Nakhlau Meri Jaan
A certain Nawab once couldn’t “run” for his life, because his servant was not there to slip his feet in his royal juttis. This is what the nawabi Lucknow is famously infamous for! A glorious city where people believe adab and tehzeeb are still alive. Welcome to shiraz-e-hind, the eleventh most populous city of India.
You have probably read much about the famous Tunday ke kebabs which were originally conceived by a “tunda” or a handicapped person, and the mughlai warqi paranthas which is a pure gastronomical bliss.
You may have also heard Lucknow wallahs whine over the inferior quality of chat elsewhere on the planet. I’ve got some news for you; he is right. Makkhan malai is another comparatively less talked about “nemat” that the city is endowed with. The astounding Nihari Kulcha – a staple breakfast meal in the Nawabi era – retains its place of being the quintessential culinary darling, and rightly so.
If you’ve wondered how beautiful Aishwarya Rai looked swooning to Humko humise chura lo in Mohabbatein, here’s another tidbit for you: Lucknow’s chikankari has had a big role to play there. This dream work in threads is peculiar to Lucknow and is loved across countries. Zardozi is another intricate craftwork that produces works of wonder.
It’s not for nothing that a Sham e Awadh is longed for. Ganjing has been a story of its own, an epitome of recreation for generations of Lucknowites, who looked at all the pomp with starry eyes and adorably called it Hasratganj.
The sun sets on a vitrified Gomti. The Roomi Darwaza and picturesque Bada Imambara dot the crimson evening skyline. The Railway Station is also a stunning work of architecture that is studied for its brilliance.
The Hussainabad Clock Tower and Residency give the city its old-world charm. The clustered by-lanes of Aminabad and Chowk where ladies bargain away to glory are where the city thrives. Gadbdjhala and Nakhas are thronged by people day and night. Towards the new city, the mini marine drive and sprawling parks are a sight to behold and enjoy!
The Lucknow Metro is a spectacle, taking thousands from one corner of the city to another. The old Mayfair theatre that was once an English pride is now a premise for newly opened offices. As old inevitably makes way for new, structures are being razed and new ones are being built every day.
We like to call that development- making room for the ever increasing population. The Shaheed Path is lined with apartments that are awaiting occupancy. This generation has seen the luxurious Ikana Cricket Stadium, long sturdy flyovers and huge fancy malls.
It has not seen the peace and openness of a city brimming with Shaistagi and Khuloos. The building of La Martiniere Boys, also known as Constantia is an architectural delight, as also Chhatar Manzil and Lal Baradari which served as courts in the period of Nawab Asaf id Daula. Begum Hazrat Mahal Park was named after the Queen of the Nawab.
Sharma’s chai samosa in Lal Bagh still lures thousands every day, but the traffic and humdrum has made the experience comparatively urban. Like all other major cities, Lucknow has witnessed a major upheaval in recent years. Just like the little boy who goes to a big city to become “big”. Though you are proud of who he is today, you always miss those cherubic eyes and wish to see them again!
Much as we all are aping the west, the language here is still that of finesse and courtesy. Even if SRK repeatedly told us to use the epiglottis while saying Khan or Khargosh, you will seldom hear it anywhere else.
Ladies here are demure and full of ada. So when you say “hum”, people look for other people behind you. And when you say “Aap” they just love it. Especially in Mumbai where they hardly form sentences. Or Delhi, where they are so rude that you sometimes want them to shut up!
Mumbai is very impersonal. They just let you be. And, Delhi is way too personal. They just get into you. But Lucknow stays with you. That’s how remarkable it is.
Urdu is still alive and appreciated, and they understand the value of words. As embodied in classic movies such as Pakeezah and Umrao Jaan, Lucknow has a penchant for nazakat and nafasat.
So I went to Mumbai and studied management at Xaviers, and amidst the sound of waves crashing on the shores, I missed my city. I missed the familiar cocoon of childhood and the innocence of adolescence.
Like a lot of Lucknowites, I did my graduation from DU and it was fun. Lucknow was my first love and shall always be. Every time I came back to the city, the Charbagh railway station seemed to wink at me, asking if there was any place as spectacular as this. I just smiled and replied back, “muskuraiye aap Lakhnau me hain”
Besides the nostalgia, the city leaves an indelible mark on your soul. Most travelers settle here and migratory birds somehow find their way back to their nests. The place is such. There are disco lights and there is moonlight. There is bass and there is flute.
The building of my alma mater La Martiniere Girls College brings back an age of frolic and freedom. It brings back a plethora of memories of an era when all you had to worry about was passing the school exam; all other things were magically taken care of.
Every time I visit my city, I tend to sleep better. It’s the homecoming that allows me to relax. But life takes you places and it takes you away from you. Here is a beautiful couplet of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Nawab of Lucknow when he was in British captivity in Bengal.
..Yahi tashvish shab o roz hai Bangale me
Lakhnau phir kabhi dikhaye muqaddar mera..
– Bahadur Shah Zafar