A tribute to Ram Advani
Lucknow: Tourists invariably flocked to Lucknow to visit the Imambara and Rumi Darwaza. But there were many who came looking for Ram Advani, a living landmark. To these visitors, comprising of scholars, book lovers and those curious of knowing about Lucknow and its rich culture, his book store located in one corner of Hazratganj, was a place of pilgrimage.
That corner shop came to acquire an iconic status because of its legendary owner, who counted eminent men of letters among his friends. With a little prodding Ram Advani would recall the who’s who of political and intellectual stalwarts who came to his shop just to meet him, buy books or take his help in getting a book which was difficult to find. His affability and simplicity left a lasting impression on anyone who met him.
Engaging in conversation, full of anecdotes about Partition, his stay in Shimla and his account of Lucknow of “his times” made a visit to his book store a rich experience. Blessed with an amazing memory he would come up with fascinating nuggets from the past, leaving young and not-so-young enchanted.
Of course there were those who could be seen browsing through the wide array of titles on display but those who knew Ram Advani , leaving the book store without a small conversation with the genial old man was out of the question.
He would always recommend a book with the remark, “I have read it and found it good. You must read it.” Or, “Return it after you finish reading.” He wasn’t a seller of books but a promoter of the reading habit.
The genteel Ram Advani was a man of fine taste. He loved his Darjeeling or Earl Grey brewed just the right way and served in quality bone china with a Beethoven symphony playing softly on his music system. Sitting with him in the attic above the book store, enjoying classical music over a cup of tea made a visit to this pilgrimage centre worth cherishing.
Ram Advani left the mortal world on March 9. One will no longer see him on rickshaw either going home or to his shop. Or walking towards home, sometimes lost in thought. No longer will there be someone stopping to say “do come…I return to the shop around 4 pm”. The invitation always extended with a warm smile.
With Mr Advani gone at the age 95, the void created by his death will remain forever. With his passing away has gone an epitome of Lucknow’s culture. And a chapter on Lucknow has come to an end.