Sunday, June 6, 2010

A spark neglected ...

2am. There is a short circuit. The sparks burn the paper plates and cups in the chat market which in turn account for the cylinder blast. Within a few hours the Victoria market, the largest books and stationary market in Gwalior is burnt to char. Sad indeed. Along with the loss to the property, we have lost a great Monument. The Victoria market was built in 1905. It carried a lot of history. The duke of wales gave his first press conference from this building.

The collector has declared that the building is now unfit for use and shall be developed as a heritage building.A very sensible move.It is indeed a heritage building.

But something has to be done to rehabilitate the shops as soon as possible.I am sure with the new school session, there is going to be a shortage of books, notebooks and other stationary.

I remember going to the Victoria market as a school boy. No visit was complete without the mandatory aloo tikiya. It wasn’t just a gastronomical delight. It was a visual delight too as the cook expertly fried many tikias at a time and when ready used to throw it high in the air and catch it in the leafy dona. I grew up watching it with a mischievous prayer to see him miss the target. But it never missed. He too smiled at us when he saw us. we used to try diverting his attention. But the guy was a pro.

After the chat we drank thick mango shake. I still feel that apart from Haji Ali in Mumbai, no other place could serve such thick and tasty shakes. The taste of the shake was enhanced by the dollop of cream on it. Those were the carefree days when calorie count was not in our dictionary.

It was only after we were full did we enter the market. The book shopping took lesser time than the eating. The same shopkeeper had supplied me books from my school till the engineering. The guys in the market were smart. They had all the books for various branches neatly stacked. I can bet that the shopkeeper’s knowledge of the authors and the books matched the professors. All you had to tell them was your professor’s name and he would come out with the books. If you were short of money, never mind. Take the book and pay later.

But by second year, Nayi sarak in New Delhi replaced our old fashioned Victoria market. It wasn’t that the books weren’t available. It was just an excuse for us to go and have fun in the glamorous and attractive capital.

So the chaat was replaced by the succulent stuffed malai parathas of the parathe wale in chandni chowk or fish pakoras in karim hotel in jama masjid , old delhi for lunch and a milk shake in the nirulas in CP.

Later when my dad expired, I came to know that it was the one place to get everything required for the thirteenth ceremony.

I was walking out straight from the pooja and was wearing a dhoti and a shawl. My head tonsured. As I walked through the narrow lanes inside the market, people mistook me for a swami. Folded hands, bent heads, we were given way. My friend whispered that if ever I was jobless, this could be an alternate source.It may seem an insensitive remark. But my friend is one of the most caring guys in the world.It was his way of alleviating the pain and diverting attention.

There was a small cloth market right at the entrance.Even it has been charred beyond recognition.

All these memories remind me of the glory of that forgotten market. I feel guilty. Its been almost a decade since I visited it. Now street eating is almost scandalous. I have left college long back.Besides, the shopping malls in our area has made bada almost redundant.

The authority has offered some compensation to the beleaguered shopkeepers.I am not sure if it is enough. But a large part of the history of the city has burnt to ashes yesterday. The loss is incalculable. Bada will lose some of its majesty. Wish I had taken some photographs.

I remind myself. I must visit the forgotten parts of the city at least once again.

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