Those days for our eating out was at Nizam Hotel. The choice was obvious, for, this was the most economy restaurant for the college goers and during our college days like us, many college gangs used to enjoy Nizam’s food. It was usually rolls of varied types, they were all very cheap and those days green salads was served free. After the food our next stop was Taj Mahal Paan Shop. It was located opposite Elite Cinema, next to Aminia Hotel. The pan (specially made betel- leaf with lots of sweet add ons and areca nuts) was placed on ice- slab and served straight to the customers, ice-cold. The other interest for coming to the shop was Rafi’s song ! Any given time of the day, or night, this shop played Rafi’s choicest songs… non-stop. The shop was decorated with large size photographs of Rafi – Mohammed Rafi. Most of us were Rafi fans and stayed on in front of the shop for quite a long time, and, like us there were many who would stand on the main road and listen to the songs intently. No doubt the owner was an ardent fan, and had a large collection of Rafi numbers.
Last evening, decades later I went to the Taj Mahal Pan Shop, to relive the nostalgia. This time accompanied by my two grand children. I was happy that the shop was as it was. Just a few more large photo frames of Rafi were added. Our man was very much there, happily playing Rafi numbers on loudly booming speaker box. He was old now, so do I. This gave me an extra mileage to intrude into his private space to open up some conversation. His name is Maniruddin. Decades ago he worked in a film studio and met Md. Rafi in person for a short stint, and got mesmerised by his humility, and, of course his melodious voice. Thereafter there was no stopping. He believes his is a gifted voice which can sustain one for life. I on my part introduced him my grandson who is a Rafi fan. He was visibly happy to know that there are younger ones to carry on the mantle of Rafi fan following.