The very thought of Asansol, the second largest city in our state, reminds us of coalfields, but beneath the mounds of coal lies a hidden heritage, unknown to all barring a few. The city has occupied the headlines in recent past as the city Asansol was declared as the district headquarters of newly formed Paschim Bardhhaman district.

The word ‘Asansol’ is derived from ‘Asan’, a species of trees found in the bank of Damodar and ‘sol, a land rich in minerals. Geographically this land lies on the exposed Gondwana rocks and consists mostly of undulating laterite soil. It is believed that Dravidian and Austroloid stock inhabited this region and significant Jain activity was noticed around 2500 years ago.

The architectural stroke of the old buildings, particularly adjacent to the Railways, has a colonial touch, which also reveals the dominance of British in the pre-independent period. A mesmerising kaleidoscope of culture from diverse religious beliefs, different languages add colour to the fabric of this city.

The broad Grand Trunk Road flanked by buildings on both sides runs through the heart of the city making it easily accessible from Kolkata. On the other hand trains ramble in and out of the station almost every minute, and Asansol is well connected to all parts of the country.

The city has its own typical characteristics with its woes and worries. There is no dearth of agitations, speeches, other undesirable activities like any other metropolitan city. The congested lanes, the encroached roads hardly make way for people to walk those who breach their etiquette and make the city dirtier are the unsolved problems of this corporation area.

And when you are in Hutton Road crossing you will hear the trade cry Burnpur Burnpur… or Barakar Barakar or Raniganj Raniganj by the conductor of the buses, auto-rickshaws’ and the indeterminate cacophony makes a newcomer perplexed. God knows why these people are not blessed with a musical voice.

Leaving behind all effluence, ‘Asansolites’ feel proud for the city. According to 2010 report released by the International Institute for environment and Development, a UK based policy research non-governmental body; Asansol is ranked 11th among Indian cities and 42nd in the world among the 100 fastest growing cities. It as an education hub and has a good number of famous schools, colleges and very recently a university with an enviable faculty.

The Rabindrabhavan, Bharati Bhavan provides a prestigious platform to showcase the potentials of student community residing here. IISCO Steel plant of Steel Authority of India is the sole surviving industry doing justice to this industrial city.Since the past decade Asansol has developed at par with all other metropolitan cities. Mall culture has become very popular to the youths in particular. These shopping complexes offer irresistible temptation to browse through the commodities before taking a decision of a purchase.

For the people leaving in the outskirts of Asansol, visiting a mall is often a weekend event as it includes shopping and wholesome entertainment. For foodies, Asansol is a paradise. One can hardly resist the aroma of delectable chicken or BhapaIlish when passing by Ganga Hotel near Court.

In‘Chachi Sweets’ or ‘Amrito’ one will find choicest varieties of sweets. Inspite of knowing the inevitable dangers, one would surrender to the sheer delight of eating in the lining makeshift roadside stalls of Puchkas, momos or jalebis (sweet). For Religious enthusiasts, ‘Kalyneshwari Temple’ and the ‘Ghagor-buri’ is situated just on the outskirts of the city, while Methodist Church, the Mosque, Jain temple are located in the heart of the city.

Spending some time in Nehru Park amidst multi-hued flowers and towering trees is a sheer experience of delight and total bliss. This city has witnessed lots of change since the past decade in different aspects. However, if proper academic ambience, adequate health care facilities and cleanliness are the benchmark to define a good city then Asansol has many more miles to traverse to compete with the best.

(Coordinator, Class X, St Vincent’s High & Technical School, Asansol)