February is a fascinating month as the harsh winter starts to transition into a gentler and warmer tone. Thawing of the earth throws out distinct possibilities as we step closer to embrace the ensuing spring season. Early in the morning, as I stepped out of my house, the rising sun in a spotless blue sky spattered colours of orange, pink and gold. The air was still heavy and cold and the incessant shrieking of the red-vented bulbul, perched on the edge of an overhanging wire, grated on my nerves initially but as I listened through more deeply, it no longer felt like an imposition, but rather a part of nature’s harmony.
As I drove through the narrow alleyways of Dehradun’s hinterland, the world around felt being swamped by a thick cover of pale silence, and I relished in the feeling of solitude. Trees dotting on both sides appeared fresh and vivid, with the branches protruding out like delicate fingers and leaves ruffling under the influence of a mild morning breeze. Scattered splashes of faint rays appeared to skim through the treetops like a painter’s delicate brush strokes across a canvas.
As I navigated through the empty roads, the world slowly began to wake up around me. The metallic clattering of the rusted shutters being pulled up, the clanking of cycle chains, the sound of the bristled – brooms as they slapped against the pavement, the thud of the footsteps threatening to shake the ground beneath, it was all unfolding steadily. I soon found myself at Astley Hall, an age-old commercial complex in the heart of Dehradun, an important landmark of the city, which somehow to my mind has lost its grandeur in this frenzied race for urbanization. An area that used to be swarmed with trees and foliage, now finds itself deeply trapped amidst a thick of concrete and everyday chaos.
I parked my car here and then sauntered down a narrow alley that ran just opposite to Astley Hall, also known by the name Neshvilla Road. A few steps into my march and I was greeted by a shining neon board that proudly displayed ‘SamosaWale’ serving since 1963. Over the course of 6 decades, both the city and this shop must have undergone significant changes and seen through the happenings of time.
From the outside, the shop appeared small and modest, but as I peeped inside, a variety of smells began to tantalize my nostrils. On my left, Samosas were frying in a large black vessel, sizzling, and crackling and dancing in a pool of oil as they turned golden brown. Further down the way, there was a sizeable steel structure that featured different slots filled with a variety of curries. Each box emitted its own aroma, fusing together to form a distinct and potent scent, saturated heavily with spices.
As I turned towards my right, a bright smile greeted me from across the counter. He had a slightly wrinkled face, sharp light-brown eyes, receding hairline and a high forehead that perhaps gave him a look of wisdom and intelligence. He was wearing a black traditional, loose-fitting shirt with white dots imprinted on it. The white dots appeared like pearls, gleaming under the influence of light and adding a touch of quirkiness to his overall outfit.
Yudhisthir Singh Kamboj, the person at the helm of this shack, in a cheerful manner, gave me a detailed account of his family lineage that traces its origins to a remote part of Afghanistan (then called ‘Kamboja’) near the Hindukush Mountain ranges. The people of Kamboja were excellent horsemen and were well respected for their valour and skilfulness. Yudhisthir was born in the year 1946 in Delhi and when he was about 16 years old, in the year 1963, his father migrated to Dehradun and rented (at a cost of Rs. 30/- a month) a tiny shop selling fresh Yogurt, Milk and Ghee. The shop has remained at this exact location since then.
I quizzed him on the life in Dehra in those times and he fondly remembered the lush greenery that existed then with only a few scattered shops and restaurants around (on Astley Hall and Rajpur Road), many of those have now completely perished away from our lives (example – Kwality Restaurant on Rajpur Road or Hammers & Co at Astley Hall). Lush Guava (seedless variety), Mango, and Litchi trees abounded on Neshvilla Road. As I peek through the street while he passionately recounts the golden era of 60s and 70s, I only observe the squealing sound of the motor vehicles passing-by, the successive concrete shops lined up adjacently and seemingly stretching to infinity, and a complete chaos.
Yudhisthir reminisced about the days when Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, sister of Pandit Nehru, would visit his humble abode, ordering samosas and relishing them in her parked car nearby. He also distinctly remembered Mr. Ruskin Bond’s visits to his shop.
Now in his late seventies, Yudhisthir is a cheerful and spirited individual, always wearing a smile on his face. His shop is a popular destination for those craving for mouth-watering samosas, sweets, and an assortment of curry-rice combos. He serves them all with his infectious enthusiasm.
Google Map link to Visit Samosewale
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