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My Days at Chhindwara

Chhindwara does not boast of many distinctions. For sure, it is a quiet and clean place, enjoying an altitude only a few meters less than the famous and well regarded Pachmarhi, the queen of Satpuras and a hill station known for its quiet and serene ambience. Chhinwara has a climate and a beauty that is as salubrious and as sumptuous. Every weather blesses and brightens this place but none excessively. The Summer is not extreme and the winters not severe. The rainfall is abundant, but it never floods the place. And the intervening seasons of spring and autumn are long and pleasant. In all, a place where spending a few years may do a lot of good to your health and mental peace unless one prefers the compelling lifestyle of bigger cities despite the costs it imposes on one’s health and wellbeing.
But the more important reason it is known to the outside world is as the parliamentary constituency of Kamal Nath, a stalwart Congress leader of long standing who has represented this place for last nearly 45 years with only one brief hiatus. Kamal Nath who has been a Union Minister, and a Chief Minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh has indeed nursed this constituency very well. Therefore, despite it being in backwaters of the state, it is a flourishing and affluent district by Madhya Pradesh standards. The fruits of government programmes and schemes have been productively channelised here and the results are evident. The township of Chhindwara is better endowed and developed than most cities of Madhya Pradesh. Proximity to Nagpur has helped the place grow and retain vital connectivity.
So, when my younger son got posted here as the Police Chief, I and my wife decided to spend our summer months away from the sweltering and gruelling heat of Delhi. A sojourn, however, that was intended to last for a couple of months, stretched to almost a whole year. And what a wonderful stay it turned out to be. 

The house where I spent all these months was no ordinary house. It breathed history and had stood witness to a passage of time few houses had the privileged to do. Firstly, it is almost 200 years old. Built by Britishers on a 7-acre piece of land, designed and planned for the status, position and authority of an imperial district officer, the structure is grand, opulent and classic. Tall and stately, surrounded by wide open verandas, supported by thick tall pillars, the building has a mesmerising mystique. The walls are more than two feet thick and ceilings so high that cleaning them would demand a 20 feet pole. With several king-sized rooms, the house could withstand severe summer and intense winter without the aid of any gadgets. The walls, thick and stoic, and the high ceilings, a canvas for the dance of shadows and light, harboured a coolness that the fiercest of summers could not penetrate, and a warmth that the coldest winters dared not breach. Even today, one can live comfortably here without an air-conditioner in summers, and without a heater or room warmer in winters. 

But the reason this abode becomes memorable is on account of its sylvan surroundings. It is dotted with trees and shrubs of all descriptions, hundreds of them. There are trees, tall and stately, tree whose canopy offers a dense shade and succour, flowering tree whose fragrance absorbs every depression or negativity, the swaying branches brightens and elevates a drooping spirit. There are sprawling bushes and countless plants of smaller variety. There are Banyans and Peepals, Mangoes and Jamun, Shirish and Ashok, Amal and Neem, Mulberry, oranges, and guavas. The diversity is amazing.

And if the variety in flora is amazing, the multitude of avian fauna is stunning. From the sonorous Koel to verdant Parrots, Mynah and Magpies, Shama and Sun bird, Pigeons and Parakeets, Hornbills and Doves, Cockles and Crows, Bulbuls and Babblers, Tree pies and Golden Orioles, you name a bird, and it is there. Even the rare Paradise Fly Catcher, with its flowing glimmering white tail and a mesmerising presence regales one’s sight though occasionally.
And the air is so pure and the sight so pristine, the ambience so soothing and reassuring, the setting so peaceful and serene. I spend hours sitting outside in the wide verandah of this magnificent home and never tire of just watching and listening. Watching the spectacular colours of nature and listening to the divine and uncommon music created by the best musicians of the world. I wish the time could stop and I could stand frozen in that moment.
If there were a heaven on earth not in terms of material opulence but in terms of nature’s pulchritude, generosity and benevolence, if there were a place where I would like to spend endless hours, never feeling tired and at complete peace with myself, I will without a moment’s hesitation choose this place from where I am writing this piece, where a sprawling and opulent Rubber tree stand  majestically right in front, as the golden oriole in its bright yellow hue flits from branch to branch, where the air is replete with the countless  hums, tweets, calls of birds and bees, creating a mesmerising music so soulful and celestial. And when a cuckoo decides to get into ruptures of passionate and melodious symphony, that, I find is the right time to say goodbye to the world and rest permanently with these images and sounds eternally engraved on my heart.
As I prepare to leave, the realization dawns that Chhindwara, in its unassuming grace, has etched itself into the fabric of my being. The thought of departure brings a pang of nostalgia, a sense of loss for the serenity that has been a constant companion. Yet, it is accompanied by a profound gratitude for the beauty witnessed, the peace experienced, and the simplicity that taught me more about myself than I could have imagined.As I bid farewell to this haven, I carry with me not just memories but a piece of its essence, forever a part of my soul’s eternal inexhaustible treasure.

The house where I stayed for nearly a year, with its understated beauty but a timeless charm, is my very image of paradise. Amir Khusrau, the 13th-14th Century Legend of Indian-Sub-Continent supposedly wrote,
अगर फ़िरदौस बर-रू-ए-ज़मीं अस्त 
हमीं अस्त ओ हमीं अस्त ओ हमीं अस्त 

(If there is a paradise on earth,
It is this, it is this, it is this”)
If Paradise could be defined as a blissful blend of elements and a feeling of perfect peace and contentment, I would unhesitatingly say my Paradise is,
हमीं अस्त ओ हमीं अस्त ओ हमीं अस्त. 
In the quietude of Chhindwara, in its gentle embrace, I found my paradise, a haven of peace and beauty that will forever linger in my heart, a cherished memory, an eternal love story with a place that was, is, and will always be, my sanctuary.

(Uday Kumar Varma is an IAS officer. Retired as Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting)






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