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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014
Driving down memory lane
Upala Sen
February 05, 2013
First Published: 22:18 IST(5/2/2013)
Last Updated: 22:20 IST(5/2/2013)

Ever since I learnt about the court ordering the winding up of Dunlop India Limited, I have been trying not to think of it the same way some people avoid a friend who is in hospital or one who has been recently bereaved.

It's not that one can't be bothered. On the contrary, the reality is so overwhelming that it seems a better idea to pretend it doesn't exist.  

For a company that has been in coma for the last two decades this is perhaps inevitable. But then, when did good intention make pulling the plug on a loved one an acceptable end?

Growing up in the 80s in the sprawling township in Sahaganj, West Bengal, we didn't realise that our fathers or mothers were employees of Dunlop.

Dunlop was home, a way of life and we had our own Dunlopian theory of evolution that pretty much governed our lives.

It worked like this - first you were born, then you moved into the Dunlop Estate, then the Dunlop Compound and then the head office in Calcutta.

The factory, lying between the Estate and the Compound, was the sanctum sanctorum. And god was in tyres and hoses. A yellow and black signage at the factory entrance read - A place of work is a place of worship.

Sahaganj might have been in Bengal, but Dunlop was mini-India. Families with surnames like Jain, Kurien and Puranesh lived together.

On Christmas, it was open house at the Kuriens, on Diwali, Puranesh aunty made excellent chaat and before any kind of cultural do Jain aunty would make mehendi patterns for all of us.

The company originally had a British ownership, so some of those traditions also lingered. December was punctuated with nativity plays and mince pies, and on Christmas day the fattest uncle would play Santa with the fire brigade as his sleigh. English ghosts played the piano in the ancient, high-ceilinged apartments, and on the banks of the Hooghly, where winter temperatures seldom went below 15 degree Celsius, the bungalows had fire places.

Whenever we went to Calcutta, for our monthly shopping, we would spot the Dunlop logo on the hoardings and point and laugh and feel ridiculously proud of the 'flying D'. We would crane our neck out of the car window and try to tell the make of the tyres of all the passing vehicles - actually we knew nothing.

Then the company fell ill. And one day we left Dunlop. Every time the ownership changed hands, even from the outside, we hoped for the best, we secretly hoped to go back.

And then this order came.

From what I understand, this means sometime soon the entire township will be open to complete strangers. They will take things down, rebuild, re-envision, take over. Our Camelot will be razed.

Where will that leave us? I don't know. The Dunlopian theory of evolution did not provide for such exigencies.


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