Thursday, January 18, 2018
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New Year Eve these days is quite different from the simple affair it used to be in the pre-independence era in Allahabad . Even some years thereafter the same traditions continued for several years till the new generation came adding some frills not witnessed earlier. And now? Well, it is sheer madness that one witnesses on roads with tipsy merry makers dashing through the thoroughfares on the vehicles, racing across the highways as if they were least bothered about the consequences. They think only of the moment, the thrill provided by pressing the accelerator to the hilt.

  In olden days we used to read about New Year deaths in road accidents in UK and the USA. We just couldn’t fathom how that could happen. But obviously now we can picture the liquor devil over powering them, turning them  mad through excessive drinking.
But in 1946 or later Allahabad roads used to be quiet. In daytime too one could not hear any traffic noise. At night there used to be pin-drop silence. People would not stir out of their homes especially those living on the outskirts.  Muirabad, buzzing with activity during the Christmas period, was the last landmark beyond which it used to be jungle. I recall on New Year Eves there used to be nothing much. Our roads presented dead looks.  There used to be New Year Eve ball-room dances on the floor of Barnetts when Miss Allahabad would be chosen through popular votes from the dancing crowds that  assembled there. There was a Tap Dance. In this, any male dancer would go and tap a girl dancing with another. The male had to leave and the new partner handed over a ticket to her. These tickets or coupons  were sold to male participants who would give them to the tapped ladies. Male partners would purchase them in abundance. At the end of the tap dance these tickets or ballot papers were collected from the lady participants. The girl getting the maximum tickets was declared the most popular girl and by virtue of that voting, she became Miss Allahabad. I still recall one Miss Lee getting that award. Her picture appeared the next day in both  The Leader and the Amrit Bazar Patrika. The dance night would go on sometimes  till even 3a,m and then the couples would go home  singing on the roads. Most of them were Anglo Indians. Many stayed in the Railway Colony on South Road(now Nawab Yusuf Road). It may be mentioned that the Railways had plenty of Anglo Indian staff.
When we were staying in 1 Kitcherry Road( as last tenants of Gopal Chaturvedi’s parents), in our neighbourhood stayed the Dawsons who would celebrate the New Year Eve in a big way. Till 12 midnight the gramophone would continue to play current hit songs. I recall one of these was Nur Jehan’s ‘Tum bhi bhula do main bhi bhuladun’ from Jugnu  and another was Lata’s Chahat ka khazana hai tere liye’ from (old) Shehenshah. At 12 sharp the New Year was welcomed with loud  applause.
Years later when Elysium was in full swing, we met on New Year’s eve at my residence o New Year’s Eve. We had games and fancy dress competition. I can’t forget Markanday Katju coming dressed up as an Arab Sheikh. Vinod Vaish looked so much like a sadhu with ‘jata’ (thick bushy hair on his head, all plaited), that even I could not recognize him. He sat in the verendah and other members thought he was some pilgrim come for Magh Mela and was using our verendah to sleep for the night. Those arriving for the meeting wouldn’t even look at him till he finally barged into the room scaring every one till he revealed his identity. And Piyush Kanta Verma came dressed as a dainty lady. That very evening the editor of a Delhi weekly Indian Observer, then very popular for its porno stuff, wanted to see me . He entered the room and was fairly drunk.  On seeing the ‘lady’ he almost hugged her sweetly and said, ‘Had I my cameraman along I would have taken your picture?’ It was indeed hilarious.Shri Kant Sharma (late), Manish Satyawadi(late), Yogendra Narain, Vinod Dhall, Ajay Shankar, Vinaya Chand Pande, Lalit Joshi, Dinesh Chandra, Rajeev Dhavan, D.K.Tandon, Sadashiv Bajpai, Girish Tandon are some of the names I recall who used to make the meetings so lively. They got over after midnight. Then there was a competition, rather voting for the most popular song out of the given numbers. And invariably it would turn out to be a song of K.L.Saigal. Today  times are different. And I spend the New Year eve in bed watching TV shows as long as  I don’t fall asleep. In those days priorities were different on New Year’s Day. Movie lovers would rush to Palace and Regent cinema halls—not so much to see the movies as to receive a packet of pastry biscuits and sandwiches which each ticket buyer was given in all shows that day. But this practice was discontinued as traditions changed. But they were indeed glorious New Year Eves.

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