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Archive for April, 2013

Kanpur

Tere chehre me woh jadu hai, bin dor khincha jata hu

jana hota hai aur kahee, teree oar chala aata hu…

The song played in the background as i was coming back home, from a friend’s place, in a Tempo. It was raining outside. Not heavily though, slightly more than a drizzle. There had been an unexpected change in weather that day, and it had become real cold and dark. There was a cold breeze blowing from door to door, across the partially opened vehicle, so much so that the driver and his aide had to wrap a piece of cloth around their faces, while i sat cozily sandwiched between them. The song erupted from the vehicle’s audio system, and it was somehow lighting the otherwise dark atmosphere outside.

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This was in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, for those wondering. And for almost all people ouTempotside of UP, the vehicle i was talking about, the Tempo, does deserve some explaining. You see, it’s a strange sort of a vehicle. Its for public transport, and by far means, the most popular means of transport in Kanpur. Its got 3 wheels, but its quite different from the more conventional autos. They are all CNG operated in Kanpur, and easily carry 11 people including the driver and his aide/side-kick, who sit at the front of the vehicle, along with one more passenger sandwiched between them. Then there are 8 passengers at the back, perched on 2 bench like seats, meant for just 3 people each. Its a strange vehicle, least efficient but highly viable, and something that identifies the city itself.

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Nevertheless, this piece of writing is not about the Tempo, but about the city itself that it identifies with. The city of Kanpur. You see there is an old saying that goes as, “Change is the only constant”. Well, whoever said this, definitely did not visit Kanpur. Because, nothing here changes at all. Roads are constructed with enthusiasm, and de-constructed with more enthusiasm, just to leave the city in the same state as before. The same holds true, for buildings, shops and all that is worthwhile. The road from Lucknow airport to Kanpur city, roughly about 70 kms, has become much better now. But as soon as you enter the city, via Koylanagar(yeah you heard that right), you see that nothing in the city itself has changed. There are some under-construction roads and fly-overs which seem to be there, every time you visit the city, at precisely the same places.

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Then you come to my area, which is called Kidwai Nagar Chauraha(Interesting fact: There is a Kidwai Nagar in the US too). This is pretty much the heart of the city, and a very big area. You won’t see the road though, as the entire area is but a huge Tempo-stand. Tempos standing, Tempos waiting and Tempos broken. You need to tell people, that there is actually a road behind them all, leading to my house.

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Around this area, nothing has changed at all. There used to be this samosa center  called Janwadi. Hugely popular since last 10 years. Still the same. The prices have gone up though. The boys selling samosas, still the same, have now grown up. The barber shop where i got my first haircut, is still up and running. I cried a lot that time. The man is old now, but he still does a decent job. Diamond Shoe Palace, where we used to get all our shoes for school and outside, still the same. The owner still the same. Huge, hunk like, but now with grey in his hair. Still a great seller. The jalebis of Krishna, still as delicious as ever, on Sunday morning breakfasts. Triveni Market has still failed to expand since last 20 years. There are more shops in front of it now, than inside it, and still it is hugely popular. On the other hand, the other market called Chaalees Dukaan, literally meaning 40 shops, has survived riots,fires and everything worse, and has still managed to look the same. Even the Falooda shop, on the road opposite, is the same. Its the same Falooda, which we used to enjoy so much in our school days. Still bloody same.

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A bit far from my place(4kms, which is a big distance in a small city), things are still the same. The Govindnagar shops, the road bridge, still as crowded as ever. Fazalganj still has the same sardaar selling tyres, the shop is big now. Devki Cinemas, still plays B-Grade Hindi movies. And all around it, are coachings of all sorts, from IIT-JEE to CPMT and what not. This was where we came everyday for 2 years, 10 kms from where we used to live, in our school days to prepare for IIT-JEE. We had so much fire in us back then. We thought the world would dance at our feet. But now, the only fire that still burns, is the Holi Fire, every year, on Holi Eve, the festival of colors  at various places across the city. The enthusiasm to play with colors has gone down a bit, but you can still see children enjoying the festival of colors with full gusto, and childhood rivalry.

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Then there are some things which totally bring a smile on your face. The JK Temple, which is pretty much the only place to must visit in the city, still stands tall, and pristine white. It brings a sense of pride each time you pass it. The zoo, which was always more of a botanical garden than a zoo, still boasts of the same feat. The city has become richer over the years. Cars like Volkswagen and Renault have made it to the city. But the city has this strange urge to spell everything in Hindi  So the Volkswagen showroom spells something like “falkwagan” in Hindi  And that was hilarious. The city never stops amusing you.

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The song in the Tempo changed to

Tum hum pe marte ho hum tum pe marte hain…“.
I was close to my destination. The rain had almost stopped. It was cold now, but the wind had receded to a gentle breeze. My chain of thought was broken and i quietly started walking towards my house. Nostalgia is like a dream. You eventually do come out of it. The next day was hot and humid again.

It was time to leave the city once again.

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JK Temple3063198557_7798068d34

 

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