Lucknow: The Lost City of Tehzeeb, Nawabs, and Tundey Kebabs has been edited by Nidhi Shah.
When I moved to a different city and a different state altogether for my higher studies, I realised one thing. Most people’s judgement about me would start with the answer to a very basic question:
“Where are you from?”
It never occurred to me that one’s hometown could play such an important role in how people perceive them. I was suddenly labelled a ‘Bhaiya’ because I was from this small yet extremely misjudged city called Lucknow. The excitement of telling everyone about my beautiful city slowly turned into the nightmare of answering this question. It had to happen, some day or the other. It had to happen because the frog was finally out of its well, looking from a whole new perspective.
Lucknow, or formerly known as Lashmanpur stands on the banks of the river Gomti. Though Lakshman, the brother of Lord Rama laid the foundation of the city, Lucknow began flourishing since the time of the Nawabs. The elaborate use of the sophisticated Urdu language, interests in poetry, literature, art, dance, food, and the development of exquisite architectural masterpieces like the Imambara, Rumi Darwaza, and the royalty of Nawabi style of living were all the characteristics that made Lucknow stand out from the rest of the provinces during the time of the British.
Not only that, Lucknow houses some of the best and oldest schools in the country such as La Martiniere College, St. Francis College, and Loreto Convent whose inception dates back to the 1800s. Then there is the fine chikan embroidery, the grand Zardozi work, and the mouth-watering Mughlai cuisine. Oh and the tundey kebabs that can leave your taste buds craving more and more! Lucknow is the city that caters to all. Moreover, one cannot miss Chanakya’s kulfi, Royal Cafe’s basket chaat, and Chhappan Bhog’s tikki when in Lucknow.
Your heart will melt with the way people in this city talk. The tehzeeb and adab have trickled from the time of Nawabs to the current era.
The sweetness of their voices, the respect that comes from their heart can please anyone. It is surprising how effortlessly Lucknowis use ‘Aap’ while addressing others and ‘Hum’ while talking about themselves. One can get a glimpse of it by the respect Lucknowis show to their elders, peers, and younger ones while conversing.
However, the glorified history of the city I was brought up in has changed dramatically, and it has changed for the worse.
Now, the pan that has stained the walls of the architectural masterpieces shadows the Nawabi Culture. The place once used to boast about its lush green gardens and wide roads. The stalls of Bada Mangal now litter them with its waste. A source of life for the inhabitants, Gomti is now choking on their not so humble offerings. The city that was a vibrant hub of poetry, dance, and music which gave the world legends like Naushad Ali, the famous film musician and Pali Chandra, the internationally acclaimed Kathak dancer, is now in a dire need of its creative minds. The bright graduates from the finest schools have deserted the city. Only for better prospects of higher education and employment because the opportunities in the city are extremely bleak. The city once gave massive Urdu literature.
However, the masses now think of Lucknow to have only one language – Bhojpuri.
It all boils down to one question, “Who do we blame for the plight of Lucknow?”
Should we blame the administration for not doing its best to preserve the city’s rich cultural heritage? Or the people for not showing interest in uplifting their land? Should we point at the politicians for the downfall of this wonderful city that is so full of history? Or the masses for letting the red pan stains hide its beauty?
If one observes, the city has all the potential to grow while integrating its uniqueness. Good connectivity by rail and air with most of the cities of the country, abundant supply of water and electricity. Conducive weather conditions, and access to a huge talent pool. There is absolutely nothing that can stop this city from getting back on its feet. Yet, for some unknown reason, something seems to trap Lucknow. Trapped between losing its glorious past and the inability to catch up with the modern times. Hence, leaving its residents to be labelled as ‘Corrupt Bhaiya log’ when they move out.
To read more by the author of Lucknow: The Lost City of Tehzeeb, Nawabs, and Tundey Kebabs, click here.