The Varma’s home

My brother, as a young lawyer( now, I am proud to say, a lawyer of good standing), would come home after work and regale us with stories of Allahabad lawyers and other lesser beings-a lot of them narrated to him by his senior, Mr Satyendra Nath Varma. Mr Varma is a veteran Allahabadi who my brother, and indeed many others in Allahabad hold in very high esteem-not only for being a very good, principled lawyer but also a fine musician and raconteur. My late parents respected him a lot and it naturally followed that we siblings did,too. Actually, Mr Varma’s maternal grandfather,Dr.Ranjit Singh, a physician was a dear friend of my father’s grandfather,Rai Bahadur Sarju Kumar Mukherji, a surgeon. So, in a way, we felt our families were linked.

I have met Mr Varma and his soft-spoken wife, Shiela, often but had never visited their home until now. For me,as I had heard, it was a place where many stories happened and excellent sandwiches and coffee flowed for junior lawyers.

Writing this blog has given me a great excuse for looking inside people’s homes-and through their homes a bit into what makes them what they are.
On meeting the couple, there are two words that come to mind- character and refinement. And juxtaposed with their old, characterful bungalow- you could say that one seemed to have made the other.

Satyendranath Varma and his wife, Sheila-
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A view of the beautiful bungalow on Elgin Road-the sun was directly overhead so I have to apologize for the overexposed top of the picture-

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A view of the house from the front garden-
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My sister and I were served the famous sandwiches, kababs and coffee with much warmth. They were extremely welcome as my sister had come directly from work and is quite famished at that time,and I, well, I am generally keen on food.

The house, Mr Varma, tells us, was in existence in 1860. There is a mention of it in Thacker’s directory from 1882, present in the India Office Library in London (now part of the British Library). Mr Varma’s father , Surendra Nath, also a lawyer(Satyendra Nath’s is the sixth generation of lawyers!)shifted from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh to Allahabad. He moved into this house in 1935.
His practice flourished as did his family- 8 sons and 4 daughters-who he fondly called,’ a team and an extra’!
Sheila Varma recalls that when she came into this house as a bride it was full of people and fun. With her master’s degree in English literature, she would spend time teaching her younger sisters and brothers-in law English.
The famous freedom fighter, Acharya Kripalani was a frequent visitor to this house and interestingly, Mr Verma says, always requested meat cooked Kayastha-style for his meals !

The side entrance(now the main entrance)to the house- with a beautiful, old carved coat stand
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The round, marble-topped table in the stone-clad verandah where casual visitors sit-
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The verandah opens into the beautiful, impeccably kept drawing room-
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The elegant arch dividing the room and Mr and Mrs Verma and my sister sit comfortably, chatting-
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A very old, beautiful sofa with cane-woven sides-
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Framed photographs of Mr Verma’s father, Surendra Nath and his mother, Rajkumari with beautiful ixora blossoms from their garden-
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The drawing room leads to the dining room which opens out onto a rear verandah. A view of the dining room through the rear verandah-
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The rear verandah where a lot of their time is spent-
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A view of this verandah from the rear garden-
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Mangalore tiles from the original roof of the house used to make a smaller roof for a verandah-
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The rear garden with a lush rubber tree-
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Mr. Varma, an accomplished musician, inherited his talent and love for North Indian Classical music from his mother, Raj Kumari, a student of Pandit Kashalkar, and his maternal grandfather, Dr. Ranjit Singh. Dr.Singh was the founder of the famous school of classical music of Allahabad, Prayag Sangeet Samiti. Mr. Varma remains a stalwart of the classical music scene of Allahabad, himself accompanying many famous musicians on the harmonium and hosting innumerable classical music soirees in their home.

A view of the bedroom with a gorgeous, carved bed in Burma teak, a couple of carved teak wood cupboards and a smaller takht-a bed-sitter- with Mr Varma’s harmonium-
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Almost everyday,inbetween work, Mr Varma finds himself on his harmonium. These are his very private moments full of joy and fulfilment that only true musicians can experience.
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On our way out, this beautiful vintage Flying Standard car completed the picture. It is in good running condition and is an active participant in vintage car rallies around India.
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What an unbelievably complete picture it made ! Vintage, refined and full of character-just like the Varma’s bungalow and, indeed, they themselves .

In Lucknow the weather has cooled down ever so slightly. At night we feel the need to use light covers. Outside, the smell of tiny white Harsingar flowers fill the air at night. I can smell the Durga puja festival and sense winter! Wonder if you have Harsingar trees in your neighbourhood ? I think I will plant one–if only to experience the fragrance in our own garden.

For those of you celebrating Durga Puja and Navratri- hope you have joyous celebrations !

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. Do share it with your friends and family if you have liked it. And please ‘like on facebook’ and ‘subscribe by email'(both boxes on the upper right of this page)
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About Adity

Hello ! You are either already a friend or will become one--through this medium! I am an artist and jewellery maker, a wife and mother to two lovely children. Beautiful homes, food, nature and wonderful things happening around me make me ecstatic. That is why I started to write this blog-- to share with you all of these things. After all what good is any experience if not shared !
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42 Responses to The Varma’s home

  1. Vandana andLadlie Tandon says:

    Mr and Mrs. Varma are one of the most respected citizens of Allahabad and a very loving couple.They have a beautiful home which reflects the old glory of Allahabad.Their hospitality is impeccable and is to be enjoyed to know what it is.We have been visiting them for decades(his younger brother is a very dear friend of ours) and had not noticed some parts of the home you have shown.Very well done piece.

    • Thank you. You are very right. They are indeed extremely hospitable and warm. My father would always say that we should greet most people as long lost friends. The Varmas always do that-as did my father-I think that is one reason why people like them so much !

  2. Pushpanjali says:

    Enjoyed reading and seeing the pics of their lovely well kept bungalow ,the facade of which reminded me of our old house(138 luker gunj),more than that would love to meet such people(missed meeting them in alld)who do leave a lasting impression in ones mind.

    • Their bungalow style was probably the most popular. There were many similar homes in Allahabad including yours that was so beautful. The fact that they continue to maintain it so well is a joy and a lesson in how not to destroy one’s heritage.

  3. Gauri says:

    Reading this piece was a treat, especially as I know the Vermas. They represent the best of earlier times.

  4. anita raina says:

    The warmest and most affectionate couple in town- Munna Mama and Shiela Mami! I am so nostalgic seeing the gracious and beautiful home where many happy hours were spent. It gladdens my heart that such homes are still maintained in good old Allahabad! Adity thanks for the treat.

  5. Uttora Ratna says:

    What a wonderfully written article and lovely photographs! It becomes more so as this is about two beautiful people ,Uncle and Aunty, so full of the grace and charm of days gone by. Makes me think of Baba, Ma and Lukergunj ,a house so full of life ,activity and laughter. Great job, Dinks!

  6. amrita says:

    Ah, Adity, why could we not save our house on Hamilton Road as many others have done? Not just from the ultimate demolition but from the decades long decline that led to the end…

    • Not just your house=but so many others, Dushi. Naturally, if there was a law, like there is in the west, all such homes would be preserved. But in its absence-wonder if we can make at least an effort to preserve even if we don’t live there. I was so impressed to see a well known Gen, Habibullah’s house in Lucknow rented out to the boutique of Ritu Kumar.No doubt they could have sold it for millions. But they didn’t. So it carries on being beautiful and well preserved. I think this is the way forward.

  7. Rakesh Saxena says:

    It was a pleasure reading this entire article, I dont know Mr. Varma, but I enjoy studying people, not critically, but just to know more people, (something which we lack in our profession as sailors). Being shy I felt that internet was an excellent medium to KNOW more people but I failed there too, because very few real people like to really share their lives just enough to know each other without getting personal.
    Some people like to visit Italy, New Zealand and hundreds of other places, or spend a vacation by the seaside or on the mountains. If given a choice I would exchange all that for a quiet weekend with a couple, knowing them …. just as much as knowing Mr. & Mrs. Varma in this blog. The presentation was excellent and I actually feel as if I spent a weekend with a wonderful couple. Thank you Bhabhi, for me this is a gift which I really enjoyed.

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful words. Wonder if you read some of the previous posts on other old homes and their inhabitants ?
      Studying people and learning about them is fascinating– maybe you should write as well-if only to have the chance of’interviewing’them !

  8. Manju Pendharkar says:

    Wonderful coverage indeed. I happen to know the Vermas since my childhood. I am Manju Pendharkar (Kahalkar) daughter of Late Pt. Shantaram Kashalkar , very evry dear friend of S.N.Verma , fondly called as Munna Chacha. Pictures are very well taken and presented . Congrats on the fantastic work. Good old memories of 7 Elgin Road.

    • Very happy to meet you,Manju. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It must have been your grandfather who taught Mr Verma’s mother. And my bua, grand-daughter of Dr.Sarju Kr Mukherji. Or was it your father ? I just know it was ‘Kashalkar ji’.In Allahabad, in the classical music scene,Kashalkar ji was so well known.

  9. Himendra Nath Varma says:

    Thanks a ton for the beautiful write up. I am Himendra, the youngest of the brothers and was born in this very house and grew up here. I was in 4th Std. at St. Joseph’s when Sheila Bhabhi came and took us under her wings like a mother hen. I will need pages and pages if I want to justly respond, but I can tell you I am as close to them today as I was as a four year old when I used to sleep at njght with Munna with one of my legs sprawled across his stomach. The profile has superbly brought out the ethos of 7, Elgin Road, and the people who live there.

    • Delighted you liked it, Mr Varma (younger!). Thank you for visiting and reading this post. Writing it was a pleasure and honour. I can see the joy with which large families such as yours grew up in your generation. I suppose it was because families were large that the younger members just followed what the older ones did with parents staying on the periphery.

    • Parminder Bajaj says:

      Please get me contact of shri RN Varma and his children Purnima,Jyotsna,Baba. Purnima is my child hood friend

  10. Saif says:

    It’s an excellent write up and pictures just complete the missing visuals. The Varma’s bungalow is among the last rememiscent of Allahabad’s colonial past.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs and Mr. Varma few days ago, and it was pure nostalgia.

    You write well. Keep thinking šŸ™‚

  11. Natasha says:

    Munna Chacha and Chachi are the most wonderful people. Scores have enjoyed the warmth and sheer magnificence of their hospitality. Ever since I remember their house has been impeccably well-kept and more important welcoming and warm
    . Oh and the food , sp, the thinnest cucumber sandwiches are to die for. Saw buddy’s water bowl by the verandah…but where is he?

  12. jayantadeepa says:

    Lovely going back to olden days so filled with charm and character. Was wonderful reading your blog. And yes, we celebrate Durga Puja. In fact, I wrote a blog on Powai Sharadotsav only this morning. Do read it if you can

  13. Neelam khanna says:

    Varma uncle n aunty are one of the most wonderful people I have known .they are full of warmth n affection .everytime I meet them I feel there is so much I can learn from them . So it was a pleasure reading this beautifully written article .

  14. Iram I Shervani says:

    It is a pleasure reading this article. We share a close and loving relationship with Dadu and Dadi. My parents have been visiting them every weekend for as long as I can remember. When Dadi gets to know that I am in town she specially gets my favourite Noodles,Chilly Chicken and Spring Rolls made by Shyamlal !! I will be visiting them tmrw šŸ™‚

  15. LALATENDU SWAIN says:

    Excellent presentation! You have articulated your thoughts and responses so well, that I felt as if I had had been transported to those good old days – so well epitomized by Munna Bhaisaheb and Sheila Bhabhi!!
    I first met this lovely couple and their family when I was in Allahabad for the last rites of my father. I barely knew them, but the sheer warmth of their hospitality had been overwhelming and their attention to every little detail left me deeply touched!
    Apart from preserving their brick and mortar heritage, the Vermas have also successfully nurtured and grown their cultural roots, as well as their tradition of philanthropy, civility and hospitality!!

  16. Giridhar Malaviya says:

    Excellent photographs. Awesome. G.Malaviya

  17. Aniruddha says:

    Must admit that, keen as I am on old Calcutta and its colourful past, I had never heard of the Varmas. I was directed to your nostalgic post by Sriban’s Weblog, and I liked what I read. Shall follow your blogs from now on. Hope, you wouldn’t mind!

    • Thank you for visiting. Calcutta, I know, has some absolutely fabulous mansions and of course, a rich past. The Varmas are old residents of Allahabad and highly respected. It was a treat learning a bit about them.
      Do please follow ! I see you write a blog yourself- will visit right away.

  18. Asoka says:

    My goodness why is it that we are seeing this today? Lovely coverage of a wonderful and gracious couple Sheilaji and Munna..the nicest Allahabadi’s we have had the honour of knowing and enjoying their hospitality in this grand Elgin Road mansion… Brings back nostalgic memories ..Thanks ….. Rati/ Asoka

  19. Nagesh Prasad says:

    The most wonderful representative home of our lovely Allahabad and an equally awesome couple – The Varmas i.e. my 1st cousin bro Mr.SNVarma alias Munna Dada or Munna Bhaiya and my amazing Sheila Bhabhi. (His mother RajKumari was the eldest sis of my mom ManKumari – being the eldest and youngest siblibgs of the illustrious Maj.Ranjit Singh) God bless them. He is the truest torch bearer of my great Nana Ji Maj. Dr.Desh Raj Ranjit Singh in Allahabad. Long live the Varmas!
    Thanks a tonnw and Gid bless u Adity for doing this lovely blog on The Varma’s home. It really made me so nostalgic seeing this lovely home and the lush garden where we as kids used to play on the neatly tended green lawns!!

  20. sangita bajpai says:

    My Mother in law Shashi Kiran fondly remembers Chandrika Prasad Verma who was the family friend and lawyer of (her mother) Prem Kumari Devi w/o Triloki Nath Dutta in ghazipur. Nostalgia hit her and she talked about the family for a long time. she sends her regards. do pass them on to sheila ji and surendra nath ji.

  21. Divya Kaul says:

    We really appreciate your sharing the Varma house ,with those very apt comments for each picture.I’m the great grand daughter of Dr. Ranjit Singh (his only son’s grand daughter), and
    have truly appreciated each and every word and picture of the entry in your blog.Thank You.
    Divya Mansingh Kaul

  22. Parminder Bajaj says:

    Dear writer
    All day today,I have been trying to locate my childhood friend Purnima Varma through Facebook.google.etc. I tried locating her through various leads,like her respected father Mr R.N.Varma,who used to work with Hindustan Times,her sister Jyotsna and kid brother Baba( Shantanu?).Of course,I am aware that they had moved to Gulmohar Park… from Defence Colony,where we were neighbours ,but I may have to physically visit that house for more information.
    it was then that I googled for Varma house in Elgin Road ,Allahabad to read this lovely blog regarding my friend’s grand parents home.,the grandeur of which I was not fully acquainted with.Thank you!
    Guddo (Purnima) had often mentioned about her grandparents address in Allahabad which stayed in my mind. Her family’s interest in classical music ,her own singing talent,
    as well as the excellent food her mother , Pratima Aunty prepared are familiar. I vaguely also recollect her Sheila Chachi !
    I request you to please help me reconnect to Purnima ,my child hood friend, through the common contacts, known to you
    In anticipation
    Parminder Bajaj ( MiniSuri)

    • Adity says:

      Dear Mr. Bajaj, thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your wish to reconnect. I am sending you the number of Mr. S.N. Vermawho still lves in that beautiful house. Perhaps he can help you. 9792101555. Best regards.

  23. anitadas26 says:

    Munna Bhaiya is my eldest Mama’s son Whenever I visited 7 Elgin Road , which was seldom as I rarely visited Allahabad I was always struck by a sense of great elegance and warmth! A rare combination ! You ve captured the essence of the place so well.

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