Nostalgia: Once upon a time in Raipur

Cycle rickshaws were the only means of local transport. They were very cheap. A trip would cost a few anas.

I have known Sudhanshu Shekhar, CEO of Reincarnating Raipur for the last 2 years. Even informal talks with him have been intellectually stimulating. During one such talk, I suggested that his beautiful magazine of “RAIPUR” should have a column for senior citizens, particularly those who have retired after being useful to society for long years. Every such retired person has a treasure of memories but there is no platform to share such memories with today’s youth.

It is to the credit of Shekhar that he readily agreed to my suggestion. However, he cleverly trusted the task of writing the first such article to me. Not that I mind. We mutually agreed that most of the memories must be about Raipur, its people, and its places. So here are some of my memories about Raipur.

Walking down the memory lane

Psychologically, a human being starts to form retrievable memories by the time he/she is about 4 years old. So, when I searched my memory bank for this article, my earliest is also from the age of 4 years.

I must honestly confess that it was great fun and a unique endeavor. Thanks to the offer of writing this article, I revisited my childhood days. Frankly, I was greatly amused and it was fun.

Some details about my connection with Raipur would not be out of place. Two brothers from Jetpur (Near Gondal) left Gujarat about 100 years back. (Possibly in search of livelihood) They came to Nagpur and started some business. After about one year the younger of the two traveled further east to Raipur and settled here. He was my ancestor – my great-grandfather. My father and I were born in Raipur only. Thus I am a full-fledged blue-blooded Chhattisgarhi and I am proud of this. I repeat I am proud of being a Chhattisgarhiya. Whenever I am asked about my state, I have always replied l am Chhattisgarhiya Gujarati.

Vintage Talks…

I was born in a house on Malviya Road. How many Raipurians would know that Malviya Road (a stretch of road from Jai Stambh Chowk to Kotwali) was called Bensali Road before independence? The name was changed in 1947 after Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.

The road had shops on both sides. Shopkeepers’ families resided behind the shop or on the first floor. Most of the buildings had tiles (Kavelu d) on the roof. I remember two RCC-constructed buildings i.e. Ramdev Market and the building opposite Babulal talkies and Nagar Nigam office.

The road itself was a 10 feet wide tarred stretch. So you could see employees sprinkling water in front of shops with buckets and mugs in the evenings. This served the dual purpose of cooling the environment and settling dust.

Some prominent shops on the road are in my memories.

The Image shop was there selling hardware. It still exists. Then there is Kikabhai ki Dukan. I think it still exists. Madison, the cloth shop, is a place of pride. There was another famous and big clothes shop on Kotwali Chowk named Shah Himmadal Manekchand Alas, it’s no longer in operation. Binny was one famous textile brand. Bombay Dyeing is another. One more shop that is continuing to exist is the jewelry shop Soni Chhaganlal Padamsi, opposite Akolawala sweets.

Halwai lane was a wholesale cloth market too, the biggest shop being M/s Agarchand Suganchand, of course, Agrawala and Banaraswala were the most famous sweet shops. My mouth waters even today when I remember hot jalebis made every morning at Agrawal sweets.

At a glance

Cycle rickshaws were the only means of local transport. They were very cheap. A trip would cost a few anas. By the way, Ana was 1/16th of a rupee.

The city was very small. In today’s parlance, it would be eligible to be called a kasbah only. It may have had a population of about 30K at that time i.e. around 1955.

There was a huge fenced ground where Ravi Bhavan stands today. It was a parking area for Municipal Council (as it was known then) road-laying machinery. The steam road roller was a great attraction for our children. I remember running after one and being scolded badly by my mother.

I would like to mention one more important spot:

The bus stand. Raipur bus stand was situated where Nagar Nigam Multi-floor parking, behind Ahmed ji Bhai Petrol Pump. The place was known as such – Purana bus stand-till the parking was constructed. I think the name is slowly fading from the collective memory of Raipur. And yes, there were 3 petrol pumps in front of the bus stand i.e. Purana bus stand. A. Ahmed ji Bhai still exists. Next (towards Rai Talkies) was the Bhatia Petrol Pump. The third one was the Radheshyam petrol pump. A hotel stands in place of the Radheshyam Petrol Pump. The Bhatia pump has been closed down. Nilam Hotel has been replaced by Lalganga Mall. There was a beautiful restaurant named “Blue Spot” at Shastri Chowk. It has been converted into shops now, Tanishq being the most visible brand shop there.

The court complex had three buildings only. There were huge open grounds which were called ‘Kachehri Ground. I remember having played cricket, with both a hard and a tennis ball, at these grounds on Sundays

The place where the headquarters of the Department of Culture is housed was known as Ajayab Ghar. It was an inevitable ritual to take all visiting relatives and guests to Ajayab Ghar.

I hope my memory of my dear Raipur is not fading. I would like to share much more with the readers of REINCARNATING RAIPUR magazine.

Lalit Wadher

The author of this article is a Raipurian. He is a graduate of Durga Commerce College and has served in the Bank of India. He is retired and is pursuing his various interests including writing.




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