Sunday, March 21, 2010

Those were the days my friend...........

Wonder what made me think of the old rocker Ian Anderson. Yes, I remember now. The morphing of Patna as a quiet, green town of the 60's and the 70's to an architectural heap pretending to be a city as time went by.
Those were the days when the Dak Bungalow was not Lok Nayak Bhawan and the Chauraha was a golumbar, when everyone knew the other's car number and telephone number that inched from four to five digits. When an evening's stroll included a sumptuous dosa at the unpretentious Bharat Coffee House and browsing through books at Tricel and Reader's Corner.When JS carried the Kookie Kol column with unfailing entries from the creative twins Papiya and Tuk Tuk.When if you were young and somebody you had to be from St. Xavier's or SJC with Notre Dame just making its presence felt. When people spoke English in English. When I write something like this I can understand why Anuradha calls me a brown sahib and a snob. Postcolonial mad tea party. Patna was credited with the best dosas then. The India Coffee House with its air- conditioning and filtered coffee became the crucible of revolution and its doom. After all if you occupy a table from 10 to 6 and the intake is less than the output, it has got to be a charitable institution. Like the rest of India, socialism was confused with charity. And confusion unable to sustain charity, this cultural centre along with the American and later British libraries went along their way. And so the city began to change.Text books giving way to bazaar notes. Old shops giving way to the glitz and glam of the new pretenders. Rajya transport buses giving way to autorickshaws and the Ambys and Fiats stepping aside for the aerodynamic, sporty hatchbacks and goon SUV's with black tinted glass. The richshaws and the cows remained like the unwound clocks of history.
But this is what change is all about. When you drive, you look through the windshield, not at the rear-view mirror. Things are getting better now. The roads are getting smoother than the cheeks of the well-fed queen of Bollywood whose purifier adverts remind me of the wonderful Bharat Coffee House dosas. Parts of the city are as clean as it used to be in the old days. I have two wishes now : that young people make their way back to Tricel and Reader's Corner so that Raghu Banka and Vijay Babu feel less lonely and that education, like the proverbial phoenix, rises from the ashes. May be, I'll complete Ian Anderson's song: It's never too old to rock 'n'roll.............


  1. C'est la vie, and what a vie!
    And as they sand in the Fiddler on the Roof, La chaim! To life!

  2. So agree with what you say. But the question is: although change for the better is fine, will it sustain for long? Will people get back to reading books? After all, the problem of staying away from anything printed and hard-or-soft bound does not confine itself to Patna. The metros are worse whether or not one agrees, and largely since entertainment options are many and few have the patience to journey through a 500-pages-thick book. As for your point about Patna's roads, I genuinely believe that they will be in a shambles pretty soon. Sorry, but I don't think the average Patna-ite loves the city. If they stay there, that is since Patna supports and breeds stagnation. If not, that is since they are convinced that the best of Patna is dead and gone.

  3. Please take a look at the last para of Golf and Homegrown Nostalgia.