The Nawab’s Sword

Once upon a time in the city ofLucknow, was a Nawab named Mirajuddaula. Now nothing much could have been said in his praise except that he had inherited the riches of his forefathers ( as with most Nawabs) but if you would have dared to ask me about his credentials in his esteemed presence my obvious answer would have been – the more I tell about his majesty’s grace the little it will be.

Now that I have told you about his Nawabi Lineage you would have guessed that Mairajuddaula was far detached from the bindings of work and livelihood.However, no way does this imply that there was any dearth of business for him. After a walk in the gardens conversing with the  morning breeze and a session of massage in his personal Spa Mairajuddaula ensconced himself in his Meeting room where he took upon himself to resolve all sorts of moral and ethical problems facing the society. It’s a matter of minor consequence that no one paid heed to his advice and people used to visit him as a means of entertainment and past time. Being infamous has its share of fame and this was the guiding light for our Nawab.

And yes  ,One of the reasons for his popularity were the sumptuous Kebab’s made by his master chef – Sakhawat Miyan. It was said that the chef used to prepare for 3 days before and the elaborate arrangements consisted everything from picking up the most tender meat, to some 56 kind of exotic spices and even soaking the raw material in the moonlight for 8 hours !! Once my great grandfather had the good fortune of tasting the Kebab’s at Mairajudaula’s Kothi – since then all our generations have been bestowed with slimmer fingers than they would normally have.

To hear about the tales of our famed Nawab is not a big deal and you can hear them from any lad playing marbles in the narrow by lanes of Lucknow but the one I am going to tell you now is not only most interesting one but is also quite significant. Here its goes …..

It so happened that one day while the Nawab was on a jaunt his Buggy turned towards the direction of Nakhkhas. InLucknow, Nakhkhas was believed to be the treasure trove of antiques and other rare things. In private, the grape wine was that most of the stuff being traded in Nakhkhas was actually such which had no trace of its owners. You may want to call it a ‘chor bazaar’ but I won’t dare to.It will be blasphemous to relate theft and other such follies of human nature to a place which was often graced by the august presence of our great nawab. Chivalry might be dead elsewhere but not inLucknow. Anyways, going around the place the Nawab’s eyes fell on something that was of no use not only to him but also his forefathers and yet it was quite an interesting find. It suited his pride and his self image. My dear friends it was a Sword !

You must be thinking What’s the big deal ? but inLucknowit was and if it wasn’t it could have been made a big deal.

The money changed hands and in a jiffy the sword travelled from Nakhkhas to find itself adorning a wall in the meeting room of the Nawab’s Kothi .It was proclaimed that the sword is a most valuable and rare piece of armory which the Nawab has inherited from his ancestors. Now the Sword was of iron and the servants belonged to the Nawab so who would have said that no this is not true , in fact a white lie .The faithful servants of the Nawab immediately took upon themselves the assiduous task of informing the general public in Lucknow that the Nawab’s Kothi has the honor of housing such a unique thing that if one was to perish without having a look at it one would face the possibility of losing it out on earth as well as in heaven. Very soon the bylanes ofLucknowsaw an exodus of sorts and people in great numbers start pouring at the Kothi. It is said that the sword was not something to just see but it was something to be hear about and especially so since the Nawab himself used to narrate the greatness of the sword to the believers. It was within no time that the Sword became the Honor of the City ofLucknow. This was the sword with most precious Gems and Stones, this was the  sword with which the great grandfather of the Nawab had made many an enemy face the angels of hell, this was the sword for which the Queen of England was willing to let go of her left eye, this was the sword which had saved the grace of Lucknow many times, This was the sword which was meant to be touched with the forehead and to be kissed with the eyelids. It was therefore the duty of each and every true citizen ofLucknowto treat the sword with utmost reverence. After all it was not only a sword but a legacy of the past to be safely preserved for the generations of future.

All and all if there was anything as pious as the sighting of the Holy Kaba it was  the Nawab’s Sword and thankfully one need not travel far distances for availing this ticket to heaven.

But no one can defer destiny. What everyone had dreaded may happen , happened. The Sword got Stolen !!!!

Sleepy communities crave for sensationalism and on top of that this wasLucknow. The news of the theft travelled with lighting speed and shocked each and every inhabitant of the city. One by one folks started dropping by the Nawab’s Kothi to offer solace and to do their bit to alleviate the Nawab in his hour of grief.

The first one to arrive was Lala Ganpat Rai. He entered the meeting room with such great dejection as if he had donated all his assets to the Britishers. Now there is a way that sadness is celebrated inLucknow, unlike some other places where they will start screaming and thumping their chest at the slightest pretext. With great care one is supposed to come close to the aggrieved and then offer a ‘paan’ for upliftment of the spirit. Only when one has been done with such basic courtesies, one is supposed to take the hand of the aggrieved and ask “How did this happen My friend?”

It is because of this etiquette that’s so deeply engrained in us Lucknow Wallahs that we are forced to think of  others as uncultured, illiterate and downright naives.

Now it will take many of your generations to learn these fineries so I feels it’s better that we go on with our story.So customarily, when Lala took our Nawab’s hand in his own and asked about this great misfortune, the Nawab’s eyes got all wet. If you consider, this was a necessity from our Nawab’s side too or else Lala would have felt that there was something missing in his gestures of comfort. The Nawab stashed the Paan in a corner of his mouth and with a choked voice offered the details :

“Oh Sire When I went to sleep yesterday night the Sword was right here on the wall but when I woke up I was surprised to see that it wasn’t there…”

“Good Lord  ! That’s where you made a mistake.” Said Lala. I always thought of you as a very intelligent and erudite man but to my great  disappointment you have proven me otherwise today.You should have considered that the sword was no ordinary thing that you just put up on the wall in full show and slept peacefully. This is certainly not the way to look after your ancestral belongings ? But that’s how it is  – that which we get without deserving we are never able to value for ourselves. If only I had been blessed with this great fortune I would have kissed the sword with my lips and rubbed it on my forehead. But as they say – A monkey will never be able to know the taste of Ginger”.

Now that was just too much for our Nawab. Visibly irritated he admonished Lala “ Sire you are jumping out of your stature !!” Lala immediately retracted “ Oh my dear lord you are unnecessarily getting perturbed. I wasn’t talking of you, I meant the thief. The buffoon will sell it for some lowly price at the Nakhkhas.” The Nawab thought – well good for him and good for the sword.The God damned thing will reach where it rightfully belongs.

Anyways, after seeing off Lala as soon as our Nawab had ordered for a Glass of ‘ khas’ Sherbet Munshi Tekchand announced his arrival.No sooner had he seated himself, he gulped down the Sherbet meant for our Nawab and fired  the sleazy question “ My Lord ,How come this happened ?” The Nawab thought of telling him that “it’s Allah’s kindness that saved you and my sword got stolen , else I would have had to wash my hands with your dirty blood.” But alas this was just a thought. Grace and gentlemanliness had found its way from the Nawab’s heart to his soul and into his very being in such a way that even if he wished he could not have done away with them. Sporting a smile upon his face he said “ What to tell you Mister, bad times come unannounced for and then its my grave fault to trust one and all. The great Hakim Saheb had advised me that if I keep a piece of Iron beneath my pillow then I won’t be subjected to nightmares so I had taken this much precaution that the sword which was usually hung up on the wall, I had removed from its position and kept it under my pillow and slept..” The excuse was good and our Nawab thought at if the Munshi bought his story  he would immediately write an official note and hand it over to the servants. He would tell them that here’s your “Sword Story”  and now please do let me live in peace.

Well he was Wrong. Totally Wrong…..

The Munshi got exasperated and said “ Oh My dear Lord What a blunder you committed ! I always thought of you as the custodian of the intellectual pursuits of the people the of Lucknowbut you have completely changed my perception. Sir, even the lads playing in the streets of chowk have become wise enough to know that the ranks of servants are no more trustworthy. Those days are dead and gone when the faithful would offer their life for the sake of their masters. Nowadays if you blink an eyelid these rascals will steal your eyeshadow.And we are talking about a Sword that too ancestral –  decorated with Gemstones, Famous and accomplished, the tales of which are on the lips of every child ! How could you just keep it beneath your pillow and sleep ? If you had willed to please the wretched Hakim so much you should have asked for some knife or something from the royal kitchen or you could have just summoned this humble slave of yours. For the sake of your mental well being I would have knocked off the shoe of some weak and good for nothing half dead Horse. Daroga sahib is an acquaintance of mine and I am sure if I had pleaded for the sake of your mental health he would have most certainly obliged.” Our Nawab got utterly frustrated, he was well aware that Munshi was having a good time at his expense but what was to be done – it was after all a dual between the Sword and suavity.

The nawab summoned his servants – “ Miyan Fukkan, Munshi Sahib is not some abandoned idler that he will just stay put the whole day here. If your sluggishness has given way for you to be able to cook something then please get it for us or at least get a cup of tea that I had brought all the way from Ceylon.” Then as if trying not to get overheard he whispered “ What to say of these scoundrels. They won’t listen to anyone, and then they have no manners either of their profession or of speech.” Munshi understood that his arrow has hit the bulls eye and the Nawab is trying to ridicule him on the sly. Thinking of his life and limb he judged that its better to flag off from there. And anyways he had enough gossip with him for the Lassi shop in chowk.

Our Nawab felt blissful. By the grace of good heavens people ofLucknowhad left him alone. The truth however was a little different. The congregation of folks who had gathered in the late morning at ‘Chajju’s’ lassi shop kept itself busy till late afternoon. And you know very well thatLucknowwallahs won’t disturb their siesta even if all hell broke loose. Whatever might be the case, no one came to bother the Nawab till about dusk.

While its true that bad time comes unannounced for but even this is fair to say that when it does come it has a tendency to linger on. It was when the servants had just begun to light up the lamps that Mirza Aalam Begh from Aga Mir ki Dyodhi came along. His face which sparkled as the moon suggested that he would have laughed out loud even in his dreams. Somehow our Nawab had a feeling that the shine on Mirza’s face had its source embedded in his own ridicule. Upon seeing Mirza, the Nawab put himself on high alert mode mentally  readying  himself for an offensive as soon as he was provoked. Mirza offered a ‘paan’ upon entering the room and in an heart wrenching tone questioned “What have you done My Lord? What will become ofLucknownow ?”

Our Nawab had reached the height of his patience. For a moment he felt as if he will reach out and scratch Mirza’s face. But the very instance he put himself into action the souls of his Lucknowi forefathers started to beckon him. They reminded him of the culture that had been the hallmark of his Nawabi legacy.  They advised him to treat this episode as Mirza’s foolhardy and God’s will and assured him of a place in heaven for this gesture. As there wasn’t much choice left our Nawab got a hold on himself and said “ What to say Mirza ? Nothing happened to your Lucknow when the British forces paraded Jan e Alam ( a title of Wajid Ali Shah) in the whole city as if in some circus and we are talking of just a lifeless and unfortunate Sword here” Mirza guessed the sarcasm in the Nawab’s words but he had an incomplete task at hand so he said “ So what Happened ?”

Nawab felt a bout of Giddiness as he heard these words again – He was tired of telling the true tale of a fake sword in which he was a fool and a devil at the same time. His hands wanted to kill someone but his heart stopped him in his tracks. He summoned all his courage and said “ My dear friend I knew very well that the eyes of the whole world and especially those of my unfaithful servants were on my ancestral Sword therefore I had kept it locked in seven chains with utmost care and precaution.I am not sure from where these off springs of Sultana Dacoit have come who dared to steal it even from such great safety. I must warn you Mirza that this city is no more safe for God fearing people like you and me. You must tread with caution now onwards.”

Mirza went into a deep thought and scratching his beard spoke after some time “ Nawab Sahib if I were you then I would have never kept such a precious thing at such an obvious location.I would have hidden it in such an innovative place that the thieves would have kept wondering where the hell does the sword go after the evening. Would have kept it in the grain warehouse, hidden within a sack of rice or something.  Who would have thought that I would have kept it there. Those morons cannot think beyond the obvious so they would have gone and broke the locks of my safety locker only to find a note written by me – Mister have some almonds for the development of your brains. I keep idiots like you in my pocket and sometimes gobble them up along with other nuts.” Aslam’s face had malice written all over it. He went on –

Now since you have played marbles with me and you are quite deft at handling the kites as well I assumed that someohow even you would be as smart as me. But I was wrong – Kiddish pranks can no way help one evolve to an intellect of a high order. Anyways whatever had to happen has happened.I would like to take your leave now but I must submit that I am greatly shamed.”

If Munshi had disgraced the Nawab , Mirza had gone a step further and completely vandalized the Nawab’s vanity.Our Nawab looked at the heavens and pleaded “ O Allah will I ever get a respite from this predicament?”

The next morning someone again knocked a the Nawab’s door.The servants informed that the Kotwal wanted to have an audience with the Nawab. They would bring him over if the Nawab wished to see him. What could  our Nawab say – he knew that he wasn’t destined for deliverance yet. Very soon the Kotwal was seated in front of the Nawab posed the same old query – How did the sword vanish !!

Nawab Mairajuddaula was angel like but was not exactly an angel. All human follies had found their way into his being for example Anger, desperation, hate, even madness…..his face turned fiery and he started to give a statement in an almost taunting manner. He screamed “ Mister Kotwal it so happened that I had had enough of the sword and I therefore thought it would be good if I can kill myself with it. In the heat of the moment I forced the sword into my chest and lay down on the bed. But when I woke up in the moning I found that while I remained the Sword had gone. Would you kindly tell what should be done now ?

The Kotwal was dumbstruck for a while and then he started pondering over the matter. In an probing tone he told the Nawab “ Sir I think you made a grave error of judgment by trying to kill yourself in this manner. The thief must have come in when you were lying slayed on your bed. To figure out if you were you were unconscious or asleep he would have upturned your body only to find the Sword’s gleaming handle jetting out of your good self. Now he was no nincompoop , not aware of the value and glory of the sword. He would have judged that it’s better to get away with just the sword than to try and steel all the other petty and cheap stuff around your place. He would have pulled the Sword out and ran away thus sparing you your life.I sincerely believe that If only you would have put in a little more effort not only you would have been liberated but your ancestral legacy would have been saved too.”

Our Nawab was numbed by this piece of investigation.He felt as if everything around him had frozen in time. All he could hear was a faint voice of a courtesean from some far away place.It was probably Ghlaib’s poetry :

ये कहां की दोस्ती है के बने हैं दोस्त नासेह्, कोई चारागार होता कोई गमगुसार होता

हुए  मर के हम जो रुसवा हुए क्यों ना गर्के दरिया, ना कहीं जनाज़ा उठता ना कहीं मज़ार होता……

What friendship is this that offers just advice, would rather have someone wipe my tears or share my sadness

It would have been better if I had drowned to death, at least there wouldn’t have been a trace in the form of my coffin or grave

~ आहंग

**Someone had narrated me this incident as a joke in short. I felt that justice needs to be done to the attitude of Lucknowites and so thought of presenting the longish version. I would be glad if you liked reading it and if you didn’t I don’t really care !!

Lucknow Boy – Book review

Its been a while since I put up a book review on my blog. I was compelled by a feeling of utter disappointment to do this one. Lucknow Boy is a memoir of much celebrated Editor of Outlook Mr. Vinod Mehta to whom my alma mater Lucknow university bestowed the life time achievement award last year.

I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Mr Mehta but nevertheless I have intently heard the debates on TV in which he is participating as I have felt that he is one of the few sane voices in a medium infested with the ‘ sound bite’ disease. Journalists today are the a bunch of ill informed megalomaniacs and psuedo intellectuals peddling their stale wares to an equally dumb franchisee. I thought Vinod was different till I read his memoir. I still hope that I am wrong and he was just ill advised by some of his media savvy friends in turning his observations of himself into a rant on Indian public life aka tamasha we all love to hate. What really put me off was that someone of Mr Mehta’s wit,stature and intelligence could not figure it out. The only excuse I can muster is that he himself did not bother to read the 500 odd pages from start to finish else he would have shared the disgust I was subjected to.

The book begins in Lucknow (obviously)  where the Young Vinod goes to La Martiniere  School. I must say that this was perhaps the most interesting part may be because till this time Mr Mehta was writing with a pen on his heart lost in the deep love,wonder  and nostalgia of childhood and youth. I could as would any other youngster of Lucknow identify with him perfectly. Lucknow is not only a city, it’s a character that grows on you until it becomes a part of how you Live,eat,pray and love. Lucknow Wallahs tend to create  a dream world of their own which has subtle humor, sarcasm, a laid back lifestyle, good food , great wine and lots of women ( mostly imagined). The world of a young Vinod along with the pranks and trials could be of anyone growing in a city that  defies all definition but remains charming in an odd way.

The story moves on as Mr. Mehta goes to England and is still readable and engrossing as you empathize with a small town boy finding a place in the big bad world full of intellectual Pseudisms   and societal pretensions. But this is where it was ‘ innocence lost’ and nothing gained for the young Mehta. The more He thought he found the world the more he started losing  himself.

Life is Mumbai and the stint with Debonair ( all of us grew up with it) was the last leg of the journey that warranted companionship.After this Mehta is on his own churning  a sagging tale of the various interactions he had with a milieu of corporate,business and political characters – some he won and some he lost but for the reader the plot started to dwindle to sorry little details of who drank what scotch and who screwed whom with all the soggy details thrown in.

By the time I was half away I  started skipping paragraphs.Since I did not find anything interesting especially in the context of a Memoir I will jump the details and highlight some of the stuff that Mr Mehta must take a note of. Being the Iconic editor that he is I am sure it will give him some pointers as to what went wrong :

1. Found it absolutely funny even out of place to see pages written about various celebrated personalities of India Sonia Gandhi dot dot : 4 pages, atal behari dot dot 4 Pages, Rahuil Gandhi !!!! who writes about Rahul Gandhi in his Memoir ??

The craziest thing was to try and belittle Amitabh Bachchan for his visits to temples for the good of his sons married life. Why did you do it ?? It was your memoir and I can promise you that Amitabh would never bother about a non entity like you in his Memoir. And by the way I bought the book to read about your journey not his.

I don’t know whether your wives – ex and current will bother to read what you have come up with but if they do they would be singularly disappointed to find a chapter about your Dog and not more than a line about either of them. Guess Dogs are more important than Soul mates.

Last but none the less the least and lowly was the bit about giving gyan on what to do to become a successful journalist and what not to do. Sir it is your life story not a Navneet ki Kunji for High school Exams. Passing out in third Division in arts stream from one of the most lowly ranked universities in the world If you could figure it out I can assure you that the future generations can as well do it – without your kind advice.

Agree  ?? My sincere suggestion is that you pull back all copies in circulation and rewrite the whole thing.This time all by yourself and strictly without the commercial advice of your publisher friends. You made your money, now make your mark….

Fortunately for me I picked up The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghssh on my return flight and was washed off from all my sins of the onward journey.

ये लखनऊ की सर ज़मी….

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/embed/CaMd28eEDlU“>

Ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye rang-roop kaa chaman
ye husn-o-ishq kaa watan
yahi to wo muqaam hai
jahaan Awadh ki shaam hai
jawaan-jawaan haseen-haseen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen

 

shabaab-o-sher kaa ye ghar
ye ahl-e-ilm kaa nagar
hai manzilon ki god mein
yahaan har ek rah-guzar
ye shahar laaladaar hai
yahaan dilon mein pyaar hai
jidhar nazar uthaaiye
bahaar hi bahaar hai
kali-kali hai naazneen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen

 

yahaan ki sab rawaayaten
adab ki shaahkaar hain
ameer ahl-e-dil yahaan
ghareeb jaan-nisaar hain
har ek shaakh par yahaan
hain bulbulon ke chahchahen
gali-gali mein zindagi
kadam-kadam pe kahkahen
har ik nazaaraa hai dilnasheen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen
ye Lucknow ki sarzameen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4/172 Vivek Khand….

This is about 25 years back when Life was simple without the internet and the gadgets.My world was like an episode out of  the “Wonder Years” in which life constantly presented itself  in all the myriad shades of growing from a child to a young adult.

On a chilly January evening after coming back from work, my father announced that we would be moving out of our official quarters to a new house in the suburbs.Well the very idea of leaving our home of 16 years seemed quite alien but we were excited about the fact we will be moving to a larger place with a park in the vicinity.

Once the house number 4/172 Vivek khand was allotted to us , my father started the work  for making some extra rooms and a staircase to the terrace.Sometimes I would accompany him on his Lambretta Scooter all the way to the site to oversee the work.He said he wanted me to know the ways of the world and to learn how to deal with all the contractors, electricians and plumbers.I was not sure about the idea and if the skill set ever came handy but nevertheless those trips were quite interesting , almost filling me with a sense of accomplishment each time we rode back after a hard days work. May be he wanted me to just tag along for some company.Whatever may be the case ,it kind of bonded me to my father like no other time as Fathers were tough those days unlike now.

One thing that I distinctly remember about those early trips to 4/172 is the heavenly taste of puris and salted pumpkin pudding that my mom used to pack with us for lunch.I have never felt more hungry and nothing has satiated my pallate better.I think it was the sheer pleasure of building our home to be along with the physical labor involved which created such a magical feast.

Another vivid memory is that of me and my friend cycling all the way from Nirala Nagar to Gomti Nagar taking the longest route that went through the cantonment.Cantonment was our favorite detour with its greenery ( pun intended),wide open roads  and a burger at Rover’s cafe thrown in.Cycling was our best past time and we wondered as clouds anywhere and everywhere that we could pedal to.Roaming around 10 -12 kms everyday was piece of cake.Our parents were not aware of our escapades but that’s the way I learnt most of my human qualities – being by yourself, endurance, patience , a sense of wonder and most of all companionship without dialogue.That’s the thing about living – you get your real education from things you are refrained from doing.

In a span of 6 months the house got ready and after the customary puja we moved in around the summer time.The house was nothing opulent and it would qualify as a rather humble place to live.Those days there were no fancy names to the apartments and they were classified based on the social strata they housed.We had a mini MIG which meant that the house just felt short of us being in the middle income group.It was a contradiction in terms as my father used to fall in the top slot of Gazzetted officers in the central govt. Somehow we never questioned this at that time as most of my friends had similar abodes.

Gomti Nagar was a deserted place back in 1987 and we were the 5th family to have moved in into what was pegged as Asia’s biggest colony.Later when I traveled to other parts of Asia I figured out why ? It had got nothing to do with the superior vision of the creators of Gomti nagar but it was just that the other countries had a culture of multi storied apartments structured differently to let Gomti Nagar bask in the glory. Now for the last so many years summers had been one of the most active periods of the year for us with food,friends,thums up et al.But the new house had only food and thms up , no friends.Thankfully my old friends came to my rescue and they started dropping in from the city quite frequently.Soon our house in Gomti Nagar became a destination by itself for friends looking for a drive out of the city and a quite place with lonely spots to smoke.

I have no particular memories of anything bad about 4/172 except that when my grandfather passed away.Soon after we moved in he had started feeling unwell and was keeping low grade fever for some time.I didn’t know at that time but he had been diagnosed with cancer.I was always very close to my grandfather and the memory of his body kept on the floor in front of our drawing room is still quite fresh.The place had black and white marbles placed next to each other as in a chess board and I had this weird feeling of loosing out. The smell of roses and Incense mixed with chants of the Geeta is something that got so deeply etched in my senses that to date I relate everything sacred to it.That’s perhaps the only time I have seen my father crying like an inconsolable child.I guess we grow up one last time when we loose our parents and that’s it.Now that I think of why I never took this incident as something that disturbed me is perhaps that my grandpa had lived a full life and had passed away at a ripe old age with friends and family by his side.He had his ups and down but then c’est la vie.

Life always finds newer way of manifesting itself and within a few years , the plants  in front of our house became trees.There was a Gulmohar and a bottlebrush which I particularly loved .And yes there was another Blue Bells creeper which grew so thick and lush that it covered the entire facade of our house including the balcony of the first floor and my rooms window. I would not be completely wrong if I compared my house of then to some fairy tale dwelling in the woods with blue and orange flowers hanging upside down or may be downside up.Each time my mom wanted to chop off the trees or the creeper for want of sunshine all three of us kids would stand in the way.Finally she got so flustered that she said fine if that’s how you guys want it then so be it.

4/172 had a small 10 X 10 room on the way to the terrace and I had rightfully occupied it for the convenience and solitude that my youthful experiments warranted. I had a big poster of OSHO at the back of the door which was soon given company by another one of Jim Morrison.I imagine what they would be telling each other when I wasn’t there – Jibberish ???. To this date both continue to shape my being but in those days I used to just idolize them like a stony eyed believer.Through this room opened the vast vistas of the terrace which was our own after everyone went to sleep and the doors downstairs were locked.At the pretext of “combined” studies me and my friends would stay put so we could smoke our heart out and have swigs from the ‘tadka’ beer bottle laced with whiskey so it gave a faster and stronger kick.When you are almost loosing consciousness,gazing at the infinite darkness with the stars twinkling  through represents such a twilight zone I tell you !! Most of the times we would get incoherent trying to impress each other with some half cooked philosophy of life.If rebel is the word then I was every bit of it I believe.I feel I am still quite a renegade except having been tied down to the certainties of a gathered past.

Huh ! We had the best of times and we had the worst of times in 4/172.There are so many memories of celebrating holi with our friends on the terrace – Roadhouse blues, Colors, Beer and pure madness.I am sure our neighbors too can recall those days with fondness now as the horror of seeing ghost like half naked young men running wildly has gone past.We were two of us brothers and with just a couple of years between we shared a lot of common friends.In fact when I ‘dropped’ for appearing in engineering exams we started sharing the same class for certain subjects in the University.His friends became my friends and my friends became his pals so that the dividing line became thinner until it disappeared completely.For 4/172 this was something very special as given our ‘friendly’ disposition it became the unofficial hostel of the Science department of Lucknow University. Things grew so informal that during exam time when we got completely engrossed to figure out ‘what was which’ that people would’nt even mind cooking and cleaning the kitchen when my mom was doing Puja or had gone out.Sounds of ‘ abe Chandu chai bana be’  or ‘ Pilav mast bana hai dost, thoda achar dena’ still reverberate in my head when I think of it.The phone oh how can I forget the phone ! The Black Plastic thing  used to ring just incessantly.Most calls would have the caller answer at the other end but not always.We figured out that everyone in Botany Department was not so open about their identity when it came to strangers ! My father got completely harassed with this situation  and started wondering ‘who’s line is it anyway’ quite literally !! His warning of plugging out his sources and disconnecting the phone went unheard so he finally charted out a treaty that aimed at not only bringing peace to the household but also to limit the bill to a minimum.

From the command station at 4/172, where at any given time a multitude of vehicles of all shapes and sizes were parked were governed most of the social activities for the youth of Lucknow.From rock concerts to fashion shows to youth festivals and even election campaigns were planned and executed with precision and finesse. Debates were practiced, songs were rehearsed, ammunition was smuggled in and romance was given a patient hearing …all under one roof. My room on the terrace became the nerve center of activity and after sometime our parents stopped bothering themselves with who came in and who went out.

As we passed out of  the university things became a little serious as we started to think about stuff such as jobs and a career.But they didn’t become as dull till I had to go out New Delhi in search of  work .I realized very soon that life was tougher than what we had thought and to survive in a metro one would need a little more than a golden heart and some smart chips.The innocence of childhood and the rebellion of youth  died  as they were sacrificed at the harsh and cold altar of reality.I am sure a similar transformation happened for all my friends too.As they say in hindi movies ” Munna aisa bhaga ki bhagta hi raha,bhagta hi raha….”

I feel 4/172 stopped being itself as we moved out of Lucknow even though we continued to visit as frequently as we could. Our marriages were performed, kids were born and festivals were celebrated on the fast track of limited days of leave so I could never feel the same peace of being at home and 4/172 distanced itself from being a participant to being a mere spectator of events.The nag of leaving ‘home’ that was 4/172 always lingered.I would compare it to a relationship that you know is dying either due to lack of proximity or the absence of togetherness or both.

Over the years the frequency of my visits has gone lower and the duration of my trips has become shorter, but each time I am at the doors of 4/172 I wonder how life would have been if my relation ship with it had not changed.

I guess both me and my ‘permanent address’ will have to live long enough to know the truth.Until then I guess these lines from Wajid Ali Shah would hold true :

दर ओ दीवार पे हसरत से नज़र करते हैं, खुश रहो एहले वतन हम तो सफर करते हैं…

नवाबी तलवार…

एक मर्तबा लखनऊ शहर में एक उजडे नवाब हुआ करते थे. नाम था मिराजुद्दौला. उनकी तारीफ यूं तो क्या  थी सिवा इसके कि बाप दादों की रियासत का मज़ा लूटते थे पर हां  यही बात अगर आप हमसे उनके सामने पूछ्ते तो हमारा जवाब ज़हिर तौर पर ये होता  कि साहब जितनी की जाये कम है !

अब नवाब कह दिया तो ये तो साफ ही हो गया कि कोई काम काज तो मियां मिराजुद्दौला क्या ही करते होंगे पर हां इसका ये मतलब कतई नही निकलता उनकी मसरूफियत में कोई कमी थी. नसीमो सुबह से गुफ्तगू करने और गुसल फरमाने के बाद नवाब साहब  बाकयदा दीवानखाने में तख्तनशीं हो जाया करते और शाम होने तलक कौम के तमाम इखलाकी और तम्यद्दुन्नी मसलों में दखल दिया करते. चूंकि उनकी नसीहतें ज़रा ओछी और कमतर हुआ करती थी सो  वो  आलिम फाज़िल कम किस्सा  गो  के तौर पर  ज़्यादा मशहूर हो गये थे.खैर बद्नाम हुए तो  क्या नाम ना हुआ…..

अरे हां उनकी मकबूलियत कि एक वजह ये भी थी उनके बावर्ची जैसे लज़ीज़ कबाब और पराठे सारे लखनऊ शहर में और कोई नहीं बनाता  था.एक बार तो हमारे पर दादा जान की किस्मत का तारा भी चमका था ,क्या बतायें आज तलक हमारे खानदान में सबकी उंगलियां पतली हुआ करती हैं.

हुज़ूर यूं तो नवाब मिराजुद्दौला की करामातों के तमाम  किस्से आप चौक की गलियों में गोलियां खेलते लौंडों से सुन सकते है पर जो किस्सा हम आज आपको  सुनायेंगे वो सबसे अलग और अहम है.लीजिये संभालियेगा…

तो जनाब हुआ यूं  कि  एक रोज़  नवाब साहब ज़रा हवा  खाने  को निकले तो उनकी  सवारी  का रुख    नख्खास  की  तरफ  हो गया. लखनऊ शहर में नख्खास जो था वो पुरानी और नायाब चीज़ों के लिये  मशहूर हुआ करता था. दबी ज़बान में तो लोग ये भी  केहते थे कि वहां बहुत सा मालो असबाब वो होता है जिसके मालिक का कोई अता पता न हो. आप चाहें तो इसे चोर बज़ार कह सकते हैं पर हम नहीं कहेंगे. अब जिस जगह पर नवाब साहब की आमोदरफ्त  हो उसे हम कैसे कह दें कि वो चोर बज़ार है.आखिर शराफत भी कोई चीज़  है.बहरहाल घूमते घामते नवाब साहब की नज़र एक ऐसी चीज़ पर पडी जिसका इस्तेमाल उनके बाप दादों ने भी नहीं किया था पर हां वो चीज़ ऐसी थी कि उनके रुतबे और मिजाज़ केमुताबिक थी. जी हां वो थी एक तलवार. आप सोचते होंगे कि कौन सी बडी बात है ,पर थी बडी बात और नहीं थी तो बनाई जा सकती थी.

सौदा हुआ और आनन फानन में तलवार नवाब की कोठी में आ गयी और दीवानखाने की दीवार पर सजा दी गई. कहा गया कि ये बडी नायाब और बेशकीमती तलवार है जो नवाब साहब को  अपने पुर्खों से मिली है. अब तलवार लोहे की और नौकर नवाब के कौन केहता कि नहीं ऐसा नहीं है या ये सरासर झूट है.नवाब साहब के वफादार नौकर चाकर एकदम इस खबर को मशहूर करने में लग गये कि कोठी में एक ऐसी नायाब चीज़ है कि जिसके देखे बगैर अगर अल्ला मियां को प्यारे हो गये तो समझो गये दोनों जहान से. लिहाज़ा लखनऊ की गलियों में एक वलवला सा उठ्ठा और तमाम लोग कोठी की ओर रोज़  कूच  करने  लगे. तलवार जितना देखने की नहीं उतना सुनने की चीज़ थी और वो इसलिये कि नवाब साहब खुद उसके जलवों की  दास्तान आने वालों को पेश किया करते थे. देखते ही देखते तलवार लखनऊ की  शान  बन गयी. ये वो तलवार थी जिसमे बेश्कीमती हीरे और जवहेरात लगे हुए थे, ये वो तलवार थी जिससे नवाब साहब के मरहूम दादा जान ने कम से कम सैकडों दुशमनों को  मौत से जलवागर करवा दिया था,ये वो तलवार थी जिसे मलिका ए इंग्लिस्तान किसी कीमत पर हथियाना चाहेती थीं, ये वो  तलवार थी जिसने ना जाने कितनी बार लखनऊ की इज़्ज़त और अस्मत को लुटने से  बचाया था, ये वो तलवार थी जिसे आखों से लगा कर होठों से चूमना  हर शहरी और सच्चे वतन परस्त का फर्ज़ था. ये तलवार पुर्खों की  विरासत और आने  वाली नस्लों की  अमानत थी.

बस यूं समझ लीजे कि दीदार ए काबा के बाद अगर कुछ था तो वो था दीदार ए तलवार ए मिराजुद्दौल.और इसके लिये कहीं दूर जाने की जहमत भी नहीं उठाना थी.

पर अनहोनी को भला  कौन टाल सकताहै ? वही हुआ जो ना होना चाहिये था – नवाब  की  तलवार चोरी हो गयी.

सुस्त शहरों मे सनसनी जल्दी फैलती है और ये तो लखनऊ था. चोरी की खबर ऐसी बिजली की तरह चमकी कि तमाम शहर के बाशिंदों मे करंट दौड गया. एक एक करके लोग मिजाज़पुर्सी के लिये नवाब की कोठी में  आने लगे.

सबसे पहले तशरीफ लाये लाला गनपत राय. मुंह लटकाये कुछ इस तरह से दीवानखाने में दाखिल हुए कि जैसे अभी अभी समूची रियासत अंग्रेज़ों के नाम कर आये हों.खैर लखनऊ में गम मनाने का भी एक सलीका हुआ करता है. ये नहीं कि लगे छाती पीट पीट के चिल्लाने. आहिस्ता से करीब आकर अपने पानदान से निकाल कर तम्बाक,ज़र्दे,केसर और ज़ाफरान वाली गिलौरी पेश की जाती है और जब आप बाकायदा यूं शरीक़ हो जायें तो हाथों में हाथ लेकर पूछा जाता है कि ‘ मियां ये कैसे हुआ ?’

यही नफासत है जो हम लखनऊ  वालों को दूसरो तो बेसलीका, जाहिल और गवांर समझने पर मजबूर कर देती है.

बहरहाल ये बातें सीखने में तो आपकी की कई नस्लें गुज़र जायेंगी सो हम किस्से को आगे बढाते हैं. तो लाला ने जब रसमन नवाब का हाथ अपने हाथों मे लिया और इस हिमाकत का हाल पूछा तो नवाब की आंखे डबड्बा आईं. ये भी ज़रूरी था वर्ना लाला को लगता कि हमारे हाल पूछने में वो गर्मी वो शिद्दत नही थी जो होना चाहिये थी.रुंधे गले से पान को कोने में दबाते हुए नवाब ने अर्ज़ किया:

अमां कल रात जब सोने गये तो यहीं इसी दीवार पर टंगी थी पर जब सुबह उठे  तो क्या देखते है कि तलवार गायब है.

यहीं  तो चूक गये आप ” लाला ने फरमाया.” हम  तो आपको निहायत ज़हीन और काबिल समझते थे पर आपने तो हमें अपनी राय बदलने पर मजबूर कर दिया.अब देखिये ये कोई मामूली चीज़ तो थी नहीं कि दीवार पर खुला टांग दिया और सो  गये.पुर्खों की अमानत को भला यूं संभाला जाता है. पर वही बात है कि जो नियामत इंसान को नाहक़ मिल जाती है वो उसकी कद्र नहीं समझ पाता.काश ये विरासत हमें बक्शी गयी होती तो आखों से चूम  कर माथे से लगाते .बंदर क्या जाने अदरख का स्वाद…….

अब नवाब खामोश न रह सके और ज़रा तुनक कर बोले ‘ लाला आप अपने जामे से बाहर आ रहे हैं.’ लाला ने बात संभाली ‘अरे आप तो यूं ही खफा हो गये ,हम तो चोर के लिये कह रहे थे. जाके बेच देगा किसी ऐरे गैरे को औने पौने कहीं नक्खास वक्खास में’. नवाब सोचने लगे बला जहां से  आयी थी वहीं पहुंच जायेगी,कौन बडी बात है.

खैर  लाला को जैसे तैसे रवाना  कर के अभी  नवाब  ने  एक  गिलास खस  का  शर्बत तलब ही किया था  कि  मुंशी  टेकचन्द  की आमद  हुई. आते  ही सबसे पेहले  तो हजरत ने  शर्बत पर  अपना हक़ जमा दिया और फिर  दाग दिया वही अशलील सवाल – मियां ये हुआ कैसे ? नवाब के  जी में  तो आया कि कह दें कि  खुदा का शुक्र  है कि तलवार चोरी हो गयी नहीं तो आप का कत्ल तो आज हमारे  हाथों  तय थे. पर क्या करते लखनवी  तेह्ज़ीब का बोझ नवाब के दिल ओ दिमाग से होते हुए अब उनके  वजूद पर्  कुछ इस तरह  भारी हो  चुका था कि चाहते तो भी उसे  उतार कर फेंक नहीं  सकते थे. मुस्करा कर बोले ‘ साहब क्या बताएं बुरा वक़्त बता कर तो आता नहीं  और हमारी फितरत भी कुछ यूं  है कि  सब पर  यकीन  कर लेते हैं. इतना एह्तियात तो हमनें  बरता था कि शाम को सोने से पेहले तलवार जो यूं तो दीवार पर सजी रेहती थी हमनें अपने  सिरहाने रक्खी और सो गये. हकीम साहब ने फर्माया था कि लोहा तकिये के नीचे रखने से बुरे  ख्वाब भी  नहीं  आते’. ये कह कर नवाब  ने सोंचा कि  अगर मुंशी मेरी कहानी  के कायल हो गये तो बस कल नौकरों  एक एक रुक्का लिख कर जारी कर देंगे और कह देंगे कि भई  ये रहा किस्सा  ए तलवार अब हमारी जान छोडो.

पर  वो गलत थे एकदम गलत …

मुंशी  बोले – अमां  ये क्या हरकत कर दी आपने हुज़ूर ! हम तो  आपको तमाम लखनऊ शहर की  दिमागी तरक्की  का  मुहाफिज़  समझते थे और आपने तो बस हमारा सारा भरम ही तोड  दिया. मियां इतने  सयाने तो आज  कल चौक के लौंडे हो गये हैं , जानते हैं  कि तिमारदारों  कि  कौम अब भरोसे के  कतई काबिल नहीं  रही. वो ज़माने  हवा हो गये जब वफादार मालिक की एक  नज़र पर जान पेश कर दिया करते थे. अब तो ज़रा चूक हुई नहीं कि ये लोग आखों  से सुरमा उतार लें. और् फिर  ये तो तलवार थी वो भी खानदानी –  हीरे जवाहेरात उसमें जडे हुए , मशहूर औ मारूफ , बच्चा बच्चा जिसके किस्से बयान  करते नहीं  थकता और आप हैं  कि बस यूं  ही सो गये तकिये के नीचे रख कर ! अरे हकीम साहब का दिल रखने का इतना ही शौक़ था तो बावर्ची खाने से कोई चाकू –  वाकू मंगवा लिया होता या फिर गुलाम को जहमत को जहमत दी होती.आपकी जेहनी खैरियत के लिये हम तोपखाने से किसी मरियल घोडे  की  नाल ले आये होते. दरोगा साहब हमारे जानने वालों मे शरीक़ होते हैं और हम अगर  आपकी  दिमागी हालत का वास्ता देते तो हमें  यकीन है कि वो हमें  मायूस न  करते’. नवाब बहुत झुंझलाये , समझ गये कि  मुंशी भिगो भिगो के जूती साफ  कर रहे हैं पर क्या करते तलवार और तेह्ज़ीब का मामला था.

डांट  कर नौकर तो ललब किया – ‘अमां फुक्कन मिया मुंशी साहब कोई खाली बगैर काम काज के नहीं  हैं  कि सारा दिन आपका इंतेज़ार करते रहें. अगर काहिली छोड  कर कुछ पका लिया हो तो लेते आइये वर्ना कम से कम एक कप चाय ही पेश कर दीजिये जो हम सीलोन से लाये थे’. फिर वो धीरे से बोले – ‘क्या करें सब कम्बखत मुंह लगे हैं सुनते ही नही. ना बात का ढंग है ना काम का सलीका.’ मुंशी समझ गये कि तीर निशाने पर लगा है लगा है और ये बातें नौकरों की जानिब से उन्हें सुनाई जा रही हैं. शराफत और खैरियत दोनों के  मद्दे नज़र उन्होंने ये ही मुनासिब समझा कि वहां से फूट लिया जाये. वैसे भी चौक में लस्सी के  ठेके के लिये बहुत मसाला जमा हो गया था.

नवाब खुश थे.ऊपर  वाले के करम से दोपहर के खाने के वक़्त लोगों ने उन्हें तन्हा छोड  दिया. पर असलियत तो ये थी कि छ्ज्जू की लस्सी की दुकान पर नवाब का मखौल उडाने वालों  की जो महफिल जमी वो दोपहर के खाने तक चलती रही. और आप जानते  हैं कि खाने के बाद तो लखनऊ वाले अगर क़यामत बर्पा हो जाये तो भी ना उठ्ठें. हाल फिलहाल झुटपुटे तलक नवाब को  परेशान करने कोई ना आया.

बुरा वक़ बता कर नहीं आता ये तो ठीक है पर ये बात भी दुरुस्त है कि  बुरा वक़्त आसानी से टलता भी नहीं.अभी  कारिंदे श्म्माओं  को  रौशन कर ही रहे थे कि आगा मीर की ड्योढी से  मिर्ज़ा असलम बेग तशरीफ ले  आये. उनके चांद से चमकते रुख्सार से ये साफ बयां हो रहा था कि दिन भर किसी मटरगश्ती से चूर होकर कुछ ऐसा सोये होंगे कि ख्वाब में में भी ज़ोर ज़ोर से हंस रहे होंगे.ना जाने क्यों पर  नवाब को यकीन था जो नूर  मिर्ज़ा के नूरानी चेहरे से टपक रहा था उसमें उनकें खिल्ली का कतरे खून बनकर तैर रहे थे. मिर्ज़ा को देखते ही वो एकदम चौक्कन्ने हो गये और कुछ ऐसे बैठ गये जैसे कि मिर्ज़ा के वार करते ही उनपर टूट  पडेंगे. मिर्ज़ा ने दीवानखाने में घुसते ही पान पेश किया और बहुत ही अफसोस भरी अलबत्ता रोनी सूरत बना कर कहा -‘हुज़ूर  ये क्या कर दिया. अब लखनअऊ का क्या होगा ‘?

नवाब  अब सब्र की इंतेहां  तक पहुंच चुके थे. उन्हें एक पल ऐसा लगा कि वो मिर्ज़ा का मुंह नोच लेंगे. पर इसे अंजाम देने के लिये ज्यों ही वो हरकत में आये आसमानों से उनकें लखनवी पुर्खों की रूह उन्हें सदाएं देने लगी. कहने लगी कि मिराज़ जो शराफत के पुतलों  का खिताब हमारी नस्लों को अता किया जाता रहा है उसकी तौहीन मत करो. इसे मिर्ज़ा की नादानी और अल्ला की मर्ज़ी समझ कर जज़्ब कर जाओ. जन्नत में तुम्हारी जगह हम पक्की किये रहेंगे. मरता क्या ना करता नवाब ने खुद को खुदा के लिये संभाला और बोले -‘अमां लखनऊ तो तब भी बलंद और क़ायम रहा जब फिरंगी जाने ए आलम ( नवाब वाजिद अली शाह का एक खिताब) को श्हर की सडकों पर लिये घूमते रहे जैसे कि बंदर का खेल हो , ये तो बेचारी एक बेजान , बे जबान तलवार थी.’ नवाब के मिज़ाज़ की तल्खी को मिर्ज़ा भांप गये मगर अब जिस काम को आये थे उसे तो अंजाम देना ही था. सो बोले – ‘हुआ क्या था ???’

नवाब  को ऐसा लगा जैसे वो गश खाके गिर जायेंगे – झूटी तलवार के लुटने की सच्ची दास्तान जिसमे वो आधे अहमक़ थे और आधे शैतान अब उनसे और झेली नही जा रही थी. हाथ कत्ल करने पर अमादा थे पर दिल उन्हें उनकी शराफत का वास्ता देकर रोक देता था. अपनी सारी हिम्मत तलब करके बोले – ‘अरे साहब अब क्या कहें हम तो ये बात अच्छी तरह जानते थे कि तमाम ज़माने की , खास कर कि हमारे नमक हराम नौकरो की नज़र हमारी पुश्तैनी तलवार पर है सो हमने बडे एह्तियात से मयान मे डाल कर तहखाने में  तिंजोरी में सात तालों में बन्द करके रक्खा था. ना जाने कहां से सुल्ताना डाकू के अंडे बच्चे शहर में आ गये है कि वहां से भी उडा ले गये.हम तो केहते हैं मिर्ज़ा अब ये शहर हमारे आपके जैसे शरीफों  के लिये महफूज़ नहीं  रहा. ज़रूरी है कि आप भी ज़रा संभल के रहें.’

मिर्ज़ा  गहरी सोच में डूब गये और कुछ देर बाद दाढी पर हाथ फेरते हुए बोले -‘ नवाब साहब अगर हम आपकी जगह होते तो कभी इतनी ज़ाहिर सी जगह पर इस कदर नायाब चीज़ ना धरते. हम तो साह्ब ऐसी जगह छुपाते कि सात पुश्तें भी सुराग  ना लगा पातीं कि तलवार शाम होते होते ही जाती कहां है.रख देते चावलों के गोदाम में किसे बोरी में छुपा कर. किसका दिमाग इतना चलता कि हमारी होशियारी के  आगे अपनी चला पाता. वो तो ठहरे अकल के पैदल.मुल्ला की दौड मस्जिद तक, तिजोरी का ताला तोडते और अन्दर मिलता हमारे हाथों क लिखा पर्चा – मियां अभी बादाम खाओ, तुम्हारे जैसे लौंडे तो जेब में मोमफली के साथ रखते हैं और गाहे बगाहे चबा जाया करते हैं.’ असलम बेग के चेहरे में शैतान की सूरात साफ दिखायी दे  रही थी.वो आगे बोले –

‘अब  क्योंकि आप हमारे साथ कंचे खेले हैं और पतंग बाज़ी के पैंतरे भी जानते हैं हम समझे कि आप भी हमारी तरह ही तेज़ दिमाग से सोचेंगे.पर हम गलत थे लडकपन की मुराही जवानी की मुकम्मल दिमाग मे तब्दील हो ये ज़रूरी नहीं है. खैर जो हुआ सो हुआ, हम अब रुक्सत चाहेंगे … बडा अफसोस हुआ.’

मुंशी ने तो फिर भी जूते भिगो भिगो कर मारे थे मिर्ज़ा ने तो मारे दस गिने दो. “या अल्लाह ये कैसा फसाद पैदा कर दिया.इससे कभी निजात मिलेगी भी या नहीं.”

अगले  दिन सुबह सुबह दरवाज़े पर फिर दस्तक हुई. नौकरों ने आकर बताया कि कोतवाल साहब हाज़िर होना चाहते हैं कहिए तो लिवा लायें. नवाब क्या केहते – जान गये कि अभी उन्हें जल्दी मौत नहीं  आयेगी.कुछ ही देर मे कोतवाल साहब नवाब  मिराजुद्दौला के हुज़ूर में तशरीफ फर्मा थे. सवाल वही – तलवार कैसे चोरी हो गयी !!!!!!

नवाब मिराजुदौला फरिश्तों जैसे तो थे मगर फरिश्ते नहीं थे. उनमे वो सब कमियां मौजूद थीं जो अक्सर इंसानों में पायी जाती है मसलन गुस्सा , खीज, बदसलूकी,वहशत, दीवानापन ……. नवाब का चेहरा तमतमा गया और वो  जैसे बिराते हुए अपना बयान देने लगे. चिल्ला कर बोले – ‘कोतवाल साहब हुआ यूं  कि हम तलवार से बहुत तंग आ चुके थे सो हमने सोचा कि लाओ आज अपना काम इसी से ताम किये लेते हैं. आव  देखा ना ताव तलवार को अपने सीने में घोंप लिया और बिस्तरे पर लेट गये. सुबह देखा तो हम तो थे पर तलवार ना थी. अब बताइये कि क्या करें ?’

दरोगा जी ज़रा देर तो सकते में आ गये फिर सोचने लगे. थोडी देर बाद तफतीश के लहज़े उन्होंनें कुछ यूं दर्याफ्त किया – ‘आप गलती कर गये , हुआ यूं होगा कि जब आप तलवार को सींसे में घुसेड कर औंधे पडे होंगे तभी चोर आया होगा. उसने आपको बेहोश देखा होगा और सोचा होगा कि देखें सो रहे है या जग रहे हैं.ज़ैसे ही आपको पलटा होगा उसे तलवार की मुठ दिखायी दे गये होगी. उसने सोचा होगा दुनिया भर की चीज़ें लादने से अच्छा ये बेश्कीमत नगीना ही क्यों ना हथिया लिया जाये.तलवार को मुठ पकड कर खींचा होगा और ये जा वो जा.आपने अपने जांबाज़ पुर्खों का नाम लेकर ज़रा ज़ोर और लगाया होता तो आज आप भी शहीद हो चुके होते और आपके मरहूम दादाजान की निशानी भी रह जाती.’

नवाब अब कुछ और सोचने समझने के काबिल ना रह सके थे.आस पास का माहौल सुन्न सा हो गया और दूर किसी कोठे से रियाज़ की आवाज़ आने लगी. गालिब का कलाम था शायद  :

ये कहां की दोस्ती है के बने हैं दोस्त नासेह्, कोई चारागार होता कोई गमगुसार होता

हुए  मर के हम जो रुसवा हुए क्यों ना गर्के दरिया, ना कहीं जनाज़ा उठता ना कहीं मज़ार होता……

~ आहंग

** ये किस्सा बहुत अर्सा पेहले किसी दोस्त नें एक लतीफ के तौर पर शार्ट में सुनाया था. हमें लगा कि लखनऊ के मिजाज़ के साथ ज्यादती हुई है सो यहां अपने ब्लाग पर तफसील से बयान करने की हिमाकत की है.उम्मीद है कि आपको पढ कर मज़ा आयेगा और जो ना आये तो मेरी बला से….!

200 years of Hazratganj

On my recent trip to Lucknow I was on my way to chowk for some Chikan work shopping.I decided to take the route via governer house to hazratganj and then onwards to clarks awadh hotel, residency and medical college.

Hazratganj is usually crowded in the evenings but I have never seen anything close to the legendary traffic jams of bangalore.I was surprised to see the traffic stuck at the same place for some 15-20 minutes.The reason for this snarl… Hazratganj is getting a face lift for its 200th birthday.A welcome change for all of us who grew up in Lucknow and for whom ganjing was as special as going to Time Square in NY.

Papa’s car has no music system so waiting there for the traffic to make way ,I got carried back in time when this stretch of 1 km represented all that was hot and happening. Hazratganj was not only a market place , it was something to talk about and even flaunt to the poor cousins who visited from not so hep parts of the country.

Personally I have lots of memories and a few of them are quite vivid as if they happened just yesterday. It’s difficult to rank what I liked best but yes what comes to mind quite readily is my monthly, fortnightly and sometimes weekly visits to Mayfair. The cinema hall was a craze among movie lovers in Lucknow as it showed the latest English Movies in the Morning show.You could bump into almost anyone or hope to bump into almost anyone as you put your hand into the ticket window to collect tickets of “Pretty Women’. Another favorite haunt for college goers especially from the science department in Lucknow University was the Marksman restaurant. In those days it had the distinction of serving some  of the best Burgers,Pizzas and Omelette’s.Any given day you could see youngsters pooling in for a ‘dutch’ party to celebrate the last day of exam or some equally important occasion.And yes how can I forget Rovers cafe ?? For 10 bucks you could buy yourself a hot burger with a potato pancake and a slice of onion and cucumber stuffed carefully between the bread. If you were not broke already you could ask for a fanta or a thums up to go along watching the chicks as time stood still.Janpath was another place that allowed a casual stroll and plenty of window shopping.There was a magazine shop at the corner that sold the latest issues of Debo and all my friends would make sure to have a dekko before their Ganjing trip was over. My entire collection of ‘rock’ music was put together at shop called the Rhythm centre which was on the left side as you entered the Janpath premises.They used to record @ rs 2 per song for Hindi and Rs 5 for English.I guess the bias was still there from the times of Britishers and the snob shopkeepers had found a novel way to differentiate the sahebs from the Pariah.I cared for neither.One place that I used to frequent in the evenings was the Chat stall on the upper deck of Janpath. The genesis of being and the power of free will were debated for hours till it did not make sense anymore –  I am not sure if it was the depth of the discussion or the high of Old monk but that’s what it was.

The traffic started moving and I was transponded  back from my reverie. As I sped past the DM’s residence I reminded myself to take the turn and stop by to have Paan at SBI…..somethings will never change.

And it is for these things which will remain ‘unchanged’ I will keep coming back again and again and again !

 

Smile…You are in Lucknow !

Domes of Asafi Masjid at Bara ImamBara as seen from Teele waali masjid. Asafi ,as it was built by Asif ud Daula.

Teele Waali masjid stands next to Laal Pul(Red Bridge)on the banks of Gomti river.

The girl looking at you is Mushrat who is getting trained in the art of chikan kari under the expert eyes of her mother who is sitting besides her.

Chikan work is painstaking and tedious.Typically the girls will work for 6 hours every day for 26 days and they get paid just Rs 1000($25) for this.

A saree with intricate work on chiffon can take as many as 6 months to complete ! Several artisans work on the same piece day in and day out till it gets completed.I am sure that by the time its ready to be given back they form a kind of bond with the piece of clothing on which they have worked ceaselessly together.

The monotony of the job at hand is broken by friendly banter and chit chat among the women folk who will discuss their family woes and financials with their co workers.
Chewing Paan ( betel leaf and nuts) adds flavor and color to an otherwise dull scene.

The motifs are printed with Indigo blue so they can be washed off after the embroidery is done.They say that Chikan pieces face most testing conditions and travel from one place to another , much more than they would ever, once they are sold off.

Happiness is a state of mind for this poor Zardozi worker who takes pride in his work even though his remuneration is a pittance.

The back side of Roomi Darwaaza.The Rumi Darwaza, which stands sixty feet tall, was modeled after the Sublime Porte (Bab-iHümayun) in Istanbul.Made by Asif ud daula it has now become an icon for Lucknow.

Rumi gate as seen from Asafi mosque.The Rumi gate is named after Rumi the great Sufi saint of Turkey.The landscape around the gate was once very beautiful. In fact this was once the entrance to the walled city area of Lucknow. The gateway has been mentioned in various sources but the most famous one is considered to be the report published by one George Russell who worked as a reporter of The New York times in mid 19th century. Russell, who accompanied the victorious British Army in 1857 had called the stretch of road from Rumi Darwaza to Chattar Manzil the most beautiful and spectacular cityscape that he had ever seen, better than Rome, Paris, London or Constantinople.

That’s the Symbol of Oudh Kingdom which has now been adapted by the UP government as its official State Emblem.

Legend has it that during Akbar’s time Sheikh Abdur Rahim went to Delhi to seek his fortune.He returned to Lucknow as the Governor of Awadh and on his way back encountered the lucky sign of Mahi Muratib, while crossing the Ganges.Known as the Order of the Fish (“fish dignity” in Persian and Arabic), an honorary badge or dignity, shaped like a fish it is said to signify youth, bravery, perseverance and strength. Since then it was to be found on all great buildings and official documents as the royal insignia of the Nawabs of Awadh.

Second of the two gates which lead to Bara Imam bara.Notice the 4 balconies which are quite similar to those found at hawa mahal in Jaipur.

The front facade of Bara Imam bara built by Nawab Asif ud Daula who is buried here too.The design of the Imambara was obtained through a competitive process. The winner was an architect Kifayatullah, who also lies buried in the main hall of the Imambara. It is rather interesting that the sponsor and the architect lie buried besides each other.

The building was instituted to provide work to the famine stricken subjects of the Nawab.It is said that in day time ordinary people would construct the building and in the night kings and Noblemen would demolish the structure.

During this time the saying became famous :

जिसको ना दे मौला उसको दे आसिफ उद दौला

( whom the Gods don’t provide for is looked after by Asif ud Daula)

When courtiers brought this to the notice of Asif-ud-Daula, he was not very exactly pleased. His take was :

” आप मुझे मेरे मौला से ऊपर का दर्ज़ा नहीं दे सकते.ये गलत है.करनेवाला तो खुदा है, इंसान तो बस एक ज़रिया है.गर केहना ही है तो कहिये : जिसको दे मौला , उसी को दे असिफुद दौला (Asifud Daula  provides for those whom the God looks after)”


The Hussainabad Clock Tower, the tallest Clock Tower in India, is one of the finest examples of British Architecture in India. The 221-foot tall structure was erected by Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider to mark the arrival of Sir George Couper, 1st Lieutenant Governor of United Province of Avadh in the year 1887 at a cost of Rs. 1.75 lakhs. The contract for constructing the clock tower was given to James William Benson, the royal clock maker in England who made clocks for the queen of England.

The Clock Tower in Lucknow reaches upto a staggering height of 221 feet and is the tallest Clock Tower in India. The Clock tower also has the biggest fitted clock . Roskell Payne designed this lofty structure of 67 meter high and it reflects Victorian-Gothic style structural designs. Gunmetal is used for building the clock parts. It’s gigantic pendulum has a length of 14 feet and the dial of the clock is designed in the shape of a 12-petalled flower and bells around it. Sadly the clock has been dysfunctional for decades now.

Notice the Swan Bird at the very top which was probably a weathervane and gave the direction of the wind. Recently the head fell off and it is said to have weighed 13 Kgs !!

On a clear day one can see the city of  Cawnpore (Kanpur)from atop of this tower !!

The Chotta Imam baara was a place of worship for the begums who resided in the near by Chattar Manzil palace.As you enter from the elaborate gate there is the Shahi Hammam where the begums  performed Wuzoo ( cleansing before namaz).The Water came through pipes from Gomti River to the Husainabad Tank from where it was fed  to different areas of the royal residence.

If you are wondering about the Chain in the hands of this statuette ,its for conducting electricity in case of a weather storm so the buildings are safe.

The gate of Chotta Imam Bara.Notice the Anglo Gothic and Turkish design elements in its architecture.The arches are Turkish as found in the Taj Mahal and the Spires are Gothic as you would see in churches.

The Husainabad pond.It is said that when cornered by the british forces Sultana Daaku(bandit) jumped from the 67 meter high clock tower into this pond and escaped.My guide told me that these were stories concocted by the servants of the Noblemen to put the kids to sleep.Another version holds that he jumped straight away to his horseback from the top of the tower and escaped.I believe in both of them !

Wajid Ali Shah..the grandest of the Nawabs of Oudh.Known for his interest in fine arts he was himself a great poet and composer.Here are the lyrics of his famous thumri composed in raag Bhairavi:
बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए
बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए
चार कहार मिल, मोरी डोलिया सजावें (उठायें)
मोरा अपना बेगाना छूटो जाए | बाबुल मोरा …
आँगना तो पर्बत भयो और देहरी भयी बिदेश
जाए बाबुल घर आपनो मैं चली पीया के देश | बाबुल मोरा …
It was predicted that he would become a jogi and his poetry deeply reflects this state of mind.Another one of my favorite from Shatranj ke Khiladi :

तरप तरप सगरी रैन गुजरी , कौन देस गयो सांवरिया

भर आयीं अंखियां मदवारी , तरस तरस गयी चुनरिया ,

तुम्हरे घोडन मोरे द्वार से जो निकसे ,सुध भूल गयी मैं बांवरिया

तरप तरप सगरी रैन गुजरी , कौन देस गयो सांवरिया….

Another gem that he recited to his friends and followers at the time of leaving Lucknow for Metia Burj in Calcutta :

दरो दीवार पे हसरत से नज़र करते हैं , खुश रहो अहले वतन हम तो सफर करते हैं

With a yearning gaze I look at the doors  and the wall

I have to leave now but may God bless you all….

Noted Columnist Amaresh Mishra writes –

Wajid Ali Shah was an unusual man of an unusual time – when everything was possible he did the impossible.He preserved for posterity what it meant to be a true Asian in th best and worst of periods.Beneath the rapidly spreading tentacles of Western might and culture he upturned the very meaning of tradition to create a concept of Asiatic freedom.This was freedom that followed the mind and the heart according to the need of the situation.It did not take anything for granted believing in transitory nature of all phenomena.And yet it captured every moment in its entirety.

Wajid Ali Shah, in this form and content , was the greatest enemy of the British.He was the exact opposite of their puritanical,positivist, pugnacious and metaphysical value system.When they called him indolent , he involved the people in his sensual pleasures.When they termed in capricious,he shamed the British with his Humanism.Charged with over indulgence he institutionalized his love for Music,dance and Women.( The Parikhana was a hostel for girls training in Music and Dance)

The below conversation between Resident Outram and Captain Weston gives us a flavor of the paradox Wajid Ali Shah was.Not only his friends but his enemies too liked him.

Wajid Ali Shah gave Kathak its present form,invented several new ragas,wrote and composed Khayals and Thumris which his subjects embraced as their own and sang them in the streets of Lucknow.

He also invented Rahas a  blend of Urdu and Raas Lila of Brij which became the basis of the Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb.During his time the Hindus and Muslims blended together as One and it would have been difficult to convince either of them of a different way of life.

When his Mother the Queen of Awadh left for  London to plead with the Queen of England to give his Masnad back, the streets and lanes of Awadh cheered and prayed for their Jan e  Alam ( one who is loved by the whole world) :

हज़रत जाते हैं लन्दन , हम पर क्रुपा करो रघुनन्दन

( Our king is going to London,Help us O lord Rama)

The socio cultural fabric had Hindus and Muslims as its warp and weft interwoven in a manner that the hues of differentiation simply diffused to create something wondrous and Joyful.Holi and Diwali were Occasions of celebration and so was Id.Muslims composed Bhajans and Geets while Hindus wrote Ghazals and Nazms , quality and Bhaav being the only creteria.Same was the case of trade and commerce – Brahmins made sweets as they were good at it and making Itr was a Muslim domain as they did it better.Pandit and Maulvi engaged in debates on Ethics and religion not in a duel for one upmanship but to understand the true nature of creation and the beings in it.

Chattar Manzil palace by the banks of Gomti river which used to the abode of the Queens of the nawabs of Oudh.It now houses the prestigious Central Drug research institute which was inaugurated by PM Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1951 to pioneer drug research in India.

The famous Begum Hazrat Mahal resided at Chattar Manzil Palace and led the revolt against the British from here by appointing her 10 year old son as the Monarch.Her tomb is still there at Begum Hazrat Mahal Park which is home to many an event especially the Lucknow Mahotsav which has now moved Venue to a place outside the city.

I am sorry for not being able to capture many other monuments of this great city and also for the random nature of narration.You may enjoy being an aimless wanderer as much as I have while taking pictures and talking to folks on the city streets.

** All Pictures from my SONY cyber Shot