Being defensive about Roorkee

It got on my nerves when one fine morning, one of my friends in a very casual attitude remarked that Roorkee- the current city that I am living in, is comparable with Baroda- the city that I lived in before coming to Roorkee, in a lot many ways. He went on stating some attributes of likeness between Baroda and Roorkee, but I wasn’t listening to him anymore since I was fuming within. ‘How on earth a town-like city Roorkee is comparable with a metropolitan like Baroda! Okay, Baroda may still be few notches away from being classified as metropolis, but certainly it’s a highly cultured city with enviable standards that Roorkee can claim only in its dream.’

My rage knows no bounds when somebody has to say something even remotely demeaning about Baroda even if it’s, let us presume for a moment, based on facts. I know I am being a bit partial here, but I just can’t help it. So I had decided to ostracize my friend who had stirred deep emotions in me by his remark, for lifetime. But by the time he paid for my evening cup of tea, I had simmered down and was now able to see things in perspective.

Although I still held Baroda in the same esteem as I ever had, I also now realized that Roorkee is not a city that can be written off just like that. With its glorious past, the city continues to make it presence felt in our present times. It has been a capital of Mughal Mahal or Pargana as mentioned in Abu Fazal’s Ain-e-Akbari and later became a part the Gurjar state, Landhaura, and then of the British East India Company.

Roorkee has been a city of firsts considering that India’s first engineering college was established here, it’s first aqueduct was built on the Solani rivulet, it’s first steam engine ran here, the first irrigation canal in North India was started here and one of the oldest cantonment of our nation was founded here.

Since being in the neighborhood of Haridwar, the streets of Roorkee become even more animated by the kavads (devotees who travel on foot to reach Haridwar) from all around the region. Also, the mausoleum of the 13th century Sufi saint, Hazrat Alauddin Ali Ahmed Kaliyari, popularly known as Sabir Kaliyari, situated in a village Kaliyar which is just 7 km from Roorkee, attracts Hindu, Muslim and Sikh devotees, all round the year.

I can go on and on about Roorkee’s distinctive features such as it being a hub of various government institutions like IIT, CBRI, NIH etc., a centre for the manufacture of survey and nautical instruments along with the arms and armors of the likes of those used by ancient civilizations (and still used in some epic movies) etc. But there are certain facts about Roorkee that a Roorkee-buff may not like you to come across. However, being an impartial man that I am, I wouldn’t hesitate from baring those facts before you. Take for instance, the weather here- biting in winter, blistering in summer and humid all round the year. The rains are elusive; you never know when a group of clouds, apparently having lost its way, decides to stick around the city and soak it. I don’t seem to recollect other shortcomings of the city, but I am sure they are there.

Anyways, after mentally having pitched Baroda against Roorkee and seeing Baroda victorious hands-down, I decided to accompany my friend for a stroll along the Ganges canal. A tide of calmness surged in my heart as the light breeze showered the coolness that it had gathered from the flow of the canal and somewhere deep in my heart, to my surprise, I found a little lump of likeness growing for Roorkee. Strangely enough, I left the place for my dwelling, hoping that in future, somewhere in some other city, when some other friend of mine, in his casual attitude, would remark something even remotely demeaning about Roorkee, I would become as defensive about it as I am right now for Baroda.

—- Madani Sayed 

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