Businessman Manoj Sehgal avoids travelling on Vande Mataram Marg in the heart of the Capital once darkness descends and day changes into night.
Though it is still better known by its previous name the Upper Ridge Road, this road that connects Karol Bagh to Dhaula Kuan gives you goosebumps if you are driving there during night time.
While there is the 1956-built Buddha Jayanti Park on the major part the road, the other side is the ridge area.
Somehow you observe less traffic moving here despite the fact that it connects two major areas of the capital. You would hardly see any pedestrian here. That’s certainly very unusual for a road of the Capital.
Very often during the misty and rainy seasons, passers-by have spotted snakes moving on the road and also mongoose carrying snakes.
Such scenes scare you. It is said that around 20 species of snakes, including venomous ones like Indian spectacled cobra, common krait, saw-scale vipers, Russell’s viper and non-venomous ones like rat snake, wolf snake, cat snake, among others are found in the ridge area.
If you are not one with nerve of steel, you would tremble on seeing such deadly species on the road.
In the morning, peacocks are all visible here.
It is not just the road. Even Buddha Jayanti Park here remains secluded most of the time. Not many people visit the park except in the morning hours.
It comes alive once in a while though. For instance, it witnessed a lot of activities when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida visited the Bal Bodhi Tree at Buddha Jayanti Park in March. The two leaders spoke as they walked in the park after praying and showering flowers at the Bal Bodhi Tree.
Besides the meeting of the Prime Ministers, dozens of Buddhist monks and others descended here on May 5 to celebrate Buddha Purnima.
But occasions, when visitors throng the Park, are extremely rare.
On most days, the area remains deserted even though traffic moves during the day-time on what is perhaps the greenest road of the national capital.
Geeta-Sanjay murder case
Vande Mataram Marg got the tag of very ominous road in late 1970s. That was when Geeta and Sanjay Chopra, kids of Captain MM Chopra, a navy officer, were brutally killed and their mutilated bodies were found in the thick bushes on the road. Those were the days when nobody had heard of social media or breaking news on news channels, yet Delhi talked and prayed that the kids return home safely after they had gone missing. Alas, it never happened as bodies of 17-year-old Geeta and her sibling, who was one year younger to her, were found.
Recalling the macabre incident, Ramakant Goswami, who was then a young reporter working for a Delhi-based paper, says, “Once the stabbing proved fatal, the murderers evidently panicked, dumped the bodies on the Ridge Road and went to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital to attend to the scalp wound inflicted on Billa by Geeta Chopra during the scuffle in the car.”
It was on August 28, 1978 when a cattle-grazer came across dead bodies of the slain siblings in the thick bushes. Later, the cops took beastly killers – Billa and Ranga Khush to the spot at Vande Matram Marg where the bodies were dumped.
An enraged Delhi was following the news related to the kidnapping and killing closely. That was the time when Vande Mataram Marg came in the news for the first time for all the gory reasons. The murder shook not just the Capital, but also the country and the result was that people in Delhi either stopped or started avoiding taking Vande Mataram Marg to reach their destinations.
Sehgal says, “I vividly remember those days when my late father used to avoid taking the Vande Mataram Marg after the bodies of Chopra kids were found. Even now, when I move from there I am transported back to those days when our elders used to tell us about the incident.”
Nagarwala bank fraud and cash
Though not a gory incident, but certainly a sensational bank fraud case known as Nagarwala Bank fraud case of 1971 too had some links with Vande Mataram Marg. The Nagarwala scandal refers to a fraud case where Rustom Sohrab Nagarwala allegedly mimicked Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, and convinced head cashier Ved Prakash Malhotra to withdraw Rs 60 lakh from the Parliament Street branch of the State Bank of India.
Nagarwala called Malhotra on May 24, 1971, and did a vocal impression of the Prime Minister.
Nagarwala, impersonating Mrs Gandhi on phone, claimed that she needed money immediately. Nagarwala further told Malhotra that he should contact the Prime Minister’s Office at a later date to get a receipt.
Malhotra delivered the money to Nagarwala (who claimed to be a courier working for the Prime Minister) in a taxi. Later, Malhotra went to the Prime Minister’s residence to get the receipt as requested but was informed that no such request for funds had been made by the Prime Minister.
Malhotra informed the police of the fraud. Within one day, Nagarwala was found and arrested, and the money was recovered from a spot at Vande Mataram Marg.
Although Vande Mataram Marg has not seen any major untoward incident apart from these two, the spooky road still gives spine-chilling feeling to many.
Nobody yet has said that they have seen a supernatural thing on the haunted road unlike many other roads.
Still, you think twice before moving around there during the night. Even when the road is lit up with street lights, the surroundings, coupled with a row of a thousand trees, and the sound of silence scares you.