destination india

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

the sexy sixties

Focus : Nasik of the late sixties….

When I came for interview, I stayed in a tiny hotel just outside the railway station. What prompted me to select that particular hotel were two large portraits of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Deb and Goddess Kali on either side of the Manager’s table. The room rent was Rs 8.00 and the accommodation comprised a single cot, one side table and a chair. The location of the hotel is where the auto rickshaws are now parked. Hotel Raj had not seen the light of day till then. Pavan was a still later addition, after Muktidham came into existence.

After my selection, when I joined service, I used to stay in Deolali with my friends. Most of us were into our first appointments and were bachelors. We stayed in a huge three-storey bungalow just adjacent to Sansari naka – it was affectionately known in the neighborhood as the bhoot-bungalow! The rent for the complete accommodation was Rs 420.00 and was shared by the occupants. For dinner we patronized Vijaya Lunch Home situated just opposite the Municipal School on the main road. We paid Rs 35.00 per month for full non-vegetarian dinner. Rice was 85 to 90 paise and wheat 60 to 65 paise per Kg.! A basketful of onions could be had for only 10 paise – the basket would contain 1 to 1 ½ Kgs. Ten grams of Gold were available for as little as Rs 160.00. The ST bus fares were in denominations of 15 and 20 paise – you were not permitted to travel standing. Also, boarding a running bus or alighting from one was not tolerated by the bus conductor who was and, still is, the Supreme Commander of each ST bus. In fact, I was once reprimanded by the conductor for boarding the bus before it had stopped. The most popular two wheelers of the sixties were bicycles. There were only two varieties of Scooters – the Lambrettas and the Vespas - which were driven by a chosen few. Motor cycles were of the Harley-Davidson types of the Military Police. To commute short distances, the common man relied on the ST bus or on his own pair of feet. I have lived through such days!

Deolali of the late sixties was one of the most attractive summer getaways for Mumbaites. With the onset of summer vacations, all the Sanatoriums would be occupied with the young, the not so young and the old. They would bring with them the latest fashions from Mumbai. In the evenings, they would stroll lazily down the streets in groups, stopping to exchange pleasantries with acquaintances. Some of them would settle in the Bharat Cold Drinks House where a bottle of the original Coca-Cola could be had for only 20 paise – the same price as that of a glass of fresh limejuice! BCDH was also famous for its mouth-watering faloodas! Its patrons never seemed to be in any hurry. Other vacationers would walk down to Cathay or Adelphi – the two cinema halls, which ran English films. Or spend the evening atop the Temple Hill, an experience not easily forgotten – this landmark of Deolali was in a world of its own where time literally stood still. No fumes of auto-rickshaws. No dust hovering in the air. No obnoxious gases to destroy the freshness of the colorful bougainvilleas. There was lovely greenery all around and concretisation had not set in. The silence would be broken by the occasional clip-clop of the tongas or the sudden passing through of the State Transport bus en-route to South Deolali or one of the bicycles clanging along with its load of milk pots. Milk in pouches was something nobody could have visualized! However, the memories of Deolali that I had cherished for so long were shattered a couple of years back when I visited the place after a very long absence. It was a Deolali that I could not recognize. The smell of fresh green grass and horses at the bus stand had given way to the acrid stink of burnt petrol – auto rickshaws had taken over from the tongas. And the roads were filthily crowded with hawkers at every step.

Talking about cinema halls, the other popular ones were the Regimental and Bytco Talkies in Nasik Road and the Circle in Nasik City. And a favorite haunt of the younger generation was Bhagwant Rao’s right on the Main Road. The Regimental and the Bytco Talkies are no more. Modernization in the shape of the first ever flyover of Nasik has taken its toll!!

Of course, city dwellers had another option. That of sitting on the banks of a pollution free Godavari and dreaming their hearts out because the sixties were that period in ones life when one could expect ones dreams to be fulfilled –unlike today, where ones dreams are likely to remain dreams only.


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