This morning, while on a walk in the misty hills of Girinagar with my pet dog Sherry, I don’t know why, but while I was admiring the glorious spectacle of the sun rising from behind the mighty Sinhagad fort, suddenly, out of the blue, my mind harked back to my childhood days and I was filled with nostalgic memories of my days in a place called Bareilly where I lived for a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
I mentioned this to my evening walking partner Kapil, who told me that he too had lived in Bareilly, and then, to continue the Bareilly connection, my darling wife also recalled her days in Bareilly in the mid 1970s.
Quite a coincidence, isn’t it?
So, I thought, why not hark back to those memorable days, tickle my memory, and write a few lines about what I remember about Bareilly and tell you about it. And hey, dear reader and fellow armchair traveller, I am talking about Bans Bareilly, mid-way between Delhi and Lucknow (and not the other Bareilly east of Lucknow, the celebrated Rae Bareli).
Those days, in the 1960s, at least for me, it was quite difficult to reach Bareilly, but since I loved travelling by train, I thorougly enjoyed the rather long railway journey with many interruptions for changing trains on the way.
From Pune, early in the morning, we caught the Deccan Queen to Mumbai, got down at Dadar, walked across to the Western Railway, took a local to Mumbai Central, and put your luggage in the Cloak Room. Then you took a train Churchgate and spent a lovely day enjoying the delights of Mumbai – a movie, good food, window shopping on Colaba Causeway, a stroll on Marine Drive at sunset, a quick dinner – and then returned to Mumbai Central to catch the Frontier Mail which left around nine at night.
Next evening, around tea-time in the evening we got down at Mathura Junction for catching the connecting Metre Gauge train to Bareilly. There was a long wait at Mathura. Mathura was a busy station and while our parents relaxed in the waiting room, we kids pranced around the platforms and overbridges watching the trains go by, hauled by black smoke-bellowing steam engines – trains like the blue coloured Taj Express from Agra to Delhi and other express trains heading south.
After dinner we crossed over to the Metre Gauge North Eastern Railway platform to catch the Agra Fort – Kathgodam Kumaon Express which would reach Bareilly junction early in the morning. I remember once we had a terrible train accident in the middle of the night near a station called Rati Ka Nagla when the train derailed at high speed and were rescued from our coach which had toppled over.
My journey during my school holidays to Bareilly all the way from Lovedale near Ooty was really long – four nights and five days – the toy train down the Nilgiris to Mettupalaiyam, the Blue Mountain (Nilgiri) Express to Chennai (then called Madras), a day loafing in Chennai, the GT Express to New Delhi, a full day window shopping in Connaught Place in Delhi, the late night Lucknow Mail from New Delhi which reached Bareilly around 2 AM, then wait till dawn to catch a cycle rickshaw to Izatnagar where we lived. And if you wanted an even more ardous journey the you could travel by the Delhi – Bareilly passenger which chugged along at an excrutiatingly slow pace and took all night.
Bareilly was an important Railway Junction, where metre gauge and broad gauge met, the main line between Howrah and Amritsar and the metre gauge network from Agra to the east, the hills and the loop lines. I remember the decent refreshment room there and the Railway station was an important landmark in town.
We stayed in the outskirts of Bareilly Town, near Izatnagar, and every Sunday we would drive down via IVRI, Shamatganj and Civil Lines to the Bareilly Club, where we would start our day with a swim in the covered pool. Then the elders played Tambola while we kids read books in the Library and this was followed by a delicious lunch of Chana Bhatura. Yes, dear reader, this was the place which introduced me to this scrumptious delicacy and Bareilly Club, in those days, served awesome Chana Bhatura – soft luscious Bhatura and yummy lip-smacking Chana with a sprinkling of fresh onions, corriander and green chillies. (My wife tells me that when she lived in Bareilly a few years later, she too was a regular at the library, swimming pool and games at Bareilly Club and even won the May Queen contest held at the club). I wonder if the Bareilly Club is still as beautiful and lively now as it was back then, more than forty years ago, and do they still have the Tambola and Chana Bhature routine on Sunday mornings.
After lunch we went for a movie. I remember seeing my all time favourite comedy film Padosan at the Old Novelty and then Johny Mera Naam and Mera Naam Joker at the renovated Novelty cinema – and Purab aur Paschim and Inteqam at Jagat, Pehchaan at Imperial, Sawan Bhadon starring Rekha and Navin Nischol at Kumar and I think there was a cinema theatre called Hind also where we saw a Rajesh Khanna movie called Joroo Ka Ghulam. I really wonder whether these old world cinema theatres exist now or have they been replaced by swanky multiplexes like in most other places.
Those days, the most posh restaurant in Bareilly was Rio. At Rio’s the food was superb – I still recall that Rio served the excellent mutton dishes like Rogan Josh, Do Piaza and Korma and a yummy Chicken Masala too. I think they served continental cuisine too as I have fleeting memories of having relished melt in the mouth chicken a la kiev. I faintly recall savouring tea time snacks at Rio too – sandwiches, pastries and cold coffee, but maybe I have forgotten. Then there came along another restaurant called Shadows but I do not have distinct memories of the food out there. In the heart of the city there were places which served mouth-watering delights like samosas, jilebis and chaat.
For our favourite books we went to the London Book Depot in BI Bazar which had some other shops and, I think, a bakery too where you got delicious non-veg foodstuffs like patties, cold meats like ham, salami and snacks.
My small sister and her friends travelled all the way from Izatnagar to Maria Goretti School in a cycle rickshaw and later I too ventured out on my new Atlas bicycle to the city and various picnic spots like Ramganga bridge etc. There was the famous WIMCO match box factory, and Camphor, Turpentine, Chemical factories at Clutterbuckganj and a Tomato Ketchup Plant where you took your tomatoes and they made fresh ketchup, kasaundi and sauce for you.
The nearby hills of the Kumaon, nestling the beautiful hill station of Naintal, beckoned in Summer, and they said that you could see the snow clad Himalayan peaks on a clear day.
That’s all I remember about the Bareilly of yesteryear, etched in my memory, the Bareilly of the 1960s and 1070s, more than forty years ago. A lot of water has flown down the Ramganga since and I wonder how the city of Bareilly is now. Do the places mentioned still exist? Or has everything changed. Will someone be so good as to enlighten us…!
PS - I did not find a Jhumka in Bareilly ke Bazar...!!! Did you...???
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
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