Memory towers over neglect - Run-down Tagore Hill gets sighs in plenty, but precious little by way of constructive action

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  • Published 4.05.12

Lucky Ranchi can leave the cares of the plains for the hills in the heart of the capital, but Tagore Hill, just 1.5km from the Morabadi grounds, is running short on luck for years now.

But let’s give you the good news first. The view is stunning. The breeze can sweep you off your feet. And you’ll bump into people for whom Tagore Hill is a way of life.

For A.S. Deol, steering committee member of Ranchi Municipal Corporation and Morabadi resident, Tagore Hill represents his carefree boyhood. “As a schoolboy in 1980s, every Sunday I went to Tagore Hill with friends for picnics. We’d sing and dance. I still go, but the place needs conservation,” said Deol.

The hill gets hundreds of visitors like Deol, some moved by nostalgia, others driven by novelty.

Now for the bad news.

You need to be intrepid. The stairway to Jyotindranath Tagore’s retreat atop the 300ft hill is rickety, with cracked tiles. You can’t miss the cracks even as litter abounds — from polythene bags to discarded packets of edibles to plastic bottles and soft mounds of rotting leaves.

On the apex, there is no plaque to commemorate the historicity of the place. Scholar Jyotindranath, the elder brother of Nobel Laureate and literary colossus Rabindranath Tagore, had bought the place in 1908 and built two monuments named Brahma Sthal and Shanti Dham.

The first, which the scholar used for meditation or writing, stands on the peak. He resided in the second till his death in 1925, a little below.

Both are falling apart.

“The pillars on the platform on which Brahma Sthal stands have weakened. They may collapse anytime without preservation, which needs to be done soon,” said S.D. Singh, Intach (Jharkhand) convener.

There is no provision for drinking water either, as the hand pump doesn’t work.

There are no lights. After sundown, you need to wait for moonrise. But minus security, terror destroys the romance.

As they say, morning shows the day. The sole guard at the entrance of this tourist spot has no uniform or rifle.

The Telegraph had carried a report titled “Uphill climb to renovation” on April 30, which said how Ranchi district administration’s plan to beautify the hill and conserve the two historic monuments has remained a non-starter, despite late tribal ideologue, scholar and Rajya Sabha member Ram Dayal Munda sanctioning Rs 95 lakh from his MP area development fund days before his death in September 2011. More than six months later, on Thursday, National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) dumped construction material for the akhra — Munda had wanted the recreation of a typical tribal cultural hub — on the foothills.

Zilla parishad (engineering wing) is in charge of beautification and conservation. But officials have prepared a blueprint that pegs the cost in terms of crores. They will ask money from the Union government. It is anyone’s guess how long the project will hang fire.

What is unblemished is nostalgia.

“In the 1960s, when I had finished my studies and had started my business, I visited Tagore Hill twice or thrice a week only to relax. It is a national heritage that deserves upkeep,” said Chotanagpur Passenger Association vice-president Ashok Nagpal.

Noted Nagpuri scholar B.P. Kesri added he had “fond memories” of Tagore Hill. “Ram Dayal Munda had dreamt of the site as a vibrant cultural hub. He wanted it to be named Rabindra Dham, where artistes could perform. Work for this should have started,” added the close associate of the late tribal leader.

Die-hards make an annual pilgrimage of sorts to Tagore Hill on Pachishey Boishak (the 25th day of Baisakh), for Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary at the retreat of elder brother Jyotindranath.

Then, there are the first-timers.

“I had read about this hill and was curious to see it. Brahma Sthal, Shanti Dham and the hill are really beautiful,” said Sushmit Goswami, who runs an event management unit in New Delhi. As an afterthought he added: “Too beautiful to be allowed to crumble.”

Yes, indeed.