Each time the sun sets on Magnolia Point, Netarhat hills, in a blaze of glory and turns Koel river into a sheet of gold, the memory of a doomed love story rises from the darkening mists, poignant enough for a Bollywood epic.
A colonial legend goes that British girl Magnolia, smitten by a local shepherd and ridiculed for it, plunged to her death on horseback. With her death, the cliff where she leapt from was renamed Magnolia Point.
Over the years, Maoist violence in Latehar district replaced Magnolia’s romance in popular imagination. But now, with the slow return of peace, Latehar district administration has decided to rescue Magnolia’s legend to lure more tourists to rhapsodic sunsets.
Since summer, the cliff, 10km from Netarhat district headquarters and also called Sunset Point, has been receiving a much-needed facelift.
According to Latehar deputy commissioner Aradhana Patnaik, renovation of sunset point was high on her agenda since she took charge some two years ago.
“After much brainstorming, I realised we should keep it simple,” she said.
Though the legend appealed to all generations, the story lacked details. “So, we worked our way around this handicap by presenting the story visually. We got wall murals of Magnolia and the shepherd resting cozily under a tree, at sunset, and so on,” she said. “Our main aim was to introduce the story to visitors and get them talking.”
Romance apart, Patnaik decided on practical add-ons too.
“We repaired the stairs, installed an overhead plastic shed, solar lights fencing and guard walls. We are in the process of fixing tiles at strategic places now. Little things work wonders,” Patnaik added.
Her simple policy has paid rich dividends, she added. “Word-of-mouth publicity is drawing tourists to this place,” she said.