Who are the Suresh Kalmadis at work in Mysore?

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Our Dasara which is an annual event, unlike the Commonwealth Games, has already started. But like the Commonwealth Games, at least in the Indian version of it, where work never seemed to stop even after the event itself started, all the works which have to be undertaken just to conduct the Dasara seem destined to go on for a long time even after the festival itself concludes.

Another similarity that our Dasara shares with the “common wealth” games is that since they are being done in a tearing hurry without proper supervision and accountability, much of these jobs are naturally of a very shoddy quality although contracts for them are invariably awarded at an astronomically escalated cost.

Though it is a well-known and sadly well-accepted fact that our Dasara is a money-spinner for its many automatic shareholders, I wonder why some proper planning does not go into its preparations.

At least it can then serve its intended purpose of showcasing our City at its best and making our tourists happy that the time, effort and money they spent on seeing it were worth it.

Everywhere all over the city I see work going on at a hectic pace in a vain bid to beat the deadline.

My observation is that whenever this happens and it has been happening with unfailing regularity over the past few years, all the half-done jobs are simply abandoned midway until the next year so much so that our Dasara preparations are best described by the idiom: “Well begun is half done.”

Even as late as this morning I found that the storm-water drain work which has been taken up bang opposite the main gate of Bannimantap grounds, the main venue of our Dasara, is still miles behind completion.

Although Dasara has already started, the whole place still resembles the construction site of some dam or factory. The concrete covering slabs that you see in the foreground of the picture have been cast just last evening and since concrete takes at least three weeks of proper curing to attain its correct strength, I wonder how they can be expected to do their job adequately.

Nevertheless, as we will all soon see, half-baked as they are, they will be used to cover the drain that has been dug on either side of the road and since they will be trampled upon by the jostling crowds on Vijayadashami Day in just a week’s time, they are likely to crack or crumble and go waste.

With the rainy season almost gone and with Dasara so near I wonder why this job had to be undertaken at the last moment this year. It could have been taken up next year along with the mother of all money-spinners that we are all going to see when work on the ‘Raj Path’ commences.

While even an unqualified mason could have given some valuable practical advice on this issue, I wonder how the whole army of our Corporation engineers could have planned this job so improperly.

Is it just to ensure that the huge amount of money that this project fetches is not held up for another full year?

This year’s Dasara seems to take the cake for some of the most important cosmetic jobs being completely ignored and left out of the menu altogether.

The main arch that welcomes our Dasara procession into the Bannimantap grounds, although adorned with its share of decorative light bulbs, still stands with its old maroon paint peeling off in layers. The inordinately ornamental compound wall, which I have criticised in the past for its inappropriate design, stands with its tiles all cracked and dislodged in many places due to acts of vandalism.

Many of the parks and circles where flowering shrubs used to be planted in time for them to bloom during the Dasara and which have been earning our city the sobriquet of the ‘Garden City’ have been left untended. In the days of the Maharajas this lapse would have been considered an unpardonable sacrilege.

A glaring example is the Milleneum Circle which actually is the first landmark that greets all tourists who head for our city from the State capital. Today it stands forlorn with only weeds and uncut grass under the glare of decorative lighting that only helps to show how shabby the place is. This is a spot where some carefully manicured shrubbery which does not obstruct the vision of road-users would have looked decent and appropriate.

The tragedy today is that none among all those who are busy working upon our Dasara seem to have any idea of how it was conducted in the past. It is a well-known fact that Mysore has some very capable and talented brains among its former planners and officers who were at the helm of conducting our Dasara during the sixties and seventies and who now lead retired lives in obscurity.

I think it would not be a bad idea to invite them to offer their experience and expertise which made our Dasaras of the past world famous and which I am sure they would be most willing to share to make our present day Dasaras more beautiful and meaningful.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician, who writes a weekly column in the Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: A file photo of the illuminated Amba Vilas palace, the centre of attraction during the Dasara festivities in Mysore, that will be inaugurated on Friday. The palace will be illuminated with more than 97,000 light bulbs. (Karnataka Photo News)