I have been reading the news of shutting down of the Baljees and the Fascination restaurants on the Mall, Shimla. Curtains have been pulled on both the Fascination and the Baljees after prolonged legal battles and the present owner of the restaurants lost a rental dispute with the owner of the property- Lok Nath and Sons.
As many people are quite nostalgic about their times spent at the Fascination and the Baljees I also have fond memories of great times spent with my friends.
I was introduced to the Fascination during my college days as it fascinated many with new presentations like sugar cubes , giving spinner while serving tea,
Delicious Chinese food, Italian Spaghetti and the continental food, variety of Indian food and above all its ambience. Though this used to be one of quite costly place but many found its ambience in the second story on The Mall, just fascinating .
My regular visits to the Fascination started while studying in HP university PG center Shimla in late 70s.
In those days we were a group of friends which included Shiam Prashad ( who passed away a few years back) , Kuldeep (Billa) , Shambhu , Harsh Mahajan and Ashok Mankotia . At times many others also used to join us. Though I used to visit the Fascination with friends like Pradeep, Kaka , Pradeep Joshi and many others but it became almost a daily joint for seven of the above friends.
Soon it became a daily meeting place of the group and we used to spend a lot of time here. Per head tea pot used to cost Rs 2 and we had long discussions for hours on politics, current affairs, economy , Marxism, leg pullings of each other , affairs of girls and boys and last but not the least , chicks. Latest Western music played on LP records was special attraction of the restaurant and we had luxury of asking the counter person to play music of our choice.
As it became an integral part of visiting the Fascination the waiters , counter boy and other staff also became friendly . While coming back from University campus ,Summerhill ,our first stop used to be the Facy .
After gulping a glass of water and keep our books and other belonging at the counter or in the pantry we would head for loafing on The Mall..
We had love hate relationship with the propriter of the restaurant Harsh Baljees as many times he used to get annoyed at our mischiefs but helpful at other times . Many times he helped us to keep our bill pending to pay it later when short of money.
The Fascination was also a popular place for love birds as many of them sat here for dating . Though I was not that lucky to have such an opportunity but a friend took me to Facy to propose me.
Sunday used to be very special as lot many smartly clad girls on outing from the St.Bede’s college used to visit the place giving an occasion to hangout for many young men.
Former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, studying in HPU also was a regular visitor to the Fascination and used to sit here with his close friend Shiam Khanna (co- owner of Regal cinema). Unfortunately entire family of Shiam Khanna died in a road accident a few years back.
The staff of the restaurant was so respectful and affable .Even after leaving Shimla , on my visit to Shimla they used to come out to wish , however busy they may be . And always rendered an invitation to visit the place along with my family.
Alas , these are all memories but time spent at the Fascination would always be a great treasure.