Saturday, 16 August 2014

Nainital O --Four

And ah, the manifold attractions of the Mallital bazaar .
In 1842 one Mr Barron writing under the name of ‘Pilgrim’ wrote in the Agra Akhbar, that a news item appearing in the Calcutta’s ‘Englishman’ paper, be followed as soon as possible . The said item had referred to a chance discovery of ‘an undulating lawn with a great deal of ground ,’ surrounded by thick forests and magnificent mountains with a pristine lake in the vicinity of Almora, by some Englishman . He was the first to spot the possibilities of building ‘a race course, a cricket ground etcetera in every direction for a large town.’ He visited Nainital (then spelt Nynee Tal) in 1842 ( arriving by boat from Bhimtal side). His two oared boat some 20 feet in length, was carried by 60 coolies to Nainital and was the first to be launched in the Naini Lake. He thus became the precursor of Nanital’s famous yacht club one of the first 3 such clubs in India. Mr Barron asked the Commissioner Mr Lushington’s office for a dozen contractors and even introduced the Company official Mr Batten to one local contractor, Lala Moti Ram Sah of Almora . Sah jue agreed to undertake the work of building the first twelve bungalows. Rules were drawn quickly by the Commissioner’s office to grant permission and necessary leases were created that kept the lessees firmly bound to following government rules at all times. A municipality created in 1850 and reconstructed in 1873 with 6 nominated honorary members , presided over by the Commissioner and the Dy Commissioner as the President and Vice President cum member secretary now took matters in hand. The bungalows were advertised as soon as they were ready and the Commissioner, who had already had  a sizeable bungalow built for himself, allotted more sites for the creation of necessary public buildings and a bazaar on the upper lakeside ( Mallital). The natives were relegated to building their abodes on the downside ( Tallital).
Up until 1845 a dense bamboo forest existed where the Mallital bazaar now stands. And tigers, Gurals and Sambhar deer roamed there freely. This is why the first church that came up in Ayarpatta in Mallital, was named St John in The Wilderness. It was built by public subscription at a total cost of Rs 15,000. The bazzar as also (Amitabh Bachchan’s Alma Mater) Sherwood School for boys began to be built in the same year 1846. The latter was built by Captain Arnaud on land known as Gaiwala Khet. By the time Mr Barron visited Nainital a third time, much of the wild life had been forced back into the forests on the hillside and the lake had about half a dozen boats carrying building material across the lake to Mallital. The original Sherwood college, called The Diocesan Boys’ School, opened in 1869 by Bishop Milman of Calcutta. It then stood at Stoneleigh where the Ramsay hospital now stands and was moved first to Khurpatal and relocated ( due to non salubrious climate at Khurpatal) to Sher Ka Danda in Ayarpatta where it still stands.
To fast forward into the early 60s, the Mallital bazaar began with Ram Lal’s famous shop on your right. It sold woolen textiles of high quality and also had excellent tailors available. A little further stood the fairy land of Rais Brothers’ shop that offered all sorts of items from haberdasherie to edibles. Opposite them was another book shop owned by the gentle Mr Kansal of the Kansal book depot. He sold books in Hindi both of the academic and non academic kind and was also an agent for inexpensive books on religion brought out by the Gita Press Gorakhpur in their familiar maroon Khadi bindings. The latter were in great demand among religiously inclined old men and women. Next to them was the Tandon Brothers’ utensil shop .The infamous and gifted ladies tailor Harichand had his little shop opposite these, next to Raees Brothers’. Here you could see all the well dressed wives of the town’s elite squabbling like fisherwomen with the Master who absorbed their shrill barbs about delaying their ordered clothes, with a saintly smile . ‘Kal aana’, (come tomorrow), he would tell every one , and ultimately the victims retraced their steps comparing notes with how late whose promised deliveries were . Harichand with his long and close association with all old families treated teenagers with disdain and would rule out our demands for deeper necks or tighter top garments rather rudely saying our parents would not approve of it. He stitched our school uniforms and then our trousseaus and sighed happily as he measured our widening girths thereafter .
A few shops away stood Mamu Halwai’s sweet shop that served the most scrumptious Indian sweets and Bedami Kachauris for which he employed special Karigars from Mathura during the ‘season’. He disapproved of his young female customers constantly asking for more chutneys and masalas in their chat and told us gruffly to run off and stop pestering him. Neither happened . Mamu also doubled up as Ravana in the annual Ramlila and sported a most fierce moustache . His eyes remained kind and merry though . When he was in a good mood we’d cajole him to ‘do’ the Ravana Laugh and he obliged with a booming Gabbar like laughter that rang in the marketplace and made everyone smile. Here the market street bifurcated and a branch climbed up to where the vegetable shops stood . The Ramlila pucca stage between the forks functioned as a wholesale market where the pennywise householders shopped constantly complaining about the quality of vegetables and fruits on display. The coolies lounged by with their cane baskets, hoping to catch someone’s eyes and carry his load up the hillside.
After a little turn almost at the end of the market, after the various small shops selling bangles and kohl and Parandis, stood Bakharua Halwai’s shop. He was the town eccentric and dressed in a filthy Baniyan and Dhoti the year round . No one knew how old he was but he had no teeth and drooled and one could barely make out what he said . He had a walrus moustache and a most dour countenance, but his large and thick Jalebis and pungent Samosas fried in Shudh Desi Ghee , the only two items he produced for a limited period each day, were to die for. To some of us favored old clients he also kept a hidden cache of a pungent Dalmoth the like of which I have never tasted since .

The last shop at a distance from Bakhrua’s where the long climb to our Ayarpatta house began, was the Desi liquor shop . It awake at around four in the afternoon and we were witnesses to frequent and semantically enriching verbal fights among the inebriated clients that we watched with amusement as we climbed up . The town stray dogs kept them company seemingly impervious to a few hefty kicks they delivered from time to time. We knew the regular town drunks that came to the Bhatti shop, by name and often met their worried young sons or wives descending the slopes . They’d pause and ask us if we had spotted their father or brother at the Bhatti and if we confirmed their fears they’s spit and burst into colourful expletives.        


At 17 August 2014 at 22:48 , Blogger pramod joshi said...

Shuddh Pahari Ghee


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