Among the last few of the old Delhiwallahs, who kept up the tradition of the colourful Lalas of Chandni Chowk, was Narain Prasad, grandson of Lala Jugal Kishore, founder of the Indraprastha School for Girls (where Kamla Nehru studied) and then Indraprastha College for Women. The nonagenarian Narain Prasad, who headed these two institutions lifelong, passed away quite some time ago, unmourned and unlamented to the extent his passing away should have occasioned.
One met this hoary personality more than 20 years ago for the first time when he was energetic enough to climb up the haveli of Rai Balkrishan Das to show the wide courtyard of the girls’ school and the terrace, where the women’s college was first situated, behind the Jama Masjid, before moving to a new destination on 26 Sham Nath Marg in what was once the residence of the British Commander-in-Chief.
Narain Prasad lived all his life in the ancestral Haveli Haider Quli, named after the chief of the Mughal Artillery during the reign of Mohammad Shah Rangila (1720-48). It was close to thishavelithat Haider Quli’s patron, Hussain Ali was murdered at his instigation, out of jealousy.
Sharing the sprawling haveli with Lalaji (after the death of Mrs Prasad) was his 93- year-old sister who, however, survives the grand old man, along with his son, Pankaj Gupta, just back from the US, and Narainabased daughter Meena Gupta.
Sometimes one may find a moment of glee even during a critical situation. A colleague recounted a funny incident that occurred during an important press meet. The inaugural speech and welcome address was followed by enthralling dance performances that kept the media personnel engrossed. The riveting acts were supposed to be followed by an important interaction with a state government deputy director. However, the emcee announced, “Those who are not interested in the interaction may please have their lunch.” More than half of the hall emptied out. Bemused and a bit embarrassed, the emcee had to change her announcement. She now said, “The interaction will commence after lunch. Therefore, please join us after that.” That moment turned even more awkward but everyone gamely left for lunch, though with a smirk on their faces at the emcee’s mix-up.
With a growing influx of young professionals, the Capital’s satellite cities have become popular for affordable accommodation. Thus, there’s a large number of paying guest (PG) hostels and small flats readily available. This has also led to a boom in the periferal services, including cabs to commute ~ the Metro runs to full capacity from these cities ~ as well as malls and restaurants. One would, therefore, imagine that life is really easy for these youngsters as everything is at hand for them. However, a colleague overheard a different side of the picture as two young girls discussed their PG stay in Gurgaon. When one of them complained of bad food in her hostel, the other agreed with her, stating that she often went hungry. The hostel food was so unpalatable that she was forced to leave it after a few bites, she explained. Ordering from outside or eating out was also not convenient as there really are, surprisingly, no decent eateries in Gurgaon ~ one can find either road-side vendors or else big names and restaurants. There is nothing in between, where one can get clean home food at affordable price, the young girl asserted. Our colleague thought about it and could not help but agree. One may like eating the high-class restaurant food for just a certain period of time. But ultimately, it’s simple home food that one craves for on a daily basis. Ask any child coming home from school or college hostel!
Our inhouse wisecrack quipped that a few well-known shoe brands were sorely disappointed as they had widely advertised a new product ~ gum boots for waterlogged roads!
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Contributed by: RV Smith, Kunal Roy, Nivedita R and Asha Ramachandran