I'm just back from a weekend jaunt to Visakhapatnam - Vizag as it's almost universally known - and I'm impressed.
For those of you reading this post outside India, Vizag is probably the biggest Indian city you've never heard of. It has a population of well over 2 million - it's one of Asia's fastest growing urban centres - one of South Asia's main ports - one of India's most prosperous cities ... and among the cleanest. And it's got brilliant beaches.
Visakhaptanam (it's said the Brits couldn't get their tongues around the full name, hence the simplification to Vizag) is equidistant between Chennai and Calcutta and by far the main coastal city along this long stretch of the Bay of Bengal.
And now that Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh has been divided (not reflected in this map - sorry!) and Hyderbad is to become the state capital only of Telangana, Vizag will be Andhra's biggest city.
An international airport is in prospect and India's leading nuclear research centre is relocating here. Vizag is not, however, going to be Andhra's state capital - that will be a newly built place, Amaravati, further south. (It's all about politics and money - details on request).
Vizag has what's described as the best natural harbour on India's east coast. It's the HQ of the Indian navy's Eastern Command and has two busy ports - along with steel, pharmaceuticals, refineries and all that you expect of a rapidly growing port city. At the hotel I stayed at there were quite a lot of Russians among the guests - I am told technicians working on modernising the habour and naval facilities.
And Vizag is also abundant proof that industrial cities don't have to be ugly. It's on the eastern Ghats, so quite hilly, which gives a certain majesty to the landscape.
The sea is rocky in places with strong currents so it's not great for swimming and there's hardly any beach tourism. But locals and visitors alike enjoy strolling on the sand and getting their feet (and a little more) wet.
It's a new city - and an old one too. To the north there are the ruins of two ancient Buddhist universities and religious centres dating back two millennia. Buddhist holy men congregated here before sailing from the harbour to take their message to other parts of south and south-east Asia.
There's also an old Dutch trading centre a half-hour's drive north - though the cemetery is really all that remains.
The Collector's office in Vizag - still the never centre of local government - remains in a remarkable British-built architectural mish-mash, with a tower, turrets and arrow-slit apertures. But a lot of the other colonial-era buildings, in the old town and by the port, are slowly crumbling away. And sadly there's only a handful of the old sea-facing bungalows still left - most have been replaced by multi-storey apartments and hotels.
But if you get a chance to go to Vizag - do!
Dilip kumar Lahiri
I had come to Vizag with a job at Port Trust in 1967, experiencing several years at sea as a Marine Engineer. I had experienced the total development of the city., addinng many things by Port Trust and wise decisions by G V. M C, which turned the tiny village cum town to a world famou Smart City.. HATS OFF to those wise people and the people heading the state Administration. He
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