For whom the bell tolls

This has nothing to do with Hemingway’s novel, though it will appear again at the end.

There used to be a railway station called Ghanta, on the narrow gauge line from Champaner Road to Pani Mines in Gujarat:

Ghanta

This picture is probably from before the 1980s, before the bell tolled for this and many other narrow gauge lines (mainly in Gujarat). Many other lines such as the Satpura network had enough traffic to justify conversion.

The village of Ghanta appears to be in Vadodara district, but is too obscure to appear in Google Maps.

Here is an extract from the 1943 Bradshaw:

Champaner branch

As you can see, our station was served by only one pair of trains daily. The timetables of the 1970s were similar.

Champaner Road is on the Mumbai-Delhi main line, between Vadodara and Godhra. No important train stops there now.

It has nothing to do with the Champaner of Lagaan, which was shot at a place in Kutch district.

And the Ghanta has become symbolic of other things in India, such as this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghanta_Awards

which may have been inspired by the Razzie awards of Hollywood.

Footnote: the title of Hemingway’s novel is from a poem by the 17th-century poet John Donne. Many of us would have come across this poem in school or college:

http://www.famousliteraryworks.com/donne_for_whom_the_bell_tolls.htm

The westernmost points of India

According to the Wikipedia article on “Extreme Points of India”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India

the westernmost point of India is Guhar Moti in Lakhpat taluk of Kutch district of Gujarat. This article mentions that it is at 23.71307 N, 68.03215 E. This appears to be wrong as it gives a point in the sea. However, the village of Guhar Moti is actually at 23.6076 N, 68.5022 E

which you can see here: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Guhar+Moti,+Gujarat+370601,+India/@23.6201256,68.5272452,14z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x395238a1259c106f:0x66b28d5fd5388930?hl=en

More about this place can be seen here and in line 55 of this

We note that the population of 242 (in the last census) includes 186 belonging to the scheduled castes, 55 to the scheduled tribes and 1 in the general category. In line 56, we see the nearby pilgrimage centre of Narayan Sarovar with a population of 1156. This is larger than the taluk HQ of Lakhpat which is described as a ghost town with a population of 500-odd. It did figure in the 2000 film “Refugee”, which marked the debut of Abhishek Bachchan and  Kareena Kapoor.

Some say that the temple at Koteshwar near Narayan Sarovar is the westernmost point of India, but you can see from the above link to Google maps that this is not true.

Remote as this area may be, it is well connected with roads. There was even a proposal to connect Koteshwar by rail to the nearest railhead at Naliya, but that may have to wait until the closed line from Bhuj to Naliya is converted from metre gauge to broad gauge. Naliya is also the site of India’s westernmost air force base, which hosts Mig-21 fighter aircraft. One of them shot down a Pakistani Navy aircraft near the border in 1999 (more about this below).

This part of Kutch district has a number of industries, mainly based on lignite (brown coal) which is mined nearby. The westernmost industrial unit in India may well be the Akrimota lignite power station on the coast, at 23.7721 N, 68.6442 E.

An overall view of the India-Pakistan border can be seen here

Note the complex border around the Sir Creek. The border is also disputed here, as India and Pakistan differ on the interpretation of a treaty signed between the government of Sind and the ruler of Kutch in 1914. The basic issue here is connected with borders formed by rivers-what happens when the river changes course? More details about the dispute and ongoing negotiations can be seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Creek

Also read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantique_incident

Some literature mentions that the lights of Karachi can be seen from Koteshwar. This may not be true as the distance from here to the centre of Karachi is 200 km.

The border here consists of uninhabited marshlands, which are flooded during the monsoons. Patrolling by boats and aircraft is carried out by both countries. Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Rann_of_Kutch

The Kutch war of 1965 did not concern this area and was confined to the northern borders of Kutch.

The real and the false Modinagar

As everyone knows by now, our present Prime Minister is supposed to have spent some of his youth (perhaps around 1960-65) at a tea stall at a wayside station in Gujarat. This is what it looks like now:

Vadnagar-main

And this is supposed to be the tea stall where he worked:

Vadnagar-TS

While we are at it, here is the school he went to. It is close to the railway station:

Vadnagar school

A report mentioned that Modi attended Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya (also known as BN) High School, a co-ed Gujarati-medium school right next to the Vadnagar railway station. However Vadnagar probably sees less trains than it did in the 1960s. The reason is that most of the major routes in Gujarat (and elsewhere) which were on metre gauge have been converted to broad gauge. And if you are still on metre gauge, you are cut off from most long distance trains and may have to make do with local slow trains from the nearest junction with broad gauge. Here you can see the full timetable of trains at Vadnagar station:

Vadnagar TT

This tells us that it sees precisely 3 pairs of DMU trains daily (and 2 on Sunday) which run between the mainline junction Mahesana (MSH) and the terminus at Taranga Hill (TRAH). In happier times (as in the 1976 timetable) there was one passenger train which ran all the way from Ahmedabad to Taranga Hill. Perhaps this forsaken route may be taken up for gauge conversion now, once their man is in the country’s leader. There are probably several less important metre gauge lines in Gujarat which have already been converted.

Here is one of the little trains which presently run on this route. This is standing at Mahesana.

Mahesana-Taranga Hill DMU

Update: the Mahesana-Taranga Hill section was closed for conversion to broad gauge in December 2016. So Vadnagar has no train service today.

Another update from 2018: Congress supporters have said that NaMo’s claims of helping his father sell tea at Vadnagar station are false as Vadnagar station did not exist until 1973. Strictly speaking this is not true as the station is listed in historical records as being built in the 19th century.

I have verified that, and that it has been listed in the Indian Bradshaws of 1935, 1943 and a few later years before 1973. It is now being said that the station was a tiny halt station with no amenities until it was upgraded to a proper station in around 1973. The truth is somewhere in between.

So much for the genuine Modinagar. The other one is here

Modinagar

This is a somewhat larger and better known place, north of Delhi on the way to Meerut and Saharanpur. It is on a semi-main line and some important trains do stop there, though not the Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Nanda Devi Express which pass this way to and from Dehradun. Neither does the Golden Temple Mail (earlier known as the iconic Frontier Mail). These are some of the trains at Modinagar which were running in 2015: Modinagar TT No less than 35 trains a day, though not all run daily. You can board a train here for faraway places such as Mumbai, Okha, Ahmedabad, Indore, Ujjain, Jammu and Bilaspur. There are several other express trains which do not stop there.

Now, this town in Uttar Pradesh is named after Rai Bahadur Gujar Mal Modi (a Marwari unlike our PM) who was mainly responsible for setting up the Modi group of industries. He died in 1976. Most of the group companies are not doing well now. The younger generation may not have heard of him, though they would have heard of his famous grandson Lalit Modi. Incidentally he is said to have declined a knighthood and asked for an Indian honour instead-hence the Rai Bahadur title.

The station was renamed from Begamabad, which you will see in timetables of the 1940s and earlier. So now you know which is the genuine Modinagar and which one only has his name. There is another Modipuram on the highway north of Meerut, which also has some of the near-defunct factories of the Modi group. That is served by the small station of Pabli Khas, where only passenger trains stop.