Jaskiran Chopra’s “Memories of Another Day” is a nostalgic walk down memory lane for those of us, who like her, have lived in Dehradun most of our lives. Like her, we too miss Doon’s sylvan surroundings and its cool breeze that would tenderly ruffle our hair and the teasing summer showers that caressed our faces like drops of mist. Like Jaskiran, we too lament the quick disappearance of all that had given the Doon Valley unique brand equity. When the powers-that-be anointed Dehra Dun as the ‘interim capital of Uttaranchal in 2000, it was the first nail in the coffin of our quaint, little town. Predators of all kinds and variety descended on the Doon in large numbers and in no time took away our peace, tranquility and all that had made Dehra Dun a much sought after town. Axes, JCBs and bulldozers invaded the town and cruelly snatched away all that was dearest to us.

“Memories of Another Day” have several fascinating columns other than just nostalgic journey down the lanes of Dehra Dun. Jaskiran turns evocative when she writes about her schools and colleges. Her memories of those days in St. Stephen’s College come back in spate. She is full of praise for her teachers who often went out of their way to instruct her not only about the syllabus but also real lessons in life.

Jaskiran’s anthology of her fortnightly columns in The Pioneer aptly published under the title “Memories of Another Day” is the heart-rending story of our old-world charming Dehra Dun. With the help of a series of columns, Jaskiran tenderly describes her growing up years here, the pine-scented breeze from a pine-grove that stood next to the old Circuit House (now the Raj Bhawan) that had enchanted her; it was the favourite escape route of her father who would spend hours and hours under its shady foliage gathering pine cones. The pine grove still stands there but doesn’t have the tranquility of the yore.

Rides on slow moving tongas through nearly deserted bazaars then had its own charm. The family often visited Dehra Dun’s old fashioned cinema halls and enjoyed its favourite movies. Now, the impersonal multiplexes have replaced those ancient cinemas where everybody knew everybody else and we all felt at home. Jaskiran sorely misses the old lane where the family then lived; there were only 10 houses, and neighbours were neighbourly. It has today become an upscale neighbourhood with multi-storyed apartments; its virgin tranquility gang-raped and innocence outraged, with neighbours becoming total strangers.

Jaskiran fondly recalls her evening visits with her grandparents to chaat-cum-sweet shops to have kulfi or a fill of chaat. Those rickety shops had their own native charm that today’s impersonal Malls totally lack. Even the bazaars then bustled with much activity; for Jaskiran and her friends the bazaar visits were a big fun and the shopping was a delightful experience. The shopkeepers too were leisurely and friendly. Everything then moved in slow motion and the fast pace of today’s life was then unknown.

She particularly misses the vanished landmarks like Kwality that was the favourite rendezvous of all of us for close to five decades. She also misses the good old tongas that plied at their own unhurried pace. With the total disappearance of basmati fields, litchi and mango groves and sprawling bungalows built over vast expanse of lands, Dehra Dun today has lost its soul. Happily, some of the old theatres such like Prabhat, Orient and Natraj still stand bravely facing the onslaught of modern multiplexes. Jaskiran is happy that at least many of the historical institutions such like the Doon Club, the Indian Military Academy, Forest Research Institute, RIMC, ONGC still stand tall. The old schools in Dehradun and Mussoorie too have kept their flags flying. She laments the disappearance of canals on EC Road, Ballupur and elsewhere that today lie buried underground.

She writes about the magic of “Urdu shayari that no other language in the world can compete with”. She interspersed her columns with several Urdu couplets. She happily quotes Mirza Ghalib’s “Hamko Maloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat lekin, Dil ke khush rakhne ko Ghalib yeh khayaal achcha hai,”, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Aur bhi dukh hain zamaane mein, Mohabbat ke siwaa/raahatein aur bhi hain wasl ki raahat ke siwaa”. She is obviously in love with these poets and their compositions. In fact, her love with and mastery of Urdu poetry came as a pleasant surprise to me. No wonder then her very first book was “Jashn-e-Tanhai” published in 2004.

There is so much variety in Jaskiran’s “Memories of Another Day”. She writes endearingly about the “Binaca Geet Mala” on Radio Ceylon with its inimitable legendary anchor Amin Sayani that was then the favourite of the entire household. She also misses Vividh Bharati that was no less magical. She devotes much space to Hindi movies that were then a big rage in the absence of any other entertainment. She writes about her favourite movies, actors and actresses and recalls many landmark movies of those days. “Going to the movies was not just about watching a film. It was a ritual that created a lot of excitement in one’s otherwise mundane life. The tickets were booked in advance and when they came home in Dad’s wallet, their pink hue turned our faces rosy with joy. Dad would be given an extra hug that day!,” writes Jaskiran in “Going to the Movies” column. It was more like a picnic for the family. At times, Mom would pack ‘parathas’ and ‘aloo ki sabzi’ in small tiffins that they would smuggle into the hall despite the watchful eye of the man with the torch. All in all, the cinema going was a big event.

Another strong point of the “Memories of Another Day” is the excellent collection of photographs that obviously must have been taken by Jaskiran herself; I wish some of those beautiful pictures on Dehra Dun had their captions. The book is published by Investcare Publications Pvt Ltd, an arm of The Pioneer, and entirely printed on art paper. And it is a must read as much for the old Doonites as for the new residents who have settled here recently. It is inexpensive even at 500 rupees. As one who has written a lot on Dehra Dun, I really envy Jaskiran for having written such a wonderful “down-memory-lane” book. She deserves all the plaudits that she could get.

Title: Memories of Another Day
Publisher: Investcare Publications Pvt Ltd.
Pages: 190
Price: Rs. 500/-