Society in PrayagrajAllahabad is a cosmopolitan city where people from different religions, castes and regions live together. Its historical role meant that the city has been home to outsiders, who often settled down in Allahabad, over centuries. The city’s stellar role in the country’s freedom struggle and as a hub of education further enhanced its cosmopolitan nature. Professionals of all types have always found a congenial home in Allahabad. Today, as a business and commercial hub, Allahabad is home to different types of people.
When addressing each other Allahabadis prefer the plural ‘aap’ and ‘hum’, rarely using the singular ‘tum’ and ‘main’. Subtle humour is often used to make a point. The Allahabadi is gregarious by nature and quick to offer his opinion on any topic under the sun. People, mostly men, gather to chat under the shade of trees or at tea stalls at any time of the day. Politics is often the subject of choice, for Allahabad is a deeply political city, or religion or local lore. They will think nothing of visitors to the city joining them in their conversation and will in turn be asked a number of questions. Outlets such as Indian Coffee House are natural draws for intellectuals. Visitors to the city will find the auto and rickshaw wallahs helpful in guiding them wherever they want to go.
As one of the largest centres for publishing in Hindi, Allahabad has attracted a number of writers, scholars and poets who have enriched the city’s culture. They include notable names such as Harvansh Rai Bachchan, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Manindra Agrawal and Sorab Gandhi. Given this intellectual legacy conversations in the city are liberally sprinkled with literary allusions and quotes from various writers. The many students studying here hail from all parts of the country and give the city a lively youthful touch. Animating the city’s social milieu is a lively media which includes a number of Hindi dailies, English newspapers, regional TV channels and FM Radio stations.
The culture of Prayagraj can best be described as mix of Hindu and Muslim culture with a sprinkling from various other denominations. People are largely traditional with a veneer of modernity. They dress conservatively with women wearing the saree or salwar kameez and men wearing shirt and trousers or sherwani. Western style fads and the fast food culture are restricted to a small section of the youth.
Shopping in the old bazaars such as Chowk lies at the heart of the Allahabad experience. It isn’t about just buying something and more of a social exercise. No undue haste is exercised by both buyer and seller and browsing to find just what you want is expected. Bargaining is expected and much information is exchanged during bargaining making the interaction much more about buying and selling.
Allahabadis are proud of their ancient city and the many famous Indians it has produced. After all seven of India’s 14 prime ministers belong to Allahabad. And, India’s most famous film star, Amitabh Bachchan, too belongs to the city. In addition, there are a host of eminent lawyers, writers, poets and freedom fighters who have made the city proud. Today, Allahabadis look forward to the future with hope with fledgling IT and biotech industries and the establishment of many institutions such as the Sam Higginbotham Institute of Agriculture and the Harish Chandra Atomic Research Centre and Allahabad-Naini-Bara Investment Zone to make their mark in the 21st century too.