How do you fall in love with a city with which you have had no association?
I was not born in Allahabad. I did not study in any of the famed schools of Allahabad nor did I attend the
Oxford of East, Allahabad University. I have always been a Lucknow girl, school college
university…Mayfair, Novelty, Leela, and Ganj all evoke memories that no other city can match. Yet here I
am, trying to explain how did a city with which I had no roots nor any emotional ties, become a huge
part of my life.
When we were transferred to Allahabad, the first thought that came to my mind was of Dr. Ishwari
Prasad. I was a student of Ancient Indian History and his book was my bible. I never had the guts to
meet him but was happy knowing that I lived close to his house!
Thus began my love affair with Allahabad, definitely not love at first sight but a gentle more enduring
one. Allahabad became associated with all the authors whom I had read or whom I was to read
later…Nirala, Mahadevi Verma, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Dharamveer
Bharati, Upendra Nath Ashk, Rajendra Yadav, Kamleshwar, Mamta Kalia….I just felt proud that I too had
lived in Allahabad as if intellect is a virus that you catch by breathing the same air!!
I remember meeting Dr. S.N. Roy. He asked me the meaning of my name and when I passed the test, he
wrote me the verse from Kumarasambhava. Just like that. It is my most prized possession.
Then came UPSC, the Karbala of many. I had to face the UPSC interview and to prepare for that I toured
Allahabad like I was on a countdown! I discovered the antiquity of the city Ashoka, Samudragupta,
Harsha and Akbar had made this city their own. It was the capital of United Provinces and what can I say
about Chandrashekhar Azad. Who can embrace death like him? The city became a physical entity to me
now. Khusro bagh, Anand Bhawan, Pontoon bridge Mahakumbha of 1989 all added flesh to the skeleton
of my Allahabad.
But this was not the end of my affair with Allahabad.
I was to visit Allahabad again. This time as a bride! Our reception was held in the lawns of Prayag Sangeet Samiti, a dream come true for me. I shared this with my mother-in –law and she just beamed. More was to come.
My eldest was born in Nazareth hospital. Doctor T.B. Singh and Doctor Manjula Pandey were like family,
doting on me. I still vividly remember the moment when I was being wheeled to the operation theater
and the lift door opened, inside the lift was my dearest friend. She had heard the news and had just
rushed to the hospital. This could have only been possible in Allahabad, where distance between places
and people was nonexistent and hearts were always connected.
This has been the love affair of a young driven girl, a shy bride and a nervous mother with a city that
just grew on her and enriched her life without her even realizing it!