The India Coffee House in Connaught Place was an institution in Delhi.
In 1947, during Partition, I landed in Delhi, and lived for a while in 27, Queensway (later Janpath). It was next to Imperial Hotel, and also the famous Easter and Western Courts. At the age of about 14, wearing shorts, the Coffee House would not have me stray in. It seemed to me for a special class of people.
No matter. Years later, when I visited Delhi, I did cross the Coffee House's threshold. It was a convenient place to meet people. And, of course a place to impress your girlfriend.
Prior to living at 27 Queensway, I stayed at 3, Hailey Road for a while. This was due to my Jhija Ji (sister's husband) and sister, who were well connected. The significant phase for me was to become a typist for Sardar Sant Singh, an elected politician, who went on to become India's first Ambassador to Ethiopia in 1950.
During out brief sojourn in Hailey Road, Amaltas were in full bloom. What a beautiful sight it was. Just apposite 3 Hailey Road was a Bungalow that belonged to Bawa Glass Company - a Sikh Family not overly friendly who probably thought that if we were in a difficult condition, then it was our fault.
The family we shared at 3 Hailey Road has a radio dealership in Montgomery Bazar in Lyallpur. (I remember there was a shop by the name of Grover Store in Montgomery Bazar that sold all exotic stuff.) Their shop was called Gardener Company. They eventually had a shop with a similar name in Connaught Place. It may still be there. One of their brothers became a pilot and I did fly with him once.
Thanks to my father's foresight, I had learned touch typing when I was about 11-12 years old. Sardar Sant Singh had a portable Underwood typewriter, and I knew how to use it well. I became Sardar Sant Singh's typist for his usual press releases. I had problems with spellings, but otherwise I could produce a reasonably readable copy.
During those days, a family from Lyallpur, where I was born, drove their Morris 8 car and landed in Delhi. I could drive that car - sort of. Anyhow, I became a personal driver too.
While I was in Delh, I was waiting to get news of the rest of my family. At that time, All-India Radio was transmitting messages 24 hours a day about families. We also used to go to Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, which was the meeting place for the relatives. And, of course, it provided Guru Ka Langar.
The only entertainment that I remember from that time was seeing the movie Les Miserable at Regal Cinema in Connaught Place. Due to my short sight and not having my glasses yet, I couldn't make head or tail of the movie. It was much later I could afford the first pair of glasses!
Soon Sardar Sant Singh's vivacious daughter Kamal came on the scene. And, there were plenty of fellows trying to catch her eye. As a young boy, I felt it was my duty to protect her. So, I hung around when someone would be dying to get her attention. I didn't realize what a nuisance I must have been at that time. On my part I offered my services to teach her how to drive.
In time, my immediate family managed to reach Ludhiana. Luckily, my uncle, Dr. Trilochan Singh, who had been a Professor in Government College Lahore, managed to get us a play to stay in the boys' hostel, where each room was occupied by a refugee family.
Later on, we were allotted a house in Wait Ganj. There were at least 6 refugee families form Multan living there. They became a part of one large family. Later, they got scattered, and I ended up in Malaysia. The eldest daughter ended up in UK, and did look her up during my odd visit. Still they are still sporadically in touch and remain very much a part of extended family.
© Sangat Singh 2017
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