We ventured back to Allahabad after spending the first four days at our tents in Sector 14 at the Kumbh 2019. Here, I took up a modest room for Rs 1500. The next three days were rock-and-roll around Allahabad in Tiwari’s scooter. We first hit the Subhash Chandra Marg and then Civil Lines.
Our first stop was the famous Indian Coffee House – a must-see place for lovers of poetry, especially from the UP belt. Great poets of UP like Mahadevi Varma, Nirala and Panth composed their best works here while they sipped cups of coffee. Here, they chatted about the politics of the region, gossip and religion. The great intellectuals, writers and thinkers of Allahabad congregated here and I can see why. This is the ideal place for the common person, the man on the street, the Babu, the clerk, the journalist, the political activist and even the artists. Many have graced the Indian Coffee House. The price is one of the reasons. Everything is priced below Rs 100. The coffee starts at Rs 24. One can order a dosa for less than Rs 40. The place is totally vegetarian and there are red non-smoking signs everywhere. The place looks old and ancient with dusty old walls. The tables are thin and the chairs are small. The waiters serving the customers are dressed in white attire. They carry steel trays and cloths used to clean the tables on their shoulder. At the other end is the kitchen where the vegetarian food, sandwiches and coffee are made. The signboard of the place also looks worn out. I guess with such low prices, one cannot spend too much on infrastructure. But who needs shiny walls and neon glow signs when the Indian Coffee House has heritage on its side along with time? This place has hosted some legends of the past and now it is a blunt for the local MPs and MLAs no doubt discussing their next political move.
After the coffee shop, it was strolling on the streets of the city. There are malls, McDonald’s, banks and ATMs all over the city. The roads are small but clean. In the evenings, the traffic can get a bit heavy with all the people going back and forth the Kumbh area. It was also the Republic Day. So the city was full of Tirangs at every street corner you can see. Mobile vans with large screens could be seen displaying videos of Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi giving speeches to the press or overseeing the activities in the state. Swatch Bharat has been heavily promoted with mobile toilets and public toilets all over the city in a vast stretch. The Kumbh has been organised well and with the large gathering, it has also been advertised well.
I was in a happy mood today as I had soaked in a lot of the city today. So, I decided to ride a rickshaw across the streets of Allahabad. I spotted one and managed to wrestle it out of the rickshawala who just gazed at me. In a minute, I was on the rickshaw paddling away on the street. I was a pro as I rode the rickshaw singing songs and chatting to street hawkers. Tikku ki Tom Tom, I named my rickshaw ride around the city and sent the snap to all my friends.
This was surely the high point of the evening for me, as I felt totally free and relaxed. The pious energies had taken hold of me, as I got intoxicated with the opium of the masses. Yes, the opium of religion. The ultimate high, the Kumbh, has really soothed my soul and elevated me to the next level. I have walked 10 km every day for the last one week and can still find the energy to go further. It seems this place is just pushing me on and on. After a long time, I have shown commitment towards a cause or a vision. Allahabad, I salute you for you culture and your vibrancy.