Till recently, one of the most delightful moments on a train journey through the western suburbs of Mumbai, was passing through Vile Parle station and inhaling the delicious baking smells that used to waft in to the train. The aroma was that of the Parle G biscuits being baked at the Parle factory, located near the station. But, with the closure of the iconic 87 year old factory, came an end to a fragrant era. While, Parle G will continue manufacturing its much loved biscuits from its other factories across the country, the Parle factory at Vile Parle would be deeply missed.
Over the recent years, a number of iconic Indian establishments and brands have shut shop or stopped production across the country, due to legal issues, falling sales, competition, or not being able to stand up to the times. While modern businesses constantly fold up, and not much thought is given to them, these are icons that have served the country for decades, and have left behind nostalgic memories. We pay tribute to some of them:
HMT watches: Much before Titan, Swatch, Omega, Casio, and the rest of the popular watch brands told time, HMT adorned our wrists and dominated the watch market. The watch maker set up its first factory in Bangalore in 1961, in collaboration with Japan’s Citizen Watch Co, and the first batch of the Hand Wound Wrist Watches manufactured by HMT, was released by the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru. The watches continued to be an integral part of the average Indian attire in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s until competition and technological changes led to the watch maker facing growing losses. HMT Watches finally chimed its last in May, this year as it shut down its last manufacturing unit in Tumakuru.
Gold Spot: When foreign brands such as Coca Cola and PepsiCo exited the Indian market in the late 1970s, because the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) was making it difficult for them to continue in the country, Parle decided to launch its own line of soft drinks. Gold Spot, with the tag line ‘The Zing Thing’, was one of them. The drink, along with Limca and Thumbs Up, gained popularity in the country, and was much sought after by youngsters, and the older generation alike. With the re-entry of Coca Cola in the 1990’s, came the slow decline of the soft drinks. Parle sold its soft drinks to Coca-Cola in 1993, and, while the other two ( Limca and Thumbs Up) still remain in the market, the much loved Gold Spot was withdrawn to make space for Fanta.
Rhythm House: With the shutting of Mumbai’s Rhythm House came the end of a golden era for music lovers and city dwellers. The shop, which was established in 1948, offered its patrons a wide collection of Indian and western music, across all genres – filmy, non-filmy, classical and modern. Customers and passersby would walk in to browse through the albums of their favourite artists. And, if they could not find what they were looking for, it would be ordered for them. But, with the advent of technology, MP3s, downloadable music and Apple’s Music Store, the music shop started to feel the heat. After facing much losses and trying to stay afloat, it finally downed its shutters in March, 2016.
Ghantewala Sweets: A sweet shop that dated back to 1790, The Ghantewala Halwai had among its distinguished clientele emperors, Prime Ministers and Presidents, along with the common man. Set up by Lala Sukh Lal Jain, a small time sweet maker from Rajasthan, Ghantewala Sweets, in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, the sweet shop earned its name from when Jain started off by selling the sweets on a brass plate, balanced on his head, ringing a brass bell. As his business grew, Jain built a shop, which continued growing in fame. Known for its Sohan Halwa, the shop has even played a role in BR Chopra’s 1954 film, Chandi Chowk, where a replica was created in Mumbai. However, legal and licensing problems, as well as the changing customer tastes, led to the closure of the sweet shop in July, last year.
Vijayanand Talkies: The historic cinema house where the Father of Indian cinema, Dadasaheb Phalke used to screen his motion pictures using a projector, finally downed its curtains in November, 2015. Vijayananad Talkies, located in Nashik, was one of the few remaining single screen cinemas of its generation, and had been conferred the ‘Oldest Exhibitor in India’ Award by the President in 2013 for being one of the longest operating cinema hall in the country. The historical Talkies had to shut shop due to non-renewal of its license by the government.
Ambassador cars: Once the car that India drove – from the politicians in their ostentatious white, beaconed cars, to the taxi drivers in their kaali peeli ones, the Ambassador was known for its sturdy body and powerful engine. The original made in India car was modeled on the Morris Oxford series III, and was in production from 1958. The once ubiquitous Ambassador had even been crowned the best taxi in the world by BBC’s Top Gear programme. The car zoomed in popularity through the 60’s and 70’s, until the Maruti Suzuki 800 brought its low cost car into the country. The opening up of the automobile sector and the entry of numerous other auto brands into the country led to its demise, with Hindustan Motors halting production in 2014.
AA Husain & Co: The go-to place for book lovers in Hyderabad, AA Husain & Co, which was started more than 65 years ago, shut shop in March, 2015. The much-loved book store, which saw the likes of painter MF Hussain, actors Dilip Kumar and Suresh Oberoi, and cricketer Sunil Gavaskar as its patrons, was closed down to make way for a mall which is being built on the Arasu Trust Complex, a Waqf property that housed the shop. The bookstore was started by Abid Asgar Husain, a surgeon of the 6th Nizam, in the mid-1940s, as a store for imported products. It was converted into a bookstore in 1949 by Asif Husain Arastu, his son.
Cafe Samovar: It was with tears that many of its loyal patrons bid the legendary cafe goodbye in March, last year. Surrounded by history and culture, the five-decade-old Cafe Samovar, situated in the Jehangir Art Gallery, with landmarks such as Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum, the Kala Ghoda square, David Sassoon Library and Lion Gate, within walking distance, was a popular haunt among city’s intellectuals, students and general public. Opened by Usha Khanna, the niece of noted Indian actor Balraj Sahni, the Cafe was especially known for its pudina chai and pakoda platter, and any food that came cold or was spilled, would be replaced free of cost. The Cafe had to down its shutters since the Jehangir Art Gallery has been looking to expand its space.