on the station and the stairways were such that i was scared to go up and down. But that time i was newly married and i had to stay in room thus i took that risk. The main door was so dangerous that i many times checked whether the latch is working or not And Checked Whether the door is closed properly or not.
Recently in few years there was talk of establishing the Rural Hub or rural marketing hubs. Once i read a news item that now people can travel from Andaman to Kanpur by water ways. Both the things attracted me very much. In the rural hub the participation of private sector was talked about in the media. Reliance group was touted to be in forefront in developing infrastructure. With the idea of SEZ and retail businesses booming up, property prices have soured high in sky.
I imagine the Rural Hubs as a multi-dimensional thing, Being, it, as a futuristic infrastructure. High risen building complex having various facilities of storing, processing, selling(Retailing), collecting, Transporting, connecting facilities. Goods(raw & pressed) either by producers(farmer) retailers are brought in these hubs and from there these commodities will be processed, stored and transported to the required destinations. Therefore, these Hubs need to be well connected via surface(Road-Rail), Air, Water transport. There will be several Rural Hubs. The idea of quadrangle of roads will become a reality. Kolkatta, Patna, Kanpur, Delhi, Ludhiana(Chandigarh), Jaipur, Ahmedabad-surat, Mumbai, Nagpur(from Delhi), Jabalpur, Bhopal, Raipur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Puduchery, Kanyakumari, Cochin, upto Goa, Bangalore-Manglore-Mysore, Mumbai and in East through Puri-Cuttack-Bhuvneshwar, from Kolkata to Guwahati. Then at these places big Hubs can be developed with four lanes multilevel road-rail ways. These Hubs will also be having air transport to cater to the nearby areas as well as big ariports. Thus air transport will also be of multilevel from small to big carriers. There was some rumour that rivers will be connected with each other and inland waterways will be developed, Therefore some of these Rural Hubs or simply any of the Hub can be connected with inland water ways as well as Seaways?
Surat, Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, KanyaKumari, Chennai(or nearby) Tuticorin, Vizag, Bhuvneshwar, Kolkata(haldia) can be a part of sea ways routes. Cities which are well connected with rivers can be developed as inland water ways.
Most often a question is asked “what is a smart city?” Is there any answer?