During my childhood the names of the places signified the meanings they held. The nomenclature was simple enough for all to understand without applying much of the energy on the guess work! If the Ladies Park was meant for the women to relax and gossip then the Children’s park was the place for the children to play and regale. Simple. In the evening my parents would take us to the Children’s park and the reason why they would not go to the ladies Park was that men were simply not allowed to enter the gate of the then Ladies Park! But Children’s park was different as here both my parents would sit and chat while we played and played, occasionally going to them if we had a dispute to settle or seek money for buying roasted grams put in a tapering paper cone.
We would slide on the railing on both sides of the stairs leading to the nearly round structure that had slate roof overhead. It was quite later that I came to know that this seemingly round structure was in fact an octagonal structure! The open, octagonal structure had eight open spaces each having an alcove where we would play “oonch-neech” (High and Low)! Running from one alcove to another and all the time trying hard not to be caught while trying to ascend up the next alcove, is an experience that cannot be described in words! Occasionally, we would peep under this octagonal structure as the ground below was empty and unkempt. We would be afraid of going out there, little knowing that very soon this place would be a well known restaurant of the HPTDC!
My father used to tell us that this octagonal structure was used as a Band-stand during the Raj days and we would be happy enjoying the bliss of being free and playing where the Raj Bands used to play! There was no entry fee to go inside and the park had some beautiful flowers and green grass as well. There was a fountain that oozed water and we would be happy to play beside it.
After sometime, we grew up a little and now instead of playing, it was just sitting there that became our mainstay. Gradually some transformation started taking place. The pitcher carrying statue, in metal, of a Pahari damsel was the first piece of art that found place in the Park and it was not less than a miracle for us to drink water from the pitcher that this statue of a Pahari woman held in her hands! The Park, if my memory seves me right, at this point of time was named Daulat singh Park!
Next came the Goofa restaurant, an apt name for the structure as one had to descend down to get in. It was a good relief to all. The college students, that we were at this time, enjoyed sipping a hot cup of tea in this restaurant. I remember that it was a time when the Dogri folk song “Bhala Sipahiya Dogriyaa…” sung by Lata Mangeshkar was making much news and the Goofa Restaurant was doing a lot to popularize it. Everybody kept on humming this song irrespective of the language on used to converse in. The band-stand of erstwhile Raj days had changed to Song-stand of the then period.
The park above had a ticket entry and had become a hot tourist spot where the photographers made money taking pictures of the tourists along with the “damsel with pitcher”.
Now the Children’s park had become away from the reach of young children as who would pay money everyday to enter the park?
And gradually the upper portion, too, was converted into Aashiana restaurant! During the recent visit, I was sad to find the place changed into a commercial setting wit placards and all.
But it is the old timers like me who would rue the loss of a Children’s Park and find restaurants where once children used to run and regale among the green grass, when their parents sat gossiping!
May be the loss of one generation is the gain of the new generation! Who Knows?