If Church Street could talk

Yesterday I dreamt I went to Church Street again. Every corner and ‘every new kid on the block’ brought back reminiscences of times spent there. In those days of yore, this street always began with KC Das. After a starter of Mishti Doi, I was ready for my Saturday loaf. First stop – Premier Book Shop. I had fantasised that one day the teetering piles of books would rise up in the air, like Alice’s pack of cards and engulf Mr Shanbhag, the owner. But when the day of reckoning came, he sat unflapped, still pulling out books for dedicated customers until the last of them disappeared, and so did he.

Next to KC Das was a small outdoor magazine stand. The affable owner was the last word on periodicals. As the years passed, I was thrilled to see how he grew with a roof above his head, and rows and rows of magazines, the likes of which I had never heard of. I was away for a while, and when I made my way back to Church Street, he, his store and his magazines had disappeared without even a trace of a beckoning cover.

A compound fracture and a prolonged stay in bed may sound like the worst of times but as long as Habitat run by Mr Ali was around, it was indeed the best of times. This was a small place with a delectable choice of movies, old and new, all on video tapes available for borrowing. Oh... the movies I watched for those two months with no care of what was to come. His little outlet is gone too, perhaps into outer space where his video tapes are filling up the black hole. A bit further on was the lane leading to the old Times of India Office. Here I would dash in to submit my regular column. No email then. I would march in to the person in charge and triumphantly hand it over for typing.

Blossoms Book Store was just starting. Mayi Gowda, a young man then, had a hole in the wall where he personally took written requests for books and promised to get them for us. More often than not, he did. It has been a joy to see him grow into one large space, now two, and talk of a third! Then there is his strong competitor, Mr Krishna of Bookworm, who recently had Rahul Gandhi step in to browse and buy a book. Gangaram’s, an old favourite was still there. Yet another new location but looking more settled in the space.

Finally, after all the bookshop prowling, I would head for a special lunch at Queens. This was a vegetarian restaurant proud of its ethnic decor and flavours of the north. Here I met and fell in love with that exotically named Paneer Jal Frazie. It evoked images of Samarkand for some reason. Hot ‘phulkas’ came at the ready and who was counting? This is gone too, making place for trendier and more exorbitantly priced food joints. I have got to the end of the street now and must not forget to mention the fish place, The Oyster. I got a smacking kiss on the cheek for suggesting the place to a die hard ‘Bong’ friend visiting from Canada.

Church Street has had a makeover now with cobbled stone pavements and fancy food places but for me the charm of the Church Street I knew and loved can never be recaptured.

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If Church Street could talk

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