200 years of Hazratganj

On my recent trip to Lucknow I was on my way to chowk for some Chikan work shopping.I decided to take the route via governer house to hazratganj and then onwards to clarks awadh hotel, residency and medical college.

Hazratganj is usually crowded in the evenings but I have never seen anything close to the legendary traffic jams of bangalore.I was surprised to see the traffic stuck at the same place for some 15-20 minutes.The reason for this snarl… Hazratganj is getting a face lift for its 200th birthday.A welcome change for all of us who grew up in Lucknow and for whom ganjing was as special as going to Time Square in NY.

Papa’s car has no music system so waiting there for the traffic to make way ,I got carried back in time when this stretch of 1 km represented all that was hot and happening. Hazratganj was not only a market place , it was something to talk about and even flaunt to the poor cousins who visited from not so hep parts of the country.

Personally I have lots of memories and a few of them are quite vivid as if they happened just yesterday. It’s difficult to rank what I liked best but yes what comes to mind quite readily is my monthly, fortnightly and sometimes weekly visits to Mayfair. The cinema hall was a craze among movie lovers in Lucknow as it showed the latest English Movies in the Morning show.You could bump into almost anyone or hope to bump into almost anyone as you put your hand into the ticket window to collect tickets of “Pretty Women’. Another favorite haunt for college goers especially from the science department in Lucknow University was the Marksman restaurant. In those days it had the distinction of serving some  of the best Burgers,Pizzas and Omelette’s.Any given day you could see youngsters pooling in for a ‘dutch’ party to celebrate the last day of exam or some equally important occasion.And yes how can I forget Rovers cafe ?? For 10 bucks you could buy yourself a hot burger with a potato pancake and a slice of onion and cucumber stuffed carefully between the bread. If you were not broke already you could ask for a fanta or a thums up to go along watching the chicks as time stood still.Janpath was another place that allowed a casual stroll and plenty of window shopping.There was a magazine shop at the corner that sold the latest issues of Debo and all my friends would make sure to have a dekko before their Ganjing trip was over. My entire collection of ‘rock’ music was put together at shop called the Rhythm centre which was on the left side as you entered the Janpath premises.They used to record @ rs 2 per song for Hindi and Rs 5 for English.I guess the bias was still there from the times of Britishers and the snob shopkeepers had found a novel way to differentiate the sahebs from the Pariah.I cared for neither.One place that I used to frequent in the evenings was the Chat stall on the upper deck of Janpath. The genesis of being and the power of free will were debated for hours till it did not make sense anymore –  I am not sure if it was the depth of the discussion or the high of Old monk but that’s what it was.

The traffic started moving and I was transponded  back from my reverie. As I sped past the DM’s residence I reminded myself to take the turn and stop by to have Paan at SBI…..somethings will never change.

And it is for these things which will remain ‘unchanged’ I will keep coming back again and again and again !

 

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