I must admit that it was with some trepidation that I agreed to visit Dhanbad. When I declared my intention to travel to the Central Fuel Research Institute (CFRI), at the invitation of its Controller of Administration, my NAL colleagues gave me disbelieving looks: “Why Dhanbad? And why at the height of summer?”
With low cost airlines, Dhanbad isn’t very far from Bangalore: two hours, 30 minutes to reach Kolkata. Then three hours, 30 minutes on the New Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express to arrive at Dhanbad. The train journey from Kolkata, in particular, was a great pleasure: we did the 266 km to Dhanbad in about 210 minutes. I was also surprised to note that the IBM executives travelling with us could sustain their wireless laptop connection to the Internet right through our train journey.
We were in Dhanbad to launch CFRI’s e-governance plans. I won’t go into the fine details but our CFRI experience confirmed what we already know about e-governance: that the big battle is really to conquer the mind of the user.
CFRI’s campus had a sumptuous offering of trees and birds. Early morning walks (and it gets light well before 5 am in summer) were a special pleasure. There were hundreds of birds all chattering in unison, including the humble sparrow that’s practically disappeared from Bangalore. I also frequently heard the wondrously beautiful call of the koyal. Evenings were equally delightful. There was a gentle breeze and trees all around swayed in divine harmony. As the light faded, the moon too made fleeting appearances to add to the beauty of the emerging night.
I also enjoyed talking to CFRI’s scientists. They expressed their disappointment that the early hopes around Jharkhand were largely unfulfilled. “We have so much natural wealth here, so why isn’t the young state prospering?”, they asked. I also discovered how the wealth split between Jharkhand and Bihar: while Jharkhand has the mines and the heavy industry, Bihar, blessed with the Ganga in its bosom, continues to thrive on its agro-industries.
Finally, I found that an abnormally large number of young men in Dhanbad, including our intrepid taxi driver, sported outlandishly long locks of hair. I didn’t need to ask why this was so. It’s called the Dhoni effect.