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Down memory lane

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Urbanisation has eaten into prominent landmarks in city and now bifurcation may do more of the same

People of Vijayawada have witnessed disappearance of several iconic buildings from the city landscape. Concrete structures they were, but old timers had a close bond with them.

The Andhra Patrika building in Gandhinagar, Leela Mahal, a movie theatre that nurtured Hollywood culture and the famed ‘daba’ near Raghavaiah Park from where the late legislator Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao literally ruled the city are now history.

Several movie theatres, owing to lack of patronage and complex tax system, caved in. Prominent among them are Vijaya Talkies, Radha Theatre, Maruthi Talkies and Sesha Mahal. Others like the Urvasi complex got a makeover only to re emerge as a multiplex later. “Ever-growing demand for land, compulsions of urbanization and changes in the tastes and habits of people are the reasons for pressing the ‘delete’ button on the old structures,” says management consultant M. C. Das.

Long before the arrival of electronic media, Andhra Patrika was a force to reckon with. “I still remember hanging around the main gate eager to know my SSC exam results. The newspaper came up with evening editions on important occasions like election results, death of prominent national leaders and academic announcements,” recollects Ranjan Roy, a former State badminton player. That particular junction even today is called Andhra Patrika Centre. The building is gone and what remains is the rubble.

Leela Mahal theatre served as a platform for many to fine-tune their English language. The theatre, located adjacent to Hotel Manorama, was almost like a spoken English institute for youngsters who passionately watched Hollywood flicks to hone their language skills. When sledgehammers struck the building, many hearts wept. The place where the theatre existed was later transformed into a parking space for the adjacent hotel.

Ranga ‘daba’ was witness to many events which had direct ramifications

on the State politics.  Many stories did rounds about the building when Ranga was at the peak of his political career in the eighties.

“The ‘daba’ was a formidable place for many as Ranga conducted private ‘darbars’ here to settle issues. Mostly the poor and downtrodden came here to seek instant justice. Ranga would not hesitate to even thrash up the wrong doers,” recollects a senior citizen.

Hotel Eskimo, the sparkling cosy air-conditioned restaurant adjacent to Hotel Welcome, was the most popular jaunt for denizens in the sixties and it continued to be so till eighties. “Eskimo was a niche restaurant and was considered a costly one. The ambiance and conduct of the staff were the talk of the town those days. It was so small and tiny, it resembled an igloo,” reminisces Challa Prabhakar, a retired government employee who was a regular visitor to the restaurant in the 70s. Owned by one Boja Rao's family, Eskimo was known for its spick and span look. The city elite, predominantly film distributors, doctors and businessmen, were the regulars. “I frequented the Welcome and the Eskimo for over 20 years and all the dishes remained same. There was no change in taste,” recounts G. Phani, a former employee of Sarabhai Chemicals. Similarly, Ajantha Hotel on Karl Marx road, yet another landmark, gave way to a glinting South India mall while the aging Madhu Kalyana Mandapam took a new avatar as a commercial complex at Mogulrajpuram.

Many more concrete structures will come under the hammer as part of development of this region in the aftermath of the bifurcation.

J.R. Shridharan

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