The last ride
It’s time to bid farewell to India’s first amusement park. Visitors who want to go down the memory lane to relive fond memories at Appu Ghar have just three days left.
On Sunday, at exactly 6 pm, Appu will say goodbye to a generation of Delhi youngsters for whom the amusement park was the most happening hangout. Long before names like Mumbai's Essel World, Kolkata's Nicco Park and Kerala's Veega Land became a part of their lexicon.
From the mid-80s to the late-90s, not just the city residents, Appu Ghar was also on the “must-see” list of tourists. With imported rides from Australia like the roller coaster, giant wheel, cable cars, speeding cup and many more, it became a popular recreation place for the city’s young and old.
Delhi-based pop singer Shibani Kashyap has fond memories of Appu Ghar. “My childhood was spent there. The first name that comes to my mind when anybody talks of joyrides is that of Appu Ghar. This was long before I finally got a chance to go to Disneyland. Its very sad that the city is losing its landmark,” said Kashyap.
Old-timers say tickets used to cost just Rs 3 way back in 1984. But things have changed since then. They say that the park’s popularity has waned over the years with a steep increase in rates. “Now, there is a package system where tickets for all the rides are priced at Rs 250 and Rs 225, respectively, for adults and children. Even if you want to enjoy one ride, you have to pay for the entire lot,” said Madhurima Chatterjee, a Delhi-based entrepreneur.
The footfalls have also fallen considerably. “There was a time when nearly 1000 people visited Appu Ghar during the weekends. This was in the mid-90s. The footfalls do not even reach 100 now,” said Prayag Prasad, a operator.
The closure of the park was a long coming, ever since IAL’s lease expired in 1999. The company had got 14.74-acre land from India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) way back in 1984 to run the park. The final blow came in January this year after the Supreme Court ordered the Urban Development Ministry to hand over the land to the apex court and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
Appu Ghar was the brainchild of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who wanted to set up India’s first amusement park. She took keen interest and met International Amusement Park (IAL) chairman Gyan Vijeshwar at Sweden in 1982 with the proposal to set up the park.
Her dream came true two years later when then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi inaugurated the park on November 19, 1984. Indira Gandhi, unfortunately, fell to assassins bullets a few weeks earlier.
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Having compiled the experiences shared by these eyewitnesses, former head and professor of the department of medieval and modern history, Allahabad University Yogeshwar Tiwari and Prof Tiwari's research scholar Akshat Lal shared the information collated by them which would soon be published in a noted Indian research journal. Then vice-chancellor of the University, Amaranatha Jha, had even presided over all the events which were organised by the University, he shared.
When members of the West Bengal cabinet came to seek Mahatma Gandhi's blessings in Kolkata (then Calcutta) on August 15, 1947, he said they (ministers) now wore a crown of thorns and should remain humble and be forbearing. This has been recorded in a letter that Mahatma Gandhi wrote from Beliaghata, Calcutta, (now Kolkata) to Agatha Harrison (an English industrial welfare reformer and unofficial diplomat) on August 15, 1947.
In a modern nation's collective consciousness, its Independence Day is an uplifting landmark. It is a time for celebration, nostalgia and shared pride. But as the nation matures, it could also be a juncture to take stock of where we are. And even raise uncomfortable questions. Colonial powers pillaged their colonies for their own benefit, the fruits of which they still enjoy. It set back human progress for the natives in more ways than one.
Mumbai: Chief minister Eknath Shinde on Sunday allocated portfolios to all 20 members of the council of ministers keeping urban development, transport and public works department with himself, while key ministries — home, finance and housing — went to deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The portfolios were distributed five days after the state government, comprising Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction and the Bharatiya Janata Party, inducted 18 ministers during the first cabinet expansion on August 9.