The Fraser road remains Mazaharul Haq Path. Once prestigious and busiest road of Bihar’ state capital, it is busier today, thanks the population boom. The same maddening crowds; same jostling and pushing! Some three decades or so ago this road was the main link between Patna junction and the steamer ghat at Mahendru. It also snaked its way to the historic Gandhi maidan.

Posh D Lal and JG Car, the main marketing arcades for the Patna’s bigwig were located on this road. It had acquired nickname of the Fleet Street of London as The Indian Nation and Aryavarta were printed and published from a palatial building located on this road. The premier news agencies, PTI and UNI, too disseminated national and international events from the Fraser road. Multi-lingual news agency Hindustan Samachar was also here. Some tabloids were there to enliven the scenario.

The road has lost its sheen now albeit four-wheelers of all latest brands have pushed out the oldie rickshaws, twinkling their way through. The changed time has devoured the landmarks of the Mazaharul Haq Path. The India Nation and Aryavarta have died a lingering death, unsung and unwept. It is besides the point that the employees, who made the two dailies symbols of Bihar, are still running from the pillar to the post for their hard-earned wages, provident fund, gratuity and other dues. It was the dark day of March 14, 1974 that the Fraser Road was trampled upon and bled profusely when agitators battled with brickbats and fireballs to burn down The Indian Nation-Aryavarta press. Brave employees fought pitched battles and saved the fourth estate of democracy for three hours. No police was in sight. The attackers, however, burnt The Searchlight-Pradip building on the Buddha Marg. The palace-like building of The Indian Nation has now given way to a multi-storeyed commercial-cum-residential complex. The PTI and UNI buildings too have surrendered their identities to towering complexes.

The Bankipur Central jail has been crushed under the wheels of time. The memories of the national leaders, including Dr. Rajendrs Prasad, Brajkishore Prasad, Dr. Srikrishna Sinha, Mazaharul Haq, Anugrah Narain Sinha, Prof. JB Kripalani and other bigwigs languishing during the freedom struggle, were buried with the Bankipur jail. (Dr. Rajendra Prasad later became the first President of independent India while Dr. Srikrishna Sinha occupied Bihar’s Chief Ministerial chair.) Buddha Smriti Park now stands on the sprawling jail complex. From a building to reform ‘outlaws’ to the abode of peace! What a miraculous change! A new landmark indeed!

The milestones that have escaped tides of time are the All India Radio building and the Bhartiya Nritya Kala Mandir. Its founder Hari Uppal died last month was given tributes through dances and songs. The tall Mahavir Mandir at the railway station has rightfully acquired the status of Fraser Road’s new landmark. The historic Dak Bungalow too has to die down to make room for a gargantuan commercial complex, named after Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan, the father of ‘Sampoorn Kranti’ (total revolution) that pulled down the Indira Gandhi government and brought non-Congressism at the Centre in Delhi. Now the building lives in the Dak Bungalow round-about, the biggest and busiest road crossings of the state capital.

The crowd on the Fraser Road has swelled many times. The population growth has changed the scenario. But the rush of people returning from Calcutta and Assam to homes in north Bihar is not there. The Gandhi Setu across the mighty Ganga has ‘killed’ the ferry service in the river. The Ganga too is moving away from the state capital. The sonorous Bhajans of the morning Ganga-bathers have become a thing of the past, never to be heard again. The life then was a little slow, cosy, simple and charming. Night jaunts on rickshaws were safe. Many people enjoyed nightly rides on horse-driven tandem during summer months. Wee hours were not surrendered to looters, snatchers and eve-teasers. The flower girls used to seek clients after 8 pm or so, unlike today when hordes of sex workers are seen seeking clients during daytime at the railway station round-about, where a large statue of India’s first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru stands now. The cops look the other way at this open flesh trade.

The Fraser Road today stands crammed between heaps of rotting garbage on the both flanks. Vendors have virtually taken over control of the flanks. The commercial units occupy large portion of the road for loading-unloading of their goods. Hotels, malls and other commercial enterprises have mushroomed along this road. For old-timers the road has changed beyond recognition. Pedestrians face uphill task in negotiating or crossing this road. One is lucky if he or she is not knocked down by wayward three-wheeler auto drivers or youths displaying their acrobatic skills on this over crowded street.

The Srikrishna Science Centre marks the end of the Fraser Road, before it disgorges the crowd into the sprawling Gandhi Maidan. The science centre stands at the site, which once was the abode of wild animals. Morning-walkers frequently saw porcupines with sharp and long quills. Jackals and hares were aplenty. Those were the days of sixties before the era of coalition governments began. The Maurya hotel was the residence of vice-chancellors of Patna University, a bright gem of educational institutions in the country.

The Gandhi Maidan had then cement-bar boundary with large iron-gate in the west facing Imperial Bank of India, now State Bank of India. The gargantuan lungs of Patna, pining to regain its lost nomenclature of Pataliputra, was almost bare but for a flagstaff in the middle for unfurling the Tricolour on August 15 and January 26. A GI sheet enclosure used to come out annually to host football matches. Prestigious East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting club besides the Patna soccer clubs used to vie to annex the Veer Kuer Singh Gold Cup on August 15.

The GIS enclosure turned out to be precursor of the present Moinul Haq stadium in Rajendra Nagar. The stadium is named after the legendry BN College principal and Olympian Moinul Haq. Soccer playing was one of the criteria for admission in BN College. The short-stature Moin Saheb would personally watch students playing football for admission eligibility. Mahatma Gandhi had addressed a public meeting after the country threw off the British yoke. Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram too had addressed a memorable meeting after Bangla Desh was created in the ruins of East Pakistan. Jayapraksh Narayan had also sounded the bugle of total revolution from this historic spot.

Evenings were totally devoted to children and youths. They would play footballs, hand ball, badminton, Kabaddis, Gili-Dandas or fly kites. Cricket was not that craze in those days. Elders would munch fried ground nuts and sit watching the upcoming generation. Girls too would play skip and jump with rope. The ever-green Lukkachhippi (hide-and-seek) and Rumal-chore were also there to be played. Knots of boys and girls could be seen sitting in a circle and a boy or girl running around to place a handkerchief behind him surreptitiously. That will make thus selected boy or girl ‘thief’, who will run around with the handkerchief to pick up a new ‘victim’. Thus the play goes on and on till the Sun goes down the horizon in the west. The Gandhi Maidan has also adapted to modernity; a complete metamorphosis from the original Gandhi Maidan. No doubt beauty lies in the beholder’s eyes. A beauty is that changes every moment. So is the Gandhi Maidan!

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