By R. Chandra Prakash
Mysore Race Course (MRC) is a very important and unique heritage institution of Mysuru city. How many cities in our country can boast of a Race Course? It would be highly myopic to perceive horse-racing purely from the point of view of betting or as a wager or a social evil. Wherever racing is practiced, it is considered as a sport or pastime. In the case of Mysuru, our Race Course is a part of our cultural ethos.
Mysore Race Course (MRC)is a nearly a hundred-year-old institution. How many cities in our country can boast of a Race Course? It would be highly myopic to perceive horse-racing purely from the point of view of betting or as a wager or a social evil. Wherever racing is practiced it is considered as a sport or pastime. In the case of Mysuru, our Race Course is a part of our cultural ethos.
Our Maharajas gave the country first-ever integrated and planned development. Here social development was as important as economic development. Emphasis was as much on education as on other cultural traits. Mysuru city was adorned with large and beautifully chiselled gardens, which gave the city the epithet of Garden City. These gardens were further beautified with Fountains. Boulevards, road side trees, well-laid out footpaths and specially moulded lamp-posts constituted parts of this once beautiful city. Museum presented this cultural ethos of the State; and the skill development was ensured through Chamarajendra Technical Institute (CTI).
Our Maharajas also gave this city K.R. Mills, Silk Filature and Sandal Oil Factory as part of economic development and ensured their growth through annual Dasara Exhibition. And, therefore, Race Course should be seen as a part of that grand integrated socio-economic heritage of the city. Today one cannot see only Zoo as a heritage of the city, and ignore its twin brother in the Race Course. Both of them constitute very important part of city’s heritage, which is becoming highly fragile day by day.
A Trojan Horse
Our newly-minted Minister for Tourism is assuring us that he would develop a Botanical Garden after shifting the present Race Course. Going by the integrity of our political leaders, this is what a proverb in Kannada beautifully sums up: Moogige Thuppa Savaruvudu — that is fooling a person with small smear of ghee on the nose tip and leaving him with a chloroform effect of it !
Our Horticulture Department, once known for its competence of world order, is now a dead horse. There are no trained experts left, both in expertise and numbers. One should visit the Mysuru City Corporation (MCC) and Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) to see the fate of so-called Horticulture Section — despite huge budgetary allocations there is no one to execute the planned development of our Parks. The fate of our Forest Department is no better, if one were to see the condition of our Urban Forestry section.
There are about 600-plus identified Parks in the city. Forget about the Parks in the extensions, even the Parks in the city centre are in a pathetic condition. We as children used to play in Nishad Bagh (Kuppanna Park) beside the old Hardinge Circle. It has lost much of its area to all-round road widening. And it is bifurcated with a wall further reducing its area. In that, MCC is struggling to rebuild what was once a beautiful glass house. Today, it only provides greenery for the hotels around the Park !
Let us take the example of Peoples’ Park. The entire area has been divided and sub-divided. Part of it was lost in road widening, which is now a good parking space for buses, lorries and cars of visitors to hotels and other commercial establishments. And substantial part in the South is lost for upcoming Public Library building. Worse is to come around this Park soon.
The present City Bus Stand was a Park, lost forever. The Parks on either side of Albert Victor Road are reduced to a farce.
Therefore, when our Tourism Minister announces that he would develop a Botanical Garden, how can he be trusted? My trip to Singapore last week of June makes me highly skeptical of our politicians. Singapore has one of the best Botanical Gardens in the world, and also the wonderful Gardens by the Bay. Their Jurong Bird Park and the Zoo are as much Botanical Gardens as they are Bird Park and a Zoo. During our visit to the Botanical Garden it was a month of Orchids, and what a rich collection it was ! So aesthetically presented!! The other part of this Garden was closed to public for preparing it for exhibition of new and different species of flowers soon.
We have lost much of our heritage in the fall of Lansdowne Building, destruction of Makkaji Chowk, and dilapidated condition of Devaraja Market. We have lost most of our Parks and Gardens. Town Hall multi-storeyed parking and Raja Marga are sufficient proof of competence of our engineers and political leaders.
Therefore, our humble request to our political leaders — Please don’t destroy the heritage of this city. Leave our Race Course and Golf Course. Use whatever is left of it, by improving the Palaces and remaining Parks and Gardens for the development of tourism.
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