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Back when a Red Fort ticket cost 2 annas

A visit to Delhi’s Red Fort now costs Rs 30, if you are an Indian citizen, but 60 years ago tickets were priced 2 annas for an adult and 1 anna for a child. One rupee meant 16 annas, but keep in mind that, until 1957, a rupee had 64 paise, not 100.

In any case, 2 annas was an eighth part of a rupee. That’s 12.5 paise in the decimalised (100 paise) rupee. And so, the price of a Red Fort ticket has increased 240-fold to 3,000 paise in 60 years.

With such a measly price, the government’s collections from the fort were also small. In 1954-55, it earned Rs 58,164 from 4,78,863 (about 4.8 lakh) visitors. But this amount sufficed for the fort’s maintenance in those days as Archaeological Survey of India’s average yearly expenditure on it was only Rs 30,000. ASI employed 24 workers to take care of the monument.

The ‘gate money’, as it was then called, was not seen as revenue but only a means of crowd control. Asked why the charge had not been discontinued after the British left, then deputy educ…
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When George Bush, Senior, came to Delhi

When George Bush, Senior, visited India in May 1984, he was Vice President of the United States. Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, and the world was a long way from the Gulf War. Bush planted a mango tree at Rajghat and wrote a tribute to M K Gandhi in the visitors' book. His handwriting was quite bad, and I noticed that he misspelt 'reverberate'. This is what he wrote: "It has been a moving experience to honor the memory of a man who has been an inspiration for justice and peace. The message of Mahatma Gandhi still 'reverbrates' in the United States as it does in India and in other nations around the world."


In 1961, a small plane took off from New Delhi’s Safdarjung Aerodrome without a pilot on board, and crashed

Remember Unstoppable, the 2010 Denzel Washington movie? A runaway train hurtling full speed ahead towards a town, laden with a toxic cargo. Now, imagine a plane flying without a pilot. Nobody inside the cockpit at all. Impossible, you say? But such incidents happen. Not with the cumbersome airliners that come to mind first, but with small and simple aircraft.
It happened in New Delhi once. On January 16, 1961, a Piper Super Cruiser belonging to Lucknow Flying Club took off “automatically”, rather, “autonomously”, from Safdarjung Aerodrome with nobody on board. The pint-sized single-engine craft, weighing just 430kg — a Maruti 800 weighs 650kg — zoomed down the runway and was airborne before the bewildered pilot could jump inside the cockpit. Minutes later, the plane crashed to the ground, “substantially damaged”.
The case summary published in the annual report of Accidents Investigation Branch of the Civil Aviation Department, Ministry of Transport and Communications, read: “The acciden…

When a tyre blowout killed three men at New Delhi's Palam airport

On March 25, 1971, three men were inflating a spare tyre for an Indian Airlines Boeing 737 at hangar number 4 in New Delhi’s Palam airport.

They were Indian Airlines’ chief engineer H E Braganza, a veteran with more than 20 years’ technical experience; technical officer Gupta with three years’ experience, and chowkidar (watchman) Budh Singh. Ordinarily, Braganza and Singh would not have done this job, but due to an ongoing lockout in the company, most of the technical staff wasn’t available. The airline was operating only skeleton services between Delhi and Bombay (Mumbai), and Delhi and Madras (Chennai).

Then something happened that would count among the freakiest of aviation accidents. The massive tyre exploded. It was reduced to smithereens. Braganza, who was standing beside the wheel, was killed instantaneously. Gupta was declared dead on arrival at Willingdon Hospital (now Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital). Singh, who was allegedly operating the air valve of the high-pressure tank, succu…

Khadi Gramodyog Bhawan

The Khadi Gramodyog Bhawan in Regal Building, Connaught Place, opened in April 1955 as an emporium for handmade articles. It was quite popular from the start, earning about Rs 2.7 lakh in its first five months of operations.

Here's the breakup:

How 410 protesting cabbies brought Connaught Place to a halt in 1959

It is easy to paralyse Delhi now with a strike or a demonstration, but in the uncrowded 1950s it took some doing. One morning, early in 1959, Connaught Place came to a halt as 410 taxis jammed Outer Circle from Janpath Crossing to Lady Hardinge Road Crossing in a flash strike. The taxi drivers had been sore ever since their stand outside Regal Cinema was converted into a parking for private cars. The decision had been taken three years earlier, in 1956, and the drivers had grudgingly accepted it after Delhi Traffic Advisory Committee threw out their case but made a concession whereby eight taxis could continue to park outside the cinema in a small stand. However, on that morning, the drivers reneged on the deal without notice, and people watched helplessly as the heart of the city came to a standstill. Minutes turned into hours, the police and administration patiently negotiated with the drivers to break the gridlock. The public started losing patience and some cried out that the driver…

In 1957, Air France didn’t allow a Sikh woman to fly from Delhi to London just because it found the clothes of her four sons ‘dirty’

What would you do if an airline denied you passage on confirmed tickets only because it thought your children’s clothes were ‘dirty’?

Mrs Chanan Kaur, wife of Mr Piara Singh and mother of four boys, resigned herself to Air France’s decision of May 25, 1957, and flew out two days later on a KLM plane, from Delhi to London.

The incident, unusual though it was—Air France said it had exercised its discretion in the matter of flyers’ neatness for the first time in 33 years of doing business in India—would have been forgotten had the press not got wind of it a week later.

It was first reported on June 4, and on June 5 The Times of India wrote in detail about it. Sensing a row, the airline allegedly rushed a representative to Kaur and managed to obtain letters from the couple absolving itself of any complaint and claims. Yet, it had touched a raw nerve in newly independent India, and two months later, on August 13, 1957, the incident was debated in Parliament. 

Then Union minister for transport …