See it through my eyes
I do not remember my first rendezvous with this city, but I do remember my first date with this city. At the age of 9 I started to discover this city and our ‘perfect date’ still goes on. My ancestors are buried under the moist soil of this city including my beloved father. The blood which runs through my veins today has a lineage which makes me a pure blood Allahabadi and here is my love story…
The perfect date with this city started in the year 1999 when my father left his job in the Middle East and came back to his homeland. The initial phase of the ‘perfect date’ was filled with mixed emotions of happiness, excitement, anger, discomfort and alienation. As a child I did not respond to the sudden change of environment very positively. My early responses to the city consisted of varying shades, I was angry because my life wasn’t now as comfortable as it had been earlier. I was happy because I was pampered by my extended family. I was uncomfortable because the weather conditions made me sweat uncontrollably. I was excited as I could now go to the same school my mother did as a child (Allahabadis are people who love to carry forward their legacy). The prospect of having new friends and more family members made the ‘social being’ in me extremely excited.
As years passed by, I slowly and steadily started to fall in love with my city. During the 90s Allahabad was still a small city with no multiplexes and shopping malls. At the beginning of the 21st century, as school kids our idea of recreation usually meant a movie at Palace or Raj Karan or a dinner with family at El Chico, Tandoor, Invitation, Connoisseur. The idea of fast food meant Hot-stuff and yummy confectionary meant, El Chico Bakery, Kamdhenu Sweets or Paradise. Oh! How we loved sipping into the yummy milk shakes and enjoying those ice creams at the Beater ice-cream parlour. Afternoons spent with mother on a shopping spree ended with the reward of enjoying the yummy “Churmura”, sold by a man sitting right next to the famous Beater ice-cream parlour.
Summer vacations were spent in reading books written by authors from the Far East or poems written by our very own Harivansh Rai Bacchan and Akbar Allahabadi.
My childhood was spent in experiencing every bit of joy and happiness in the most unadulterated form. My joys came packed in small packages. A picnic to the Elephant Park, Anand Bhawan, Sitamarhi, a boat ride at Sangam or an educational tour to the Akbar’s Fort made me feel like as if I was on a 5star luxury vacation. Life in Allahabad has always been a fairly simple one. Often the pace at which life moves here makes the youngsters fly away to metropolitan cities. But the level of excitement and happiness with which we board the trains or flights for a journey back home is incomparable.
The city came closer to my heart when in the year 2005 my father passed away. It was during this tragic event of my life, the city spread its arms and took the three of us in its embrace. My brother was pursuing his law from Lucknow. Hence, after my father’s death only my mother and I were left behind in the city. During these three years, the city not even for a moment made my mother or me, feel lonely or alone. My mother, the super hero of our life, was busy making the two ends meet and raising two youngsters. Allahabad made sure that the mother and daughter duo never felt alone or feared solitude even one bit. The soul of the city rather made us feel stronger and instilled in us a sense of security. It is rightly said for my city that its aura is full of warmth, love and hospitality.
In the last two years of my schooling, the exploration of my own city took a whole new turn. The young and now almost self dependent soul inside me yearned to discover every nook and corner of the city. With the two -wheeler at my disposal and a gang of crazy friends, no part of Allahabad was left unexplored. Starting from the daily Boat ride at Sangam rounds of Civil Lines, to driving up to the new Yamuna bridge to shopping in the congested market areas of Katra and Chowk, my scooty and I practically explored every lane of Allahabad. Often at night driving back from family dinners and weddings we used to cross the majestic building of the Allahabad High Court. I was forced to look at it with even more admiration each time I crossed it. The thoughts of legacies running inside those corridors of the High Court and it turning into the backbone of the city’s economy often left me bewildered.
School was over and a new chapter of life started at the University of Allahabad. Often walking through the majestic buildings located inside the main campus area, I was awe struck by the architectural excellence. I was exhilarated with the thought that the same lanes, alleys and corridors had been tread by those great minds that had been able to carve a niche for themselves and also etch the name of their city in golden letters. During my years of graduation at the Oxford of the East, my passion for driving and need for mobility resulted in the handle of the scooty getting replaced by the steering wheel of the car. Now my exploration knew no limits and our drives to the newly constructed Yamuna Bridge and Sangam became more frequent. Still, I have to explore the Khusrau Bagh, a Mughal period monument.
Soon the magic wand of development started to propel changes in the beauty of Allahabad as well. The city of Bungalows was soon changing into a mesh of tall concrete structures. Within a few years fast food was re-defined with the opening of Mc D, Dominos, Pizza Hut and recently KFC. Movies meant visiting multiplexes and shopping meant visiting the malls and various showrooms of international and national brands spread across the heart of Khusrau Bagh the city, Civil Lines. The culture of Hookah started to grip the youth with the opening up of Higgins, By the Way, Hangout and Sapphire Blue. Our age old favourite El Chico also went through a classic change and now we have the grand El Chico Cafe that serves some of the most lip smacking and mouth watering dishes from across the world.
But what makes Allahabad even more special is the fact that it has been able to retain its legacy and rich culture in spite of the various developmental changes that have taken place. The spirit of each Allahabadi consists of the same warmth, love, affection and hospitality that it had about a century back. We like to serve our guests with homemade snacks and dishes and we love to flaunt our language whenever we sit together even miles away from our homeland.
In those three years that I spent in the national capital, some of the best moments were those when I used to sit with my Allahabadi group and talk about my hometown, my city, my beloved – Allahabad (of course in our very own ‘Allahabadi’ language).
My beloved! My city – Allahabad, my roots are in you and I shall return to you.
Writer is from Allahabad and has been involved in writing for newspapers and magazines.
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 1 Issue 9, Dated 05 December 2015)
Photo credits : Sehar