The Windmill Says It All (Published in HT Allahabad- 11 sep 2014 )
You know what; the ‘garden’ with the Company seems to me to be a misappendage! Because - one may like it or not- it is much, much more than a garden. It has a big library for the bibliophiles, a Sanskrit University for the scholars, the only museum in the city for the antiquarians, a place of obeisance for the patriotic, a symbol of the transfer of the sceptre from the Company to the British monarchy, a patch of swings for the kids, a stadium for those having passion for sports, a school of music for lovers of art and, of course, a rendezvous for the lovers and the passionate.On the west, adjoining the small circle, the undulating lawns (and the Gulmohar trees in flames) make it resemble a picturesque clean green stretch in a European countryside. While the elderly and the tired, after a long walk, lounge on the benches in this small circle, the musical fountain adds to the beauty of the place as the evenings make way for the dusk.
It has changed quite a bit though, during the last more than three decades I have been seeing it. The western boundary fronting the St. Joseph’s College then had a lush guava grove instead of the present drab patch with swings for kids (many a times occupied by bulky adults reliving their childhood!). In it, we had our adventures with the caretaker in trying to outwit him and get a few semi-ripe guavas straight from the trees. The library became my haunt during the graduation days for its decent collection of books, while now, with my moving into the forties, I frequent the garden with its three km track for keeping in shape.The ‘garden’ is a pale self of its past. Besides the already referred demise of the guava orchard, the rusted broken iron frames near the southern boundary remain the only evidence that grape vines existed there once upon a time. Several large clear patches all over the garden remind us that mighty trees existed there earlier, but sadly they fail to prick our conscience that newer ones can be planted in these spaces. In fact, ideally, they should be so dense that one is unable to see the adjoining roads beyond the boundaries.
The lone windmill near the nursery says it all. It once swung gaily with the wind but now it can be seen standing still warped in parasitic creepers. Hope the myopic authorities see its condition and restore its glory. Really hope so.
--- Skand Shukla