- Ride along the Yamuna.
“You have come at the right time, the river is best experienced in the morning.” Ramlal, the old boatman launches into a soliloquy, as soon as we get onto his boat. His sturdy though old boat is one of the hundreds that line the ghat and ferry people to Sangam, the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical Saraswati. Thousands of migratory seagulls flit about even as young men sell food for them.
The place is packed during the day with devotees, pilgrims, and tourists, but is empty in the morning. Other than a few boats, some priests, and the seagulls there’s only water around. “Yamuna is quieter. It is less deep too. It is the Ganga that is swift, deep, and loquacious.” Ramlal talks about the rivers as we glide on the placid water.
It takes about forty minutes to get to the Sangam, where most people get off and take a dip. Surprisingly the water there is hardly knee deep. Some, like us, however, prefer to stay on the boat. “Don’t bathe if you don’t want to”, says Ramlal, “but at least put a few drops over yourself!” He almost commands. Having come so far, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.
- Soak in the history at Anand Bhavan
The tall ivory and grey building stands majestically in the center of a large lawn, a sprawling garden, with beds of roses, frames the structure beautifully, and a large dome sits on its head like a crown. Anand Bhavan, the erstwhile home of the first family of Indian politics, charms you as soon as you set your eyes on it.
Despite being on a busy road, calm prevails here. All you hear is the occasional call of the birds, and, sometimes, your own footsteps. Once in a while though the silence maybe interjected by the din of students brought in from a nearby village, or a herd of tourists travelling from a far off land, but mostly the place remains quiet like a stoic veteran.
The interior of the house, with winding staircases, Victorian windows, exquisite chandeliers and vintage furniture, instantly transports you to another time; personal belongings of the family gives a glimpse into their lifestyle. The most humbling part however is the grand study with pristine white mattresses, small wooden desks and thousands of books. The room had once hosted innumerable meetings of the congress working committee, and had a huge role to play in India’s independence movement. But then that is true for the entire complex. As the plinth outside the Anand Bhavan reads: “This house is more than a structure of brick and mortar. It is intimately connected with our national struggle and within its walls great decisions were taken and great events happened.” Indeed it is.
3. Spend the evening in Imperial Allahabad.
The Anglican remnants of India’s past are strewn all over Allahabad. From the High Court to Alfred Park, from the University to All Saints Cathedral, from St. Mary to St. Joseph convents – all bear testimony to the role this quiet town has played. A stroll through the two main avenues of the town, MG and KG marg, will bring you face to face with most of these heritage buildings.
You can stop over at Chandra Shekhar Azad Park, the sprawling garden where Chandra Shekhar Azad had killed himself. An imposing statue of Azad marks the spot; a plinth describes his valour. A steady stream of visitors keeps the space busy, but the rest of the park is quiet.
Right opposite to the park is the university campus. Even though most of it is in shambles, the buildings are breathtakingly beautiful. Known as Oxford of the East at one point, Allahabad University has produced great leaders, writers, lawyers, judges, filmmakers, even presidents. In that way it is just this city: both have made invaluable contributions but demand nothing in return.