Alwar - where mosquitoes take over from monarchy
Alwar, I soon found , was too sleepy to have any life. A grand historic city of the times of Maharajas, its grandeur and glory were all gone. The majestic palace built in marble was turned into the Collector's office, over looking the over crowded district courts within its compound walls. The great fort on the hilltop, visible for miles around the city, was perhaps the most neglected of all the places that must have been once the pride of Alwar and its rulers. As for the city itself, the citizens regarded heaps of garbage and choked open drains with dirty stagnant water along the houses, as a way of life. They did not seem to care that they were living in perpetual danger of being afflicted by the dreaded decease of Malaria. There could be no better breeding facilities for mosquitoes than found here. The mosquito menace simply made their life hell. However, they felt solace from the saying that those who have lived in Alwar are assured of definite entry into heaven after death; they have already served their term in hell while living here and atoned for whatever sins they might have committed in their life.
Clearing of drains for free flow of rain water as well as removal of city garbage was the responsibility of a contractor, who passed on the duty to stray cattle and street pigs. Mosquitoes, in the meanwhile, had the best breeding time in the stagnant dirty water of the drains all over the city. I, along with most other engineers and professionals, who had come to Alwar to work in the upcoming factories in the industrial area, though dismayed, could hardly do much to improve the sanitation in the city. I did write a 'Letter to the Editor' in the Hindustan Times, concerning conditions in Alwar, which became talk of the town, as it was for the first time that Alwar was mentioned prominently in the national press. The letter also attracted the attention of the Collector, who immediately ordered civic officials to launch cleanliness drive in the city, before his bosses in the central government gave any directions based on the letter.
Stray dogs in Alwar were another awful sight, though for me it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. One particular stray dog, whom I called Doggie, became my best friend in Alwar, because in me he found his food provider. It was a Sunday and my wife had joined me in Alwar during her summer vacations. Doggie followed us when we went for a long walk, up to the scenic lake some miles away. We had hardly covered half the distance when Doggie suddenly stopped and would not move a step further in spite of our repeated calls to come. On the contrary, he went and sat right in the middle of the busy road. Panicked for his life, we let Doggie prevail and returned from there, cutting short our walk. Next day we gave Doggie a warm hug when he came; that morning the local paper had reported that a tiger had walked out of the Sariska Tiger Sanctuary, situated near Alwar, in search of new territory and was last sighted near the lake area, where the forest guards were still searching for him. Animals are known for their sixth sense to foresee a coming calamity, Doggie had it extra strong, it seems.
All its filth and faults aside, we found Alwar the most feasible option to have our home here, when my wife retired from her job and had to surrender the accommodation in New Delhi that was provided to her as Principal of a government school. Property prices in New Delhi were prohibitive for our reach and I had already booked a house under the State Housing Scheme, during my tenure in Alwar. The biggest advantage of living in Alwar vis-a-vis New Delhi was its special small town charm. Even the best city doctor was not only available without prior appointment, but ready to attend you at your home if needed. Interestingly, our doctor even went out of the way to introduce us to some of his friends, when we hinted that we were missing our friends in Delhi and feeling a sort of bored in Alwar.
Whatever the civic disadvantages be, the life of citizens in Alwar was very safe. Not to speak of big crime, even small incidents of burglary were hardly heard of. It was unimaginable in Delhi how another small piece published in the Hindustan Times brought big awards and promotions to the cops at the police station in our area. I had only appreciated their work in solving a small burglary (my imported shoes!) , which letter attracted the attention of their big boss, the Inspecter General in Jaipur, the state capital. Soon after knowing about their reward and how it came about, the Incharge of the area police station called on us with his subordinates to thank me for writing the letter. From that day onwards, the officer arranged to specially safeguard our house with a new police post opposite our house. The police protection could not have come at a better time, as soon afterwards we moved to USA to join our son, while our house in Alwar remains well guarded.