Jhumritilaiya and the grizzly bears

Many may think that Jhumritilaiya and Timbuctoo are fictional places. They are real places, like their slightly lesser known counterparts like Rajnandgaon and Monkey Bottom in the US.

Much of what you may have heard about Jhumritilaiya would be in this context: http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/where-are-you-going-this-winter–jhumri-telaiya-/325656/0

It is, however, a place of some distinction as we will see shortly. One reason for its obscurity is that it does have a railway station on one of the main routes from Delhi to Kolkata, but the station has a more prosaic name like Koderma:


What is odder still is that Koderma is a town which is some distance away, but this station lies within Jhumritilaiya town. More recently a new railway line from this station (which now becomes Koderma Junction) which passes through the “real” Koderma which has a station called Koderma Town. If you think this is odd, think of the equally unknown town of Hathras in western UP which has no less than four separate stations.

The basic facts about the town can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jhumri_Telaiya

including the rise and fall of the mica industry. What does strike you is the presence of educational institutions such as:


and another one for grizzly cubs: http://grizzlyvidyalaya.com/

At least you can see a bear as part of the logo here. But there is no clue in either website as to why these institutions have been named after this fellow:


But why, indeed, is he called a grizzly bear? Does he grizzle? If so, what is grizzling? Or is it just because he is grisly?

None of these. Wikipedia makes it clear:

Meaning of “grizzly”

The word “grizzly” means “grizzled”; that is, golden and grey tips of the hair. This is not to be confused with the word “grisly”.

However, some zoologist must have got a kick out of giving him the Latin scientific name of Ursus horribilis. You probably do not need Google Translate to tell you that this means “Horrible bear”.

And of course there are no grizzly bears anywhere near India.

Jhumritilaiya’s “cousin” in the Vividh Bharati stakes is Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh, which is a slightly more important place and is located on the main line from Mumbai to Kolkata:


Timbuctoo deserves an article to itself.

Many governments in India and elsewhere have traditionally had places of sufficient remoteness and obscurity to transfer unwanted employees to. For instance, in Kerala state this role goes to the quaintly named town of Sultan Battery, where Tipu Sultan once set up his artillery. This is not to be confused with the small structure outside Mangalore, though you can see the rifle slits there.


If you are a moderately senior officer in the Indian civil services, you could be dispatched to a variety of high-sounding positions where there is no work. If no such position exists, your CM will create one just to get rid of you. Or you could become the chief administrator of Lakshwadeep or Diu or the Andaman Islands. This is not as bad as it seems since many of these places have no elected assembly or ministers which makes the life of bureaucrats considerably simpler.

Most countries have some small place which is the butt of jokes. Not surprisingly this position in the US goes to this city in Montana:


Like other mining towns in the US, it has a bit of history but it seems to be more famous for its name than anything else. Then there is Monkey Bottom. Try googling for images with this name and you will get more or less what you expect. But there is indeed one place of this name, the Monkey Bottom Wetland Walkway.

Monkey bottom

And there is a story behind it : http://hamptonroads.com/2008/12/whats-name-norfolks-monkey-bottom

Enough of a tour of obscure corners of the world. Next stop Timbuctoo.