March 03, 2013

Kumar Mangalam Park, Durgapur

Among the famous attractions in Durgapur is a large park popularly known as Mohan Kumar Mangalam (MKM) Park. Christened after M.K. Mangalam, the first Steel Minister of India, it was commissioned by Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP), a vast industrial complex that is the core of Durgapur’s livelihood & industry & employs a large proportion of the population here. A popular lover’s spot, the park boasts of a small lake for boating purposes, well-maintained lawns, a toy train giving a ride of the entire estate & even a musical fountain. The park becomes the site for festivities & frolic on the occasion of Holi, Chath Puja etc when people gather in hordes to perform pujas (ceremonial prayers), distribute food & sweets, meet friends & enjoy the gaiety.

There exist two entrances to the park, both of which are used for entry as well as exit. Ticket counters exist at both the entrances, & if you ask me, these entrances are the most beautiful part of the entire park complex. Each entrance is shaped like a horse-shoe, the opening of which faces the street outside, & in the curved wall are two separate openings from where the visitors enter & exit the park. The hut-like ticket counters are situated at the opening in the horse-shoe curve & sleepy security guards keep a drowsy watch over the proceedings. As I mentioned, the entrances are picturesque – the first has a large bronze statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu God of luck & beginnings, dancing & playing cymbals with a fierce (aggressive??) expression on his face. The sand-brown colored horse-shoe wall around the statue is embossed with human figurines – kids playing on swings, families picnicking, people going around in miniature trains & boats – giving an indication of what entertainments wait inside.

The Ganesha idol

The other entrance’s curved wall displays traditional dances that are performed in the various states of India. Not sure if the rest of the park would live up to our expectations (I had been living in Durgapur for almost 2 years then & what glitters here is never gold!!), I spent 15 minutes photographing the latter entrance (that’s where we entered from since it is close to our college). 

One of the panels at the first entrance

Inside, the park, though well-maintained, reeks of ignorance & waste. Calling it “boring” would be an understatement – more than half of the 80-acre park remains out of bounds for visitors, the fountains & the toy train were out of order, in the name of swings is a little merry-go-round & a small maze, the refreshments shop is criminally expensive. Owing to some constraints, DSP itself could not continue with the maintenance of the park & in the year 2006 leased it out to a private firm known as EXALT SERVICES Pvt. Ltd. It seems the people at EXALT are not taking their job that seriously & are simply cashing in on the fact that the population of Durgapur does not have many other options for entertainment & family get-togethers. EXALT has actually given a list of initiatives they took to improve the park’s ambiance here - EXALT - Development Done. Though I did not see much of what they are talking about despite visiting the place 7 years after they took over the park from DSP. 


The park caretakers had difficulty comprehending both English & Hindi & their attitude bordered on rude, & the guards at the second entrance asked us to buy a second set of tickets only because we had stepped out to photograph the Ganesha idol & that too when they saw us exclaim about the statue & go round it under their watchful supervision. There were no kids in the park, the rides were all empty. However almost every bench & every boat was occupied by couples, even the space under the trees & behind the bushes wasn’t spared. It was “bees & birds” all around. With not a single bench vacant for us to sit upon, we had all the more of an excuse to go out as quickly as we could – Mr Guard you can keep your stupid tickets!! The place is in fact a good enough spot for those couples who want to get together & cuddle & kiss, & it is also a good spot for those who are frustrated & single & go about looking at all the other couples smooch – sadly, I fall into neither of the two categories. So goodbye KMP Park, I am never coming here again. Thanks, but no thanks, for your rudeness & ignorance.

This is what we expected..

Disclaimer – Perhaps our experience was a one-off incident, perhaps the caretakers & guards had a rough day at work & are usually cordial with the visitors, & also perhaps the place isn’t as boring as I felt – but I have the right to put forward my views & do hope that the EXALT Group &/or the inhabitants of Durgapur do not send me lots of hate mail. Or sue me!!
(The last time I wrote about Durgapur, some people did get very angry & I had to deal with their choice words even though I did not write anything as critical as this article.)

Sigh! No kids here!

Location: At walking distance from the National Institute of Technology (or R.E. College as the people here know it).
How to reach: Buses, autos & taxis are available from different parts of the city. One can also walk from the City Center.
Entrance Fees: Rs 10 per person
Photography Charges: Rs 10
Video Charges: Rs 25
Relevant Links about Durgapur - 
  1. Pixelated Memories - Damodar River Barrage
  2. Pixelated Memories - Kali Puja, Durgapur
  3. Pixelated Memories - Kshitish's Durgapur
  4. Pixelated Memories - Ram Temple

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