Following the hectic poll process of 24 days a well deserved relaxation was called for. One could have stayed back in the NTPC complex, Mujedi (Neemka) or in the quiet abode in the heart of Faridabad but after a review and rethinking I settled for inspiring and isolated setting of Hotel Rajhans at Surajkund.2. The evening could be very partially utilized. After sipping self prepared tea, Chinese dinner was a quiet affair. Less of salt and sauce could have done, though the care and courtesy of the staff was outstanding. Going down the memory lane, I witnessed the remarkable decade or more old theme State structures in semi-darkness situation. Thereafter, a gentle stroll around the hotel corridor took place. Taking a round of large and impressive swimming pool area was exciting at night. One fondly remembered one's first swimming pool 'bath' of 1996.
3. During the current stay I occupied Room 101.Thirteen years ago some other comfortable room was allotted to me as a guest of Haryana Tourism. After detailed discussions and persuasions, we from Sikkim had won the 'bid' to become the theme state of the then internationally famous Mela. Offering me hospitality was part of the deal. My last visit to this place was in Feb.2003,when Uttarakhand as a theme State had erected a permanent replica of Badrinath Temple. Navraj Nain, my dynamic batchmate who was M.D.,Haryana Tourism had played her role to perfection.4. When I am scribbling these lines at dawn in a corner of the lawn overlooking dried up Surajkund, far off in the area peacocks have not only got up but by their soothing calls are attempting to wake up all. This large National Bird has its own charm and charisma. One saw scores of them walking gently all over the place in Rashmipuram for little over 3 weeks. I also saw exactly 20 of them in Kheri Kala village of Tigaon, one evening while retreating from a long but satisfying tour. They are very good to look at. But the moment you try to get closer they sense it instantaneously, speed up their walk and simply fly off in no time. You cannot even adjust your camera angle. Closest shot I have managed, was once each in Rastrapati Bhawan in 2013 and in a heritage hotel in Jaipur in Feb.2014.Latter looked like a pet.
5. My first 'revisit' is to the Sikkim Gate, I went out of way to build as a gift of the theme state in 2002. I was so happy when it appeared before my eyes after good 11 years . I saw it , went near it, touched it , took a round prior to taking photos from different angles. Felt elated and satisfied. Afterall , the Mela authorities had managed to retain its true colour including over the ceiling , having commited a mistake once in the past.6. The mud walls and parapets close by, reminded me of the eight lucky signs and various Buddhist icons and symbols , we had got painted with care and interest. Five giant fibre masks were especially fixed at prominent points .A painting showing early morning view of Mt. Kanchenjanga over the backdrop of’ Natyashala’ was an outstanding piece of art. It was now no where to be seen as the venue itself was shifted. The ‘Apna Ghar’ , wherein the lifestyle of three ethnic communities of Sikkim was depicted, was being demolished or repaired for a fresh use . The new Apna Ghar of blue and white colour, as opposed to mud walls of earlier version, was a poor reflection of its old , serene self . It did not have a tinge or semblance of tradition. Instead, it looked like a portable Tent House creation.
7. The Chorten (memorial) , the additional structure gifted by us, though maintained well , had lost its original white colour . The present pink coloured piece was also devoid of its miniature statue of Lord Buddha . A glance of nearby stalls and the’ Chaupal ‘right opposite, brought back fond memories of complementary stalls made available to our craft persons and handloom workers as also unimaginable international exposure to the dancers and performers. All this happened upon incurring a meagre expenditure of Rs 7 lakhs . Apart from ensuring a good market ahead for our products and giving me a different kind of job satisfaction , the opportunity in Feb 2002 enabled me to get a documentary made on our rare participation in addition to writing the first book by me on the magnum opus of art and craft world that Surajkund fair had become by then.8. One also quickly saw a couple of permanent structures left behind by the theme states since the year 1989.Being attached to the place, I cannot resist the temptation to offer comments on the present state of the theme structures. On the positive side, Vishnupur Gate of West Bengal, Danteshwari Gate of unified MP, replica of Shah Hamdam Dargah of J&K, facade of Badrinath Temple of Uttarakhand, Kangla Sanathong of Manipur, Char Minar of Andhra Pradesh, Arjuna's Penance Wall of T.N.,Trimurti of Elephanta Caves of Maharastra and Rang Ghar of Assam not only impress in terms of upkeep but they turn out to be fine specimens of art & craft.
9 .While the Kottayambalam Gate of Kerala and a non-descript Gate of Chattisgarh together with a replica of a chariot kind of fort need to be repaired and restored, the original pink colour of Gujarat Gali has been substituted by a coat of mud. On the whole, it looks neglected and deserted. It is bound to be dilapidated soon. The entire village has been kept clean and green with bright signages. However, building of a wide central road could have been avoided. Neither it should give an urban look, nor should it bolster the spirit of fast drivers. The main Kund too has dried up. It needs to be revived. Further, looking at the things in retrospect, it appears as if the very concept of Theme State is getting eroded, if not exhausted.10 .Having said so, I am reminded of a relevant and pertinent question posed by our only late child, as a student of Class VIIth in 2002-"When the organisers run short of the theme states, what will they do ?"Instead of I finding an answer despite thinking and pondering over, he himself responded the very next day in form of a suggestion-"They should go for theme countries in the next round." Probably he meant countries with a rich art and craft traditions.
ARE SURAJKUND ORGANISERS LISTENING ?