Thursday, January 18, 2018
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Whenever 14th November comes I cannot forget my school days when I used to study in Government Intermediate College on Lowther Road after leaving St Joseph’s Collegiate as it then used to be called. Just opposite the GIC there used to be a huge open field where every year All India Swadeshi Exhibition  would be held. Allahabad in those days was a quiet town of judges, advocates, professors, educationists, scholars.  poets and writers.

Hence in the city there were hardly any places for recreation and entertainment except the movie halls. The Alfred Park used to attract huge crowds on summer evenings with police band entertaining the visitors every Saturday  till 9pm.
The Swadeshi Exhibition was therefore a very big attraction. And the maximum rush was witnessed on November 14, on Nehru’s birthday. People went there especially to see the gorgeous fireworks that were normally not seen on such a lavish and large scale with eye-filling variety that kept the people spell-bound. During the period that the fireworks would be on display, the loudspeaker would stop all music and all announcements. Even Chandramohan Bhargawa would shut down his Wonder Box—the spool tape recorder—which, because of its novelty, was attracting huge crowds. For 25 paise you could record your voice for two minutes and then listen to it! I was surprised when a friend told me the next day that he had heard me sing ;Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aj’. I was taken aback!  He said Chandramohan had not erased it for some time !
As I said, men, women and children in hundreds—I think they must have been present in thousands—stood there spellbound, lost in the spectacular magic of the glorious, multi-coloured fireworks. When the fireworks would come to an end, the exhibition would  come to life again and the people, hitherto standing still like statues, would be on the move and the place would be buzzing with activity. One could hear the loudspeaker invite people to enjoy the tasty ‘Guptaji ke swadisht chane’ and thereafter the music would come on the speaker. It used to be either,’A jao tarapte hain arman ab raat guzarne wali hai’  or  ‘Khyalon mein kisi ke is terah aya nahin karte’. I can say the same for  those happy, glorious , colourful days of 1951-52 and address that era by saying, ‘Khayalon mein kisi ke is terah aya nahin karte, kisi ko bewafa aa aa ke tarpaya nahin karte’. How ‘we look before and after and pine for what is not’ !

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