I have spent almost half of my life in Jammu right from the very birth, the reason being the durbar move. My late father who served in various capacities in the state government had to move in winter to Jammu. The recollection of the most of the events of those early days has gone blank with my fading memory but there are certain incidents of love and bonhomie which I vividly recall. I am sharing these with my friends in Jammu!
Bazaars and lanes
Going round the city through intricate lanes and visiting Bazaars of Jammu was a treat in good old days. Bazaars and the lanes are still there but the old charm is gone. Some still retain the traditional outlook in spite of modernisation. The most famous bazaar which continues to be popular even today is the Raghunath Bazaar where the famous temple complex is situated. At one time this used to be the most posh bazaar of Jammu. It was like the famous Residency Road of Srinagar or the Connaught Place of Delhi. People not only went for expensive shopping here but also used it for evening strolls. One could meet friends and acquaintances during evening strolls. The Bazaar not being very long, people would bump into one another repeatedly. One interesting pastime in this market was the Sunday matinee English film show in Hari Talkie situated on the back of the shopping arcade somewhat in the middle of the market. I must have seen dozens of Hollywood movies in this theatre. One incident of earlier times I vividly remember is the respect extended to Dr.Karan Singh, the heir of the erstwhile Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir. During one of the shows while I was sitting in some front row in the theatre, I suddenly noticed the entire crowd getting up. On looking back, I saw Dr.Karan Singh and his wife entering the box which was at the back of the cinema. People probably still considered him a Maharaja after the ushering in of the democratic set up! Raghunath Bazaar has now lost its importance among the locals because of many Malls and Shopping Centres which have come up in some posh colonies like Gandhi Nagar. However, the visitors especially the pilgrims still frequent it in large numbers to buy Kashmiri shawls, embroidered dresses (mostly made in Amritsar), and dry fruit.
After a couple of rounds of Raghunath Bazaar one would get bored and we would sometimes carry on beyond the famous City Chowk towards Purani Mandi. That stretch is a bit steep. It further dips and rises to Sabzi Mandi after which comes the famous Parade Ground. These two markets have always been famous for shopping of a different variety. Condiments and vegetables. Sabzi Mandi is the famous Fruit and Vegetable Market still fully functional. One would visit it often to get fresh vegetables and fruit at much cheaper rates than offered by the normal retailers. For wheat, rice, condiments and many other spices the Kannak Mandi has been there for ages. The market has a typical spicy aroma which has remained unchanged for all these years. Earlier one used to see a large number of horse drawn carts but these have now been replaced by motorised mini-trucks. However, Kashmiri labourers continue to push their hand carts with heavy loads as before! In Kashmir they rarely push or carry such heavy loads as they do outside Kashmir! Another Bazaar which I used to frequent quite often was the Pacca Danga. Here, one would find a number of book shops selling text books and stationery items. These are still there and the Bazaar is frequented by students of all ages for books, stationery items, guides, notes, and so on. There used to be one market called “Papdian Bazaar” but I have forgotten its exact location. There were many other smaller markets famous for various special products made or sold there. On asking someone where a particular product could be obtained, they would give the exact name and location of the market. Most of these have faded from my memory because of easy availability of almost every stuff in new supermarkets! Another interesting market which is of recent origin is the link road famous for ladies dresses. It could be an important tourist attraction but not many outsiders know about it.
One of the most enjoyable ways of reaching these Bazaars was through the innumerable lanes of Jammu. All these lanes were paved with small shiny rounded boulders called “Wattay” in local dialect. Probably Jammu was known as the “Wattay wala Shehar” in earlier times. There were odd shops here and there, mostly sweetmeat and milk sellers called “Halwais”. It was interesting to watch how they would boil the milk in their huge pans! Yogurt in earthen pots was delicious. There were also makers of sweets called locally “Ravedian”. They had a dramatic way of making the paste for these sweets throwing it up and down with extreme dexterity. Those days not many people would be taking these lanes and there was no mad rush. Now all these lanes have been modernised and paved with chequered cement tiles. It is easier to walk on these now than on the earlier boulders but there is a new menace. The countless two wheelers! In almost all lanes and by-lanes there are dozens of two wheelers zooming past and if one is not careful one can get hurt. In addition, in wider lanes there are numerous small cars parked permanently on the sides. Hardly anyone has a garage or parking facility next to one’s house. Easy bank loans have made people buy cars which they very rarely use. Compared to just some odd shops in earlier days, almost all the lanes have turned into small Bazaars with rows upon rows of all types of shops. Still the elite prefer the shopping malls and super-markets set up in the newer colonies. Bahu Plaza is a craze with the younger generation. Multiplexes and the Malls may be the in thing now but often one nostalgically remembers the Bazaars and Lanes of Jammu of good old days, which had a distinct ambiance of their own!