We had planned to start early in the morning for our return journey from Chennai to Bengaluru. The plan was to start before 7.00am and then take a stopover at Rajiv Gandhi Memorial at Sriperumbudur for about an hour before heading towards Bengaluru. The memorial is about 60 kms away on the Bengaluru highway from the place we were staying at. Early start would have enabled us to beat the morning city traffic.
We reached the memorial around 8.00am. We did not have any difficulty in locating the place as it is exactly located on the left side of highway.
Rajiv Gandhi was the 6th Prime Minister of India from 1984 till 1989. He was appointed as Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31st October 1984. In the Lok Sabha elections that followed immediately after in December'84, Rajiv Gandhi's party Indian National Congress got the largest ever majority in Indian parliamentary history till date with the party returning with 411 seats out of total 542 seats. Incidentally, it was 30 years later in 2014 that any party got complete majority in the Indian parliamentary elections.
I still remember that during his tenure, immediately after taking office, Rajiv Gandhi had ushered in sort of a new unheard of era in India with the concepts of 5-day week, computerization, weekend travel, etc. These concepts were new to the country till then though very common to many parts of the world. As he was young, new to the office and first times in a public office, he wanted to get the first-hand experience of the problems as well as to know the country closely. He started traveling to far flung places across the country over the weekends. He would generally drive himself and meet the commoners during those trips. This was also something new to the nation whereby a leader would drive his car. We were used to seeing leaders being driven by chauffeurs.
I vaguely remember from my school days about one of his trips to Kalahandi district in the Indian state of Orissa. He had driven to the remotest corners of the district and had interacted with many commoners like me. This was something new to the generation as no other prime minister in India in the past had done this type of reach out in the extreme interiors of the country. Everybody started liking it. In fact, people started looking forward to his trips. Interesting part was that all of his visits would be unknown to the local officials which started putting pressure on the administrative machinery to be up to speed. His tenure heralded a revolution wherein owning and driving personal cars for upcountry travel came in vogue. It was during his period that weekend travel came on the agenda of vast majority of middle class which till then was used to 6-day work culture and the upcountry pleasure travel was typically restricted to an annual event.
Sadly, while campaigning for national elections in 1991, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber at Sriperumbudur on 21st May 1991. This had rattled the whole nation as the country had lost 2 prime ministers assassinated within the span of 7 years. The security set-up and the security protocols in the country have never been the same again after that.
The memorial dedicated to Rajiv Gandhi is located adjacent to the highway and has been well maintained. Once inside, the atmosphere is standstill as compared to a step outside wherein there is continuous stream of vehicles passing by it being a national highway. The history and life story as well as key messages of Rajiv Gandhi has been engraved on the stone wall. On one side, there was a long wall with murals capturing the achievements of that period.
It being a weekday, there were few people inside. I could make out that were also the visitors like us. I was told that generally on weekends and holidays, the place sees much more visitors. The place regularly sees trips by school students
After spending about an hour inside the Memorial campus, we decided to start our onward journey towards Bengaluru. Though, we wanted to spend some more time there but we were cognizant of the remaining distance that we had to cover and wanted to reach back home before evening office rush.
If travelling to Chennai, you can plan a trip to the memorial. It is very conveniently located on the road towards Bengaluru. You may plan a trip to Mahabalipuram and route via Rajiv Gandhi memorial. Mahabalipuram is about 60 kms from Chennai but if you take a detour via memorial then the distance increases to 106 kms. You may have to add about two hours to provide for the stopover. However, if you are traveling on the way towards Golden Temple at Vellore or Bengaluru, then it will take just additional 30 minutes.
Traveling to Sriperaumbdur
Chennai is a one of the metro cities of the country and well connected via trains, roads and flight network. It is connected via direct trains with many major cities of the country. Chennai has an international airport which also happens to be one of the busiest airports in the country. It is connected with direct flights from many Indian as well as international cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangkok, Sydney, Seoul, London and Washington apart from many other cities of the world.