Vizag Features

May 2005
30th May, 2005
Old Town Hall

Old Town Hall set to be centre for Local Self-Government

Vizag is set to witness a development that carries two pieces of good news: A historical building is going to get a face-lift and Visakhapatnam is soon to churn out a team of hi-tech 'babus', who would set an example in governance.

The Municipal Corporation is setting up a facility at the Old Town Hall that will be run by All India Institute of Local Self-Government (an organisation, based in Mumbai, established in 1926 to promote and support activities in the areas of Research and Training in Municipal Administration) for staff of the Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation. This body will educate the staff of Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, among others, in training programmes such as, local self governance, communication skills besides practical skills such as fire fighting etc.

This initiative was at the behest of Ms Rajana Ramani during her term as Mayor of Visakhapatnam. Ms Ramani, in consultation with the Director General of Institute of Local self Government, Mumbai, Mr Ranjit Chavan, gave the go ahead to this project.

The Old Town Hall near the Fishing Harbour is undergoing major renovations
Old Town Hall
Repairs are underway on the stone watch towers

The Institute will house a library, classrooms, administration office, computer laboratory and other facilities, said the former Mayor, Ms Rajana Ramani. An initial amount of 10 lakhs was sanctioned for the project which includes the renovation work also. Renovation of the building started a few months ago and the project is scheduled to begin shortly.

In a telephonic interview with, Mr Ranjit Chavan, Director General of All India Institute of Local Self-Government, confirmed the development and said that the course in 'local self-governance' was aimed at building personal capabilities of the officials by way of orientation and training. He added that the centre at Visakhapatnam would soon have an array of reputed visiting faculty coming down to impart administrative skills to the officials.

The ‘Victoria Town Hall' was built by the Maharaja of Bobbili in the year 1893 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the late Queen Victoria and was then handed over to the municipality in 1904. It was built on a site which was once a fisherman's village (Jalaripeta). The Town Hall which is a symmetrical structure is situated on a widely spread hillock and once had an excellent view of the Vizag harbour.

The Town Hall is double-storey Mangalore tiled pitched roof comprising king post trusses. It has a dressed stone projection on the plinth. There are stone towers on either side of the building which possess small semi-circular segmental arched openings that appear like watch towers.

The building is divided into two parts. The first part has verandahs on the first floor with a stone cornice and the ground floor has a brick wall up to the sill level and wooden ‘jallies' are used over the brick construction. The second part has stone facing rectangular buttressed structure on the rear side. The Town Hall also includes pedimented projections on the front and the rear side. The Town Hall structure with elegant stone work influenced the architecture of structures that subsequently came up in Vizag

28th May, 2005
All for looking good


So you think Vizag men are boring? Think again. Keeping pace with the fast-changing city, they are willing to pamper themselves and acquire a new look that spells confidence (and lots of vanity!). Yes…you read right…NEW LOOKS! To cater to which, exclusive men's salons have popped up all over the city. 

The most recent of them, Mr. Ajay's (popularly known as AJ) 'Effects', was set up only three months ago and is attracting clients of all ages. It offers services including haircuts, colouring, straightening, facials and massages. "A large part of our clientele is men between 20-35 years who are usually students or just entering the job market. While those between 35-50 years old want help with wrinkles and hair loss, the youngsters go for 'messy looks', which don't need much effort to maintain (the wash-and-wear type!). Also, spiked and straight hair is 'in' now. Apart from these, the most favoured services are pedicures and body massages. Vizag 's men seemed to have discovered the stress-relieving effects of a good massage! For those even bolder, AJ plans to introduce tattoos and body piercing soon. The price for a normal tattoo job is expected to be Rs. 800.

All for looking good

'Wow!', located on Green Park Road, has been around since 1996. The salon offers all services from haircuts to massages. While their clientele ranges from teenagers to 90-year-olds, they mainly attract customers between 30 to 40 years who go for dyeing, massages and facials apart from the usual haircuts. 

'Hairs Well' near CDR Hospital and 'Toppers' at RK Beach too have joined the bandwagon and are offering services in keeping with the new demand. "Youngsters demand 'French beards' and 'Dhoom' style side burns while older men come for relaxing facials, pedicures and massages,'' says Dr A Trinadh of Hair Well. The saloon offers treatments for dandruff and other beauty/skin problems along with face bleaches, packs, hair colouring, straightening and the regular haircuts. "Most of our clients are from HSBC (call centre) who want funky hair colours and highlights,'' Mr N S R Chowdary of Toppers says. "The customers are now asking for new services like facelifts and computer haircuts, where one can get a preview of what he would look like sporting a particular haircut, he adds. It is quite obvious that the younger generation consistently wants to try out different looks". 

Mr Chowdary feels that that middle class men are also participating in this trend of visiting salons which was limited to men from the upper class and are willing to pay for it. But some salon owners feel that the trend is still on rickety legs in Vizag. Though people want to experiment with looks they are not very keen to pay for it.

Perhaps we spoke too soon - some things haven't changed. Most of these 'salons' are closed on 'inauspicious' Tuesdays - just like the local 'mangalvodus' (barbers).

23rd May, 2005

When summer comes, can summer camps be far behind? Kids in Vizag now have a new (and more constructive way) to spend their long summer vacations. No more staying indoors and taking an afternoon siesta - they can pick up new skills and have loads of fun at the same time. Parents too get a few hours of respite from restless children!

Summer camps, a concept popularised in the West and the metros in India is slowly gaining ground in Vizag. Not surprising - after a year of routine in school, summer camps offer children a way to make new friends, learn new things and pursue hobbies. Rising income-levels of parents and a propensity to spend also seem to be helping. Some hobby schools such as Jhankaar run around the year can be approached for classes during the summer vacation. spoke to a few parents, children and organisers of summer camps this year: 

Children get tips in tennis

Ms. Vasanti, a parent who accompanies her 10-year-old daughter, Swathi to the VUDA Summer Skating Camp says, "With no playgrounds and other recreational facilities in most schools and apartments such as ours, children have no other source of entertainment except television. Summer camp is the best option to spend leisure time in a meaningful manner."

For the last several years, long before it became a trend, Olivet School, has been holding regular summer camps with classes in music, dancing, painting, karate etc. Children are free to choose as many activities as they like most of which are reasonably priced.

"Summer camps provide children an opportunity to showcase their latent talents," avers Mr. Sundersingh Barnabas, Executive Secretary of YMCA, Visakhapatnam. He says that YMCA pioneered organising summer camps in the city. This year YMCA is organising its 21st summer camp in which 300 children are participating in 17 events. "We are charging a nominal fee to appoint qualified trainers to make sure that children are completely benefited and the response has been great," he adds.

Kids learning skating at a summer camp

K. Ravi Kumar, a class XI student from Kendriya Vidyalaya, who is learning guitar at YMCA Summer Camp, says: "Music is my passion and I want to be a musician. So I felt summer camp is best option to make a start to pursue my dream". For many like Ravi Kumar, summer camps have given them a start to chase their aims in life.

However, many feel that organising summer camps have become a means to make a quick buck. Many parents are in a dilemma whether to send their children to such camps. So if you are planning to send your child to summer camp, do your homework. Before starting a search, it is important for parents to know their child's interests and to involve them in selecting a summer camp. Consider the following s before sending your children to a summer camp:

  • What is the track record of the organisers? 

  • Where is the camp and how much does it cost? How long does each session run?

  • What age groups are represented and in what percentage?

  • Is it a camp for both boys and girls? If so, what is the approximate ratio of boys to girls? It is preferable to send children to such camps as that would improve their level of understanding in dealing with the opposite sex.

  • Who is the camp director and what is his or her background? How well is the staff trained? What is the ratio of campers to staff members?

  • Are medical facilities adequate? Is there a nurse or doctor on staff?

  • What kind of living/eating/recreational facilities does the programme offer? What is the daily schedule? Is there enough free time?

  • Has safety been considered? What kind of supervision is provided?

Now that you are forearmed to make a good choice, Happy Summer Camping!


14th May, 2005

Ruminations of a Grouch: Of Tulips and the South Seas - (Real Estate Bubble in Visakhapatnam?)

Real Estate Bubble in Visakhapatnam

Vizag no longer being the Grouch's home base, it nowadays serves chiefly to inspire his generally cantankerous muse. Still, a small part of his flinty heart continues to reside in this city and he sometimes finds himself considering, in a very castles-in-the-air kind of way, purchasing a second home here. Recently, an acquaintance took the Grouch's airy-fairy plans a little too seriously and the Grouch found himself possessed of information regarding Vizag's real estate market that he had not really sought. It nevertheless set him thinking and some of these thoughts are here set down to caution those who may be letting greed (or, to be charitable, avarice leavened by nostalgic sentiment) take control of their wallets.

A fairly unprepossessing, but apparently well-located (in terms of lending itself to the construction of yet another block of flats), plot of land in an upmarket area of Vizag was shown to the Grouch as having been sold for approximately Rs. 5 crores. In the land of the gloriously uncouth (the USA, for those still not able to appreciate the Grouch's subtle humour) where the Grouch now spends most of his time this translates to about a million dollars and he could not help comparing this property with what is currently on offer in America for this sum. Even in the toniest zip codes, a million will still purchase a more than adequate residence. Median home prices in San Francisco and San Diego, to take a couple of extreme examples, run at around $500,000. In places where the weather is not quite so nearly perfect, say Minneapolis, a million dollars will purchase a residence to gladden the heart of the most ostentatiously vulgar Bihari mafia don. Half of that will pay for a large, yet tasteful house in the better suburbs. If one is willing to move a little distance away from the cities, the choices become even more delectable. A 6000 square foot Michigan mansion with every modern amenity and set on 35 acres of land fronting a river was recently advertised for sale in the Wall Street Journal for less than $700,000.

Now the Grouch is aware that real estate prices in the US can go down as well as up. All the same, the general trend is upwards and a well chosen property is unlikely to lose value over the long term (anything over five years in this instance). Water and power are unlikely to be a problem in the foreseeable future and zoning regulations ensure that you are not going to find yourself suddenly surrounded by high rises on every side one fine morning. Besides, the real estate market there is much more transparent (sale prices and floor plans being readily available public information in all incorporated municipalities) making one's decision to purchase property less dependent on guess work and baseless projections than in India.

Compare this to the situation in Vizag. Obviously in the fevered market that appears to exist currently, a property developer (was the term ever more abused?) may be able to raise a concrete apartment block--always on a plot of land that had previously been graced by an understated British-era bungalow surrounded by dense vegetation that had taken generations to grow--and sell it at a neat profit without too much effort. There apparently are unlimited takers for flats belonging to both the PWD (the Public Works Department) school of architecture (incorporating the soul of a public toilet and the esthetic sensibilities of a concentration camp commandant) and the variety I choose to call Terminally Tasteless Tollywood (a mishmash of wildly diverse and mutually incongruous architectectural elements matched in terms of eclectic egregiousness only by what a greater wit than the Grouch once termed Halwai Baroque, most prevalent in Delhi).

Not all of us, however, have the inclination (or the contacts) to thus profitably indulge in rendering the city ever more characterless. What about those who actually buy the flats or the few remaining marginally affordable open plots of land for their own speculative use? They seem to ignore the fact that many flats already built suffer from an inadequate supply of water, this city having long ago exceeded its environmental carrying capacity. They disregard, too, the fact that there is already an oversupply of flats and most people buying them as "investments" seem to be subscribing to the greater fool theory, ie. that however absurdly priced a property, the very ridiculousness of its putative valuation sets up a momentum that ensures that there will always be someone even more willing to ignore market fundamentals and take the property off one's hands.

This type of irrationality was seen in the Dutch tulip mania and the speculative excesses that lead to the South Sea bubble hundreds of years ago and, proving that, generally speaking, we are still just as ready to delude ourselves today, in the collapse of the internet economy more recently.

A lack of basic financial knowledge seems to be exacerbating the problem. People often tell the
Grouch, with petit-bourgeois smugness, something to the effect that they had purchased a home twenty-five years ago for, say, two lakhs which is now worth twice (or four times) as much. Even ignoring the inflation of the rupee (which has ensured that if I had just used my rupees to purchase US dollars in 1990 and were to recovert my "investment" to rupees now, I would have more than twice as much, in rupees, today), a simple calculation using the "Rule of 72" shows that two lakhs invested at a very reasonable 8% rate of interest would grow to 16 lakhs in an approximately equivalent period of time. Renting out a property to make money makes even less financial sense given how infinitesimally small a fraction of a property's value its rental rate seems to be in India.

Take land on the outskirts of Vizag - Madhurwada, Simhachalam or the stretch of the beach road leading to Bhimili. The hype about 'infotech' and 'development' has led to a frenzied speculation with people who have never even stepped across the border of Andhra comparing these places to Singapore and Venice. There seems to be easy money to be made by buying land from some poor farmer (lucky farmer, come to think of it), sub-dividing it into plots and selling it for a neat profit. You know something is wrong when (and this is a true story), the young man who was delivering milk every morning for a living, has turned into a 'builder' (a term that can mean many things in Vizag). The real estate business in Vizag appears to be teeming with scoundrels and unsuccessful businessmen. 

The Grouch does not mean to imply that all purchase of property is mere foolishness (that distinction is reserved for those who purchase gold as an investment--the one investment that over the past two hundred years has actually lost value). There are sound emotional reasons to own one's home and it is possible to make real estate purchases that are also eminently sensible financial decisions. He only wishes to ask, in a most uncharacteristic fit of concern for his fellow man, that before you decide to buy property in Vizag, do run the numbers and ask yourself whether you are doing it because it makes sense to you or because everybody else is doing it. After all, if it really is the case that, as a local recently put it to the Grouch, "for appreciation, no place like Vizag", then hordes of out-of-town investors ought to be beating a path to this city. For some strange reason, though, people still seem to be purchasing US treasuries, Korean shares, and real estate in New York (and New Delhi).

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6th May, 2005

Decommissioning of Indian Naval Ships 'Chapal' and 'Chamak'.

Decommissioning of Indian Naval Ships
Decommissioning of Indian Naval Ships
Decommissioning of Indian Naval Ships
Decommissioning of Indian Naval Ships

Indian Naval Ships Chapal and Chamak were decommissioned on the 5th of May, 2005 at Naval Base, Visakhapatnam. INS Chapal and  INS Chamak were a part of eight-missile boats acquired from erstwhile Soviet Union. The two missile boats arrived at Kolkata on board the carrier ship PRIPNEPROVSK on the 24th of October, 1976 and were commissioned on the 4th of November, 1976 at Kolkata. Subsequently, they were a part of 254 killer division to be integrated into 25th Killer Squadron and based at Mumbai. During the 1971 war, the Missile Boats launched two major operations 'Trident' and 'Python'  from the 4th to 9th of December, 1971 which set ablaze war ships, tankers and oil fields off Karachi.

This created panic among the Pakistani think tank and eventually led to the surrender of Pakistan on the 16th of December, 1971. After having served 15 fulfilling years under Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet at Mumbai, the ships arrived in the Eastern seaboard at their present base port in Visakhapatnam on the 21st of April, 1991 to serve under Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet. The day of 1st September, 1997 opened yet another chapter when these Missile Boats along with their sister ships of the 25th Missile boat Squadron were placed under the Naval Officer-in-Charge, Andhra Pradesh. The two ships have rendered almost 29 years of operational service.

The Chief Guest for the decommissioning ceremony was Rear Admiral R P Suthan, AVSM, VSM, the Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command who received the ceremonial guard of honour. He himself has commanded two missile boats and 254 Killer Division. With the sounding of last post at sunset, the paying of pendent along with Naval Ensign of both the ships were lowered for the last time.

The present Commanding Officer of INS Chapal and Divisional Commander 254 Killer Division, Cdr Harish Behl is the 24th Commanding Officer and assumed command of the ship on the 14th of June, 2004. Lt Chris J Koshy assumed command of INS Chamak on the 13th of February, 2005. It may be recalled that these ships took part in the operation demonstration exercise during the Navy week 2004 celebrations. INS Chapal had fired a live missile on the 4th of December, 2004.

The decommissioning of these two missile boats marked the end of an era in the history of Indian Navy which belonged to the Missile Boats. However, the flame of killer spirit would continue to burn forever.