Sunset Boulevard ( 7 ) : ” Vanishing Milestones “


MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           JULY 07 , 2012           01.00 A.M.

I wrote 1st blog in the ” Sunset Boulevard ” category on December 28 , 2009 . It was about Bajaj Scooter . There was news that owners of Bajaj are discontinuing the production of their iconic Bajaj scooter permanently . A sense of nostalgia gripped me and I wrote about ” Hamara Bajaj ” . I never thought that one day I would be writing 7th blog in this category .

Recently when I visited my native place Deoria , I suddenly noticed that ubiquitous milestones are slowly but steadily vanishing from the roads . Such iconic part of one’s life is now giving way to some metallic mileposts and no one is noticing it .

What is a milestone ?

As dictionary explains its meaning ; ” a milestone is a stone functioning as a milepost .”

Later on the word milestone started carrying other meaning also . A milestone is refered to as ” a significant event or stage in the life , progress , development in the life of a person and / or a nation . “

Since olden times , milestones are used on the roads to show a mile of distance from one place to another . In those days of yore when ” Google Earth ” and ” Google Maps ” were yet to appear and digital maps with the ; GPRS [ Global Positioning Radio System ] or GPS [ Global Positioning System ] technology were yet to become a part of our lives , a milestone was the only indicator or sign which indicated that we are travelling on the right path .

Roman Empire

Milestones were originally stone obelisks – made from granite marble or whatever local stone was available – and later concrete posts. They were widely used by Roman Empire road builders and were an important part of any Roman road network . Many Roman milestones only record the name of the reigning emperor without giving any place names or distances.  The first Roman milestones appeared on the Appian way. At the centre of Rome, the “Golden Milestone” was erected to mark the presumed centre of the empire : this milestone has since been lost. The Golden Milestone inspired the Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C., intended as the point from which all road distances in the United States should be reckoned.

Zero Milestone (1923), The Ellipse, Washington...

Zero Milestone (1923), The Ellipse, Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Byzantine Empire

A mile-marker monument, the Milion , was erected in the early 4th century AD in Constantinople . It served as the starting point for measurement of distances for all the roads leading to the cities of the Byzantine Empire , and had the same function as the Milliarium Aureum of Ancient Rome . The Milion survived intact until at least the late 15th century. Its fragments were discovered again in the late 1960s. A fragment is re-erected as a pillar.

Post Medieval Europe

In Europe , the distance measured typically starts at specified point within a city or town , as many roads were named for the towns at either end . For example in London , United Kingdom , a plaque near the Eleanor cross at Charing Cross is the reference point from which distances from London to other towns and cities are measured . In the UK, milestones are especially associated with former Turnpike roads .

 Modern highways

The historical term milestone is still used today, even though the “stones” are typically metal signs and in most countries are based on metric rather than imperial units of measure . Also found today are more closely spaced signs containing fractional numbers , and signs along railways, beaches and canals .

Milestones on Indian highways typically have white backgrounds with yellow tops (on national highways) or green tops (on state highways) . The names of cities and distances are painted in black . The names of the nearest towns and cities are written along with distance in kilometres . On undivided highways , both sides of the milestones are used , telling the distance to the nearest cities in each direction . The highway number is written on the head of the milestone . The sum of the distances of two nearest cities in each direction from the milestone is listed on the side .

I am posting recently clicked photo of Zero Milestone of Deoria city . It is freshly painted because it is just opposite the District magistrate’s Bungalow .

A Milestone at Deoria

A Milestone at Deoria

A Milestone at Deoria

A Milestone at Deoria

This huge stone structure , which gives the distance of various city from Deoria , is also freshly painted and it stands just in front of the District Magistrate’s Bungalow . These three are a part of my life . I have seen these three milestones or mileposts since my childhood days . I am a wanderer and am used to see milestones while travelling  .

A Milestone at Deoria [ Larger Version ]

A Milestone at Deoria [ Larger Version ]

 These photos , which I have taken from the internet , tell us that a milestone is the part of our civilization since the days of Roman Empire .

Slate milestone near Bangor, Wales

Slate milestone near Bangor, Wales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newell Green milestone

Newell Green milestone (Photo credit: sleepymyf)

Milestone, Bath Road

Milestone, Bath Road (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

Zero Milestone (1923), The Ellipse, Washington...

Zero Milestone (1923), The Ellipse, Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milestone

Milestone (Photo credit: A.M. Kuchling)

But alas , things are changing . Roads of yore are gone . Now Highways and Expressways have taken their place . And with the advent of these Highways and Expressways , milestones are also gone . Now metal mileposts with fluorescent colours have taken their place . On my numerous journeys , I have noticed these new age milestones but it never occurred to me that old milestones of my childhood will vanish one day .

These metal milestones are more convenient and easy to see during night because of the fluorescent colours , but the older version of the milestones have some distinct charm and some romantic attraction .

New Age Milestone

New Age Milestone

New Age Milestone

New Age Milestone

On my recent visit to Deoria when I travelled to my wife’s village Ghortap , I noticed the pitiable condition of the milestones . You can watch yourselves . You can’t read the name or distance because it is almost buried in the ground and also not painted . And remember , this road connects Deoria to Kushinagar , a Buddhist pilgrimage centre where Gautam Buddha attained NIRVANA . Several foreign dignitaries visit this place quite often .

Current State of Milestone

Current State of Milestone

Current State of Milestone

Current State of Milestone

Current State of Milestone

Current State of Milestone

Current State of Milestone

Current State of Milestone

Milestones of foreign countries are also going through the same phase .

Milestone, Bath Road

Milestone, Bath Road (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

Milestone, Datchett

Milestone, Datchett (Photo credit: Pete Reed)

Very soon these new age milestones or mileposts will replace our age-old milestones made of stone or rock . People of younger generation will forget about these ubiquitous milestones , which were so intrinsically attached to our being not very long ago .

New Age Milestone

New Age Milestone

Alas ! One more part of my life will cease to exist very soon . There is no official announcement . There is no official order of discontinuation of old milestones . But I know it wont be seen anymore . It wont be around few years after .

Milestone will be googled and it will only be seen in some dictionary or encyclopaedia .

[ Some information about Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire is taken from Wikipedia . I express gratitude . ]

VIDUR

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

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