Raj Thakareys and the MNS, Tamil Elams and regional groups is gaining momentum in this 21st century where West Asia is fast becoming democratic and grouping itself to form a state entity. I am awed at the challenges which our Iron Man, Vallabhai Patel was faced, with dignity and grace. Recalling one of the incidents mentioned in one of the biographies on him,he was called upon by Nehru through a representative to integrate India. In Bed for weeks due to the prevailing illness, he was not in a position to move or travel. But the moment he got the directions, he jumped and with full vigour and passion started off to convince 565 princely states across the length and breadth of India to be a part of the larger India they dreamt!! Cutting across caste, class, religion, community and statehood; he made India or Bharat united. Unfortunately there is section of people who still believe that we can never stand united among this diversity; and was better left to be ruled by princes and horses. Often my mind wavers on this, witnessing the ignorance and talking to the ignorant.
Having travelled to Orissa which earned the distinction of being a Maoist state; the state of laborers and illiterates, the state of poverty amongst rich; I was given updates and situational reports from various quarters. Given that I had traveled to Rourkela, Puri and Konark when I was 2 years old, was excited to visit the state at the present state of affairs. The Patna Express took me 36 hours forcing to burn the morning oil at 2:30 am, thanks to Prasant Jena who was waiting for me to pick me up from Bhubaneshwar station. I was a part of the land deals which he took me; and educated me on the cost of land business. I find that Bhubaneshwar is one of the top destinations for companies to invest in and figures third in the Doing Business Report. Hard to imagine for a small city similar to Kochi in size but bigger in ambition. Hats off to Patnaik, who is a Harvard graduate in stimulating growth.
Despite the extremists efforts, the larger part of Orissa (Odisha, as it is now called) is progressing, though the poor are still disadvantaged owing to the rich divide brought by the bountiful mines and minerals of Orissa. No wonder POSCO wanted to get the deal done at any cost.The city is growing, so is the roads and infrastructure. Making way for 6 lanes and connecting Chennai to Kolkota; travelling through the industrial belt all the way to Baleshwar/ Balasore was an enriching experience. As I was witnessing the famous Kalinga War which made Ashoka repent and lead to the sprout of Buddhism only to be driven away later (allegedly by Shankaracharyas advaita). I was also standing as a mute witness to the mining goondas exploiting the sacred soil and waging war against nature. Guess Herman Hesse's would have to rewrite his 'Sidhartha'!!
Bhubaneshwar- Baleshwar Maruti 800 drive took us 3 and half hours (approx 210 kms). The road was endless and vast enough to wage a war. I stood non plussed and imagined how wars were fought in this vast track of land. The frequent tolls slowed us, while the oncoming traffic through the single line was enough to scare us on the impending accidents, not to mention the sacred cows. The road produced a tour to the butcher with carcass of the goats and dogs laying in a state of static motion. It had the right mix of all forms of human and natural inventions, lorries; industries, pollution; agri land etc....
Baleshwar is a hustle bustle small city (or rather extended version of town) which is 15 kms from our prestigious agni launch pad, Chandipur. Its only a test ground for most of the missiles, with the actual launching done in Russia, Kyrgistan and other countries. Its a product of our Industrial policy as you can see industrialist queuing to settle themselves there. Interestingly, the land value of Baleshwar is pretty higher than the capital state of Bhubaneshwar. No wonder, the road less travelled to Baleshwar is packed by POSCO's, Vedanta, Cairn India etc. Staying at my Project Manager, Prasant Jena's house; I find that unlike we mallus, he has so many identical twins in Orissa. All wear the same shirt, jeans, have fat tummy and sound similar. Quite unique in their similarity!!
Seeing and feeling the pulse of Odisha residents, I am sure they want their state to emerge as a leader in India. The mindset is positive, the situation is tending to be favourable (except for the miners) and the leadership is good. I believe we can admire the vastness of the Kalinga empire in the near future. We shoukd understand that Ashoka's contribution to India is not just the chakra represented in the Indian flag, but the great ideals and the principles he adopted; which the land of kalinga made him believe.