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Haryana’s BJP government to spend Rs 500 million to promote mythological river

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Chandigarh, Purported signs of existence of a river considered sacred in Hindu mythology and a religious-minded BJP government being in power in Haryana are sufficient factors to try and “revive” the invisible Saraswati by spending a whopping Rs.50 crores ($7.5 million) in public money.

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Buoyed by the recent “discovery” of water at just seven feet in Rohlaheri village of Haryana’s Yamunanagar district during digging work to find the mythological river, the Haryana government has pledged Rs.10 crore from the corpus to establish the Haryana Saraswati Heritage Development Board.

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had in April announced the Rs.50 crore project to revive the river.
“The Board will conduct meticulous field work to unearth and understand the past and the present content of the Saraswati heritage in Haryana for exposition of cultural patterns and values. It will help to preserve and promote the various archeo-cultural facets of the Saraswati Heritage Area,” said a note of the state cabinet, which approved the setting up of the new board and release of funds for it.
A provision of Rs.10 crore has been made for establishment and smooth functioning of the Haryana Saraswati Heritage Development Board which includes a provision for recurring expenditure of Rs 2.42 crore for petty expenses, payment of salaries and wages, a senior Haryana government official told IANS.
Khattar, who heads the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state and has been a Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ideologue, and other BJP ministers have been quite inclined to dig up the mystery behind the mythological river, given its significance in Hindu mythology.
The Saraswati river finds several mentions in ancient Hindu scriptures like the Rig Veda, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and others, giving credence to the belief that the river existed during ancient times when it was held in great reverence.
“In Yamunanagar district, there are several places where there is tell-tale evidence that the river flowed in the area at one time,” Sohan Lal, a septuagenarian from the area, told IANS.
The Haryana government has drawn up elaborate plans for reviving the river through the new board.
“The Board will aim at revitalizing sacred places in the Saraswati Heritage Area. It will create effective linkages between tourism and cultural facilities by developing tourism circuits and conservation of natural resources in the area. It will develop and revive the existing Saraswati creek for irrigation, sanitation, recharging of ground water, plantation, development of herbal parks, landscaping to preserve and protect the environment and to ensure soil conservation,” the state government’s plan states.
The board will associate with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), UNESCO and other related national and international institutions for the project.

(IANS)

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Return to Jammu- A Novel About a Journey

The author has superbly captured the life of the kid in a cantonment, growing up with two sisters, his mother's struggle to run the house on a tight budget and his father, a happy-go-lucky man, who avoids the responsibilities of a good husband.

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He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father's transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.
Sanasar, Jammu and Kasmir- wikimedia commons

This is the engrossing tale of Balan, a kid from South India who grows up in the towns of Punjab, Jammu and Haryana. It captures the eventful journey of Balan’s childhood, his schooling, and the friends he makes and loses due to transfers of his father, serving in the Indian Army.

“Return to Jammu” is a first-person narration and with the timelines, places and real-life personalities and events, the reader gets a feeling that it is an autobiographical novel. The author clarifies that all characters and the story per se are fictional but confesses to borrowing liberally from many episodes of his childhood in telling the story.

“If you happen to be acquainted with me enough to perceive a passing resemblance of me in Balan, you would be right; and yet if you find the resemblance rather tenuous and liberally adulterated, you will be equally right too,” says the author in a preliminary note.

Settled in Jammu, Balan is admitted into grade two, though just four years and seven months old. He remains younger and tinier than his peer group all through his schooling and even in college.
V. Raghunathan-Author of the book Return to Jammu, wikimedia commons

Balan, son of a junior commissioned officer hailing from Kerala and having Tamilian roots, is born in the Ambala cantonment in 1954. He narrates his story even before his birth, relying on family tellings.

The author has superbly captured the life of the kid in a cantonment, growing up with two sisters, his mother’s struggle to run the house on a tight budget and his father, a happy-go-lucky man, who avoids the responsibilities of a good husband.

He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father’s transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.

Settled in Jammu, Balan is admitted into grade two, though just four years and seven months old. He remains younger and tinier than his peer group all through his schooling and even in college. Because of his diminutive size, he is saddled with sobriquets like pocket edition, Lilliputian and Madrasi, and sees his self-esteem falling dangerously.

He describes vividly how the family shifts to Jammu on his father's transfer, giving even the minutest details of their belongings, and of their journey to Jammu via Pathankot.
Jammu and Kashmir Map, wikimedia commons

It’s at Satwari near Jammu that he develops childhood friendship with many, most importantly with Jeevan Asha or Jeesha, who was two years older and also taller than him. Soon, however, Balan’s father is again transferred to Ambala and he is separated from his friends, especially Jeesha. He writes letters to his friends and receives responses from all, except Jeesha.

Overcoming all odds and with hard work, Balan completes his studies and joins the State Bank of India. Now a confident young man, he works hard and finally makes it to the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. (It was at IIM, Ahmedabad, that the author taught finance.)

Also Read: 70 years after Independence power reaches Elephanta Isle near Mumbai 

There he comes across a girl called Jasmine Pundith. He believes she is his good old buddy Jeesha. Bu she shows no sign of recognition and when he tries to remind her about their childhood friendship, Jasmine tells him that she is a citizen of the US and has no link with Jammu.

Convinced that she is none other than Jeesha, Balan travels to Delhi to find out more about her family. He even returns to Jammu, where he meets her brother Niranjan. What Balan comes to know from him forms the climax of the story.

The book is worth a read also for the author’s eye for detail, whether it is canal system of Jammu, the picturesque Kashmir valley, especially Uri, the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi, or a visit by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. (IANS)