It is the city where much of the history of India’s independence was planned and written. It was one of the active centres of the 1857 mutiny. It was Nehru’s ancestral home –Anand Bhawan- where the leaders of India’s freedom movement congregated and charted the course toward independence. It is the place where Chandershekhar Azad breathed his last unwilling to submit himself to slavery of the colonial regime. ‘Prayag’ meaning ‘place of sacrifice’ it was so rightly named.
Allahabad proudly boasts of producing connoisseurs in almost every field. It has given India four out of fourteen Prime Ministers till date. The most prolific and prominent writers of hindi literature –Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Sumitranandan Panth,Mahadevi Verma, Harivansh Rai Bachhan, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Dharmveer Bharti etc belong to this city. Superstars like Amitabh Bachhan and Nargis,renowned scholars like Harishchandra and Amarnath Jha , freedom fighters like Madan Mohan Malviya and Purushottam Das were nurtured on this very land. Such is the sagacity in its soil.
Allahabad is known for education since eons. Allahabad University established in 1887 is one of India’s oldest universities (now being the Central University) and has earned the epithet of ‘Oxford of the east’. Besides there are three deemed universities (including my Alma mater), an open university, research and technical institutions and colleges known for providing higher education in vast range of disciplines. This attracts thousands of students and learners from all over country every year turning this city into an education hub. Allahabad is better known as a ‘factory’ of producing adept engineers, doctors, advocates, judges, IAS/PCS officers and even musicians and writers.
The city is a mix of some of the most amazingly grandiose churches(eg All Saints Cathedral), intricately designed and colorful temples to Hindu gods and goddesses(eg Bade Hanuman ji), and the most beautiful colonial architecture as seen in the old buildings of the High Court, the city offices, the universities, some schools and private bungalows. The view of New naini bridge at twilight is certainly a treat to the eyes.
During the festivals of Magh mela/Kumbh mela thousands of devout from all over the world(including the young, the old and the weak) gather here (through incredible journeys)to take a dip at Sangam making it an extravagant affair of the land. There is a surreal spiritualism in the air all through the fest. It is believed that it is at the Sangam, that a few drops of the nectar 'Amrit Bindu' fell, making its waters truly magical. Faith. Sheer faith! In Allahabad religions truly embrace each other. A Hindu guy helps his Christian neighbor in decorating the X-mas tree. A Muslim guy does not mind selling colors/crackers in his shop. And a Christian guy bows equally before the temples and mosques. Allahabadis celebrate each and every festival with utmost zeal and enthusiasm-be it Ramlila’s at Dussehra or kapda-faad holi. The gusto is so very lively,always!
Allahabadis are too much ‘khaane ke shaukeens’. They can’t do without oily and spicy food. Street foods here are much more famous than hotels and restaurants. Dahi-jalebi at Hira Halwai (our favorite breakfast) or Netram ki kachaudi or Shanti ki kulfi or Highcourt ki daal-baati or Spicy-bite ka non-veg or Sulaaki ki pooriyan or Hari ke samose or Loknath ki namkeens or Barhana ki chaat or Medical chaurahe ke dose-each is ambrosial in its own delectable way. Paan-walas, Chaat-ke-thelas, 'Ganne(sugarcane) ka juice' and 'lai-chaana walas' can be found in every hook and corner of the city, with almost equal crowd at each spot. Who cares about health and hygiene, after all ‘Shauk Badi cheez hai’. Besides Elchico,Kahna Shyam, Friends, Sapphire blue, Sagar ratna etc are other hangouts for sumptuous dinners and treats.
Allahabad has its own nuanced culture – that of extreme politeness, graciousness and righteousness. You’ll be swayed by the hospitality offered here irrespective of you being a Punjabi or Marathi. People put relationships before the product, and take time to recognize the human in the other before the ego in the self. The amiability of ‘aap’ and ‘hum’ is way too winsome. The tu/tera slang isn’t our code of conduct until and unless you mess up. ‘Ram-Ram bhaiya’ is an allahabadi’s way of greeting. So godly, no?
Uncle ji’s generally chewing paans and discussing about politics, aunty ji’s buying vegetables and telling tales, students strolling through the crowded alleyways and children playing gali-cricket or doing patang-baazi are the most common sights you’ll come across. Life here runs at its own leisurely pace and at the same time provides all modern amenities for comfort and leisure. In the very first look Allahabad looks like an old decrepit city. Its foundations are nonetheless very strong. You’ll have to dig deep to get to the implicit beauty of the city. It might not have exotic locations but people are just so beautiful (beautiful you know?) and in its narrow lanes they often cultivate broad-mindedness.
Proud to be a one!Too wise yet too innocent
Too simple,yet too appealing
Too ignorant yet too knowledgeable
Too dabangg yet too sensitive
Too different yet too similar
A strange calmness envelopes the city when sun rays fall on to it's holy waters. I bet Allahabad’s quiet and peaceful life will leave you mesmerized in an unusual way.
No matter where I go in life I'll always boastfully belong to this city. Long live it's legacy!