Hindsight is the living observer of successive decades: One’s memories seem to resemble a time warped fiction of some remote era that simply could not have been. When I look at the dense sprawling landscape of CP—nerve centre of excess, restless ambition, and endless diversion—today, and compare it to my own humble version of a relatively flat, placid intersection of crescents, it appears that the novelty of the motor car, the matinee, and the restaurant outing still creates a sense of joy.
Unlike the Delhi these days. It was not the places specialising in lunch, dinner or live music. These partitions were blurred, such that with us the breakfast and lunch hustle seamlessly gave way to the gentle piano tinkling of the afternoon tea spell, which in turn, set the mood for evening revelries, where Latin and Spanish bands left fox-trotting couples dancing past midnight. For the lack of other options, we simply had to provide everything under one roof.
My prism to this simpler, though magical time was through Gaylord and Kwality, both owned by my family, that were symbols of this eccentric cusp of time, when India, still in the colonial hangover came face to face with new realities.
In this era of scarcity, the purpose of the restaurant expanded to provide all-purpose social and cultural needs of its patrons. Also unlike the present scenario, restaurant outings were something of a rarely won privilege back then, and people rose to the sense of occasion, looking their best and wearing their finest, to celebrate a rare escape from banal routine. The black and white photographs had an appeal of their own. We don’t see these things now.
Groups of people, as remote as they seem to the current context, all came together over food compared to modern standards.
As we have transformed from scarcity to relative glut, there is much to celebrate about the benefits of prosperity. Still, I sometimes miss that Delhi. Vulgarity and ostentation were not an option, refinement was an art that was deeply cultivated, and despite our meagre resources, frolic and romance were always in the air.