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 !!

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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

Life and times of Majaz Lucknowi

The postal department issued a postage stamp on Majaaz Lucknowi on 28th March 2008.He was remembered as a revolutionary poet who sang of love.

Asrarul Haq Majaz ,lovingly referred to as the Keats of urdu Poetry was born in 1911 in Rudauli,near Barabanki which is about 30 Kms from majaz-lucknowi2Lucknow (UP).He belonged to a well off family of Zamindars who moved to Lucknow and Majaz was brought up in this city of Nawabs with a flair for poetry and good things in life.

Majaz completed his B.A. at Aligarh Muslim University.A darling of poetry-lovers, Majaz was so popular among Girls   that they used to fancy him as their life partner and would say that if nothing works out I will name my son after him so I can remember him all the time.

He was the first Urdu poet who looked at woman as a partner and as a companion rather than just an object of beauty.He believed in equality of woman in all aspects of life and called upon them to start a revolution as one of his famous Ghazal suggets :

तेरे माथे पे ये आंचल बहुत ही खूब है लेकिन

तू इस आंचल को गर परचम (flag) बना लेती तो  अच्छा था

Majaz and Jazbi were the original voices of the ‘Progressive Writers’ movement that later brought Faiz, Sardar Jafri ,Sahir and scores of other poets along and for the first time turned poetry into an instrument of changing lives of masses.They also had a vital role to play in the independence struggle.

खून जो बह निकला है उस खून में बहा दो उनको

उनकी खोदी हुई खन्दक में गिरा दो  उनको

यह  तो हैं फितना ए बेदार दबा दो इनको

यह मिटा देंगे तम्मुदन(civilization) को मिटा दो इनको

No other generation of poets was as popular  as the young poets  during the ‘Progressive Writers’ Movement in the era of 1930s and 40s. The choice of words and the melody  of his poetry enthralled the audience and they wanted more and more of his kalaam( verse).
Majaz was an obvious choice when All India Radio Delhi started airing its programs post independance .He named the Urdu programme he hosted as ‘Awaaz’. It was during this time in Delhi that Majaz fell in love.Very little is known about who was the girl or what happened but she was from the high society is well established.Some say that she left him for an officer serving in the IAS and some say that she was already married.

बताऊं क्या तुझे ऐ हमनशीं किससे मोहब्बत है

मै जिस दुनियां में रहता हूं वो उस दुनियां की औरत है

कोई मेरे सिवा उसका निशां भी पा  ही नहीं सकता

कोई उस बारगाहे नाज़ तक़ जा ही नहीं सकता

As he lost out out in love, his heart was shattered completely and he left Delhi and came back to his watan (homeland)Lucknow.

रुख्सत ऐ दिल्ली ! तेरी मेहफिल से अब जाता हूं मैं

नौहां गर जाता हूं मैं ,नाला बालब ** जाता हूं मैं

*(with a sad song on my lips)

He got settled in Lucknow and along with his potery,his wit too became legendary. One famous incident which people narrate is :

To urge him to slow down on his drinking  Josh once told him

मजाज़ घडी रख कर पिया करो ,मैं बीस मिनट में एक पेग पीता हूं

To which Majaaz  in his inimitable style replied

घडी रख के पिया करूं जोश साहब ? मेरा बस चले तो मैं घडा रख के पिया करूं

People wanted to have the honour of drinking with the great poet. There is a scene in Movie Pyaasa in which Mr Ghosh the famous editor has araanged for such a Mehfil( gathering) in his house in which Majaaz has been invited along with Jigar Moradabadi to recite poetry.Vijay (Guru dutt) is serving wine to the guests when overwhelmed by Majaaz’s Ghazal he breaks down and starts singing ” Jaane woh Kaise log the  Jinke Pyaar ko Pyaar milaa”.It is a wonderful scene and I have it on my blog tiltled “हम पी भी गये छ्लका भी गये”

With pain in his heart his drinking went out of control and he became a declared alcoholic . He suffered his first nervous breakdown in 1940.He talked incoherently and  started asking money from friends and other acquaintances.His parents tried fixing up his marriage with a girl but at the last moment the girls’ father turned down the proposal as he had a reputation of being insane in the society. This lead to his second nervous breakdown in 1945 when he used to go around talking about his greatness – a megalomania of sorts.He would make a list of great poets and after Ghalib,Iqbal etc. he would put his own name .. he had to be admitted to an asylum in Ranchi.

Majaz recovered for the sake of his family and sisters (one of whom got married to Jaan Nisaar akhtar,father of Javed Akhtar)but life was never the same for him again.He could not relate to the world around him and so he became a loner and an introvert.He moved to Bombay for a while and started working there.He even tried to get some work in Films but the post-partition riots and the violence in Mumbai of which Majaaz was a witness moved him tremendously. Independence had not been able to fulfill the dreams of a poetic heart.Misery and injustice still ruled and only the power had changed hands.He never gave up his drinking and thought it to be his only companion till his life’s end.He said :

इस मेह्फिले कैफ ओ मस्ती में इस अंजुमन ए इरफानी में

सब जाम बक़फ बैठे ही रहे हम पी भी गये छ्लका भी गये

and he lamented it too ..

हम मैक़दे की राह से होकर गुज़र गये

वरना सफर हयात का बेहद तवील था

Another famous incident highlights his relationship with famous poet Saahir Ludhyaanwi.Sahir  introduced Majaz in the journal ‘Savera’ published from Lahore with these lines “Majaz has gone insane twice – he is drunk all the time and wanders aimlessly.”

In spite of being terribly hurt Majaaz responded like a poet citing his famous couplet…

कुछ तो होते हैं मोहब्बत में जुनूं के आसार

और कुछ लोग भी दीवना बना  देते हैं

One goes crazy in love and often people drive you mad too …

But Saahir loved Majaz and both were very good friends.When everyone around taunted Majaz about his drinking,he used to say…

मैं शराब पीता हूं,तुम क्या पीते हो? आदमी का खून ?

Saahir used these lines when  he wrote lyrics for a song sung by Mohd.Rafi  in Naya Raasta.It was picturised on Balraj Sahni. :

मैने पी शराब तुमने क्या पिया ? आदमी क खून ?

An incident relating to Josh Malihabadi is also interesting.

Majaz had been discharged from the mental hospital and though he looked normal, he was not entirely cured. Josh was not aware of this.Majaz once called the Commissioner of Delhi and asked him for one hundred rupees. When Josh heard this, he remarked that by this action of Majaz – the very dignity of poetry had been compromised.Majaaz responded in his own way :

जो गुज़रती है कल्बे शायर पर,शायर ए इंक़लाब क्या जानें ?

How can a revolutionary poet know the state of a romantic poets heart ?

In such a state Majaaz used to roam about the streets of Lucknow and often used to get ‘fans’ who would ask him to  recite poems for a bottle.They either dumped him after the party or asked their drivers to drop him home if they were more decent.

On a chilly winter night, he was taken away by a group of ‘fans’ who left him all alone on a hotel roof after drinking till late night, and he died alone in the bitter cold in an unconscious state. He was just 44 years old.The whole nation and especially the people of Lucknow mourned the death of their dear and beloved poet.

सारी मेहफिल जिस पे झूम उठ्ठी है मजाज़

वो तो आवाज़े शिकस्त ए साज़ है …………

The music on which the world has applauded

actually came from the breaking of an instruments string.

Wonderful !

Perhaps he knew that his end would come in such a manner and mocked his friendships by saying :

मेरी बर्बादियों के हमनशीनों ,तुम्हें क्या मुझे  भी गम नहीं है !

Although Majaz  wrote about Love and Beauty, his poems always retained a  certain level social consciousness in them. Instead of fantasizing about a world of Love and Beauty somewhere else, Majaz rebelled against the customs and traditions which constrain true love in real life.He dreamt of a place full of love but he never forgot to challenge the establishment where he lived.He had the courage to challenge injustice and his words had the power to move the masses.In the preface to Majaz’s ‘Aahang”, Faiz Ahmed Faiz writes “Majaz never beat the drums of revolution, he hummed revolutions!”

Below lines best describe the true colors of his poetry :

बख्शी  हैं हमको इश्क़ नें वो जराअतें मजाज़

डरते नहीं हैं सियासते अहले जहां से हम

Love has given me such an audacity that I don’t fear the politics of this world

This couplet is mentioned on the postage stamp in the picture above.

Another aspect of his poetry was the natural flow and the melody which is so peculiar in all his Ghazals and Nazms.It seems he sang them before he wrote them and not the other way round.Any composition can be hummed in your own way such is the beauty and intensity of his poems. He could see poetry in life around him and even such everyday objects as Railway train became the subject of his musings.Let’s have a look at below verses fro ‘Raat or Rail” :

फिर चली है रेल स्टेशन से लहराती हुई
नीमशब की खामोशी में ज़ेर-ए-लब गाती हुई
{इस्टेशन == station, नीमशब == midnight, ज़ेर-ए-लब == humming}
ड़गमगाती, झूमती, सीटी बजाती, खेलती
वादी-ओ-कोहसार की ठंड़ी हवा खाती हुई
{वादी-ओ-कोहसार == valley and mountains}
तेज़ झोंकों में वो छमछम का सरोद-ए-दिलनशीं
आँधियों में मेह बरसने की सदा आती हुई
{मेह == rain}
जैसे मौजों का तरन्नुम जैसे जलपरियों के गीत
इक-इक लय में हज़ारों ज़मज़में गाती हुई
नौनिहालों को सुनाती मीठी मीठी लोरियाँ
नाज़नीनों को सुनहरे ख़्वाब दिखलाती हुई
ठोकरें खाकर, लचकती, गुनगुनाती, झूमती
सर-खुशी में घुँघरूओं की ताल पर गाती हुई
नाज़ से हर मोड़ पर खाती हुई सौ पेच-ओ-ख़म
इक दुल्हन अपनी अदा से आप शरमाती हुई
{पेच-ओ-ख़म == twists & turns}

Truly amazing !

I will end this post with my favorite lines from Awaara :

रास्ते में रुक के दम ले लूं ,मेरी आदत नहीं

लौट कर वापस चला जाऊं मेरी फितरत नहीं

और कोई हमनवां मिल जाए ,ये किस्मत नहीं

ऐ गमे दिल क्या करूं ऐ वहशते दिल क्या करूं

देखना जज़्बे-मुहब्बत का असर आज की रात

देखना जज़्बे-मुहब्बत का असर आज की रात

मेरे शाने पे है उस शोख़ का सर आज की रात

Behold the feeling of our love tonight

On my shoulders rests her beautiful face tonight

और क्या चाहिए अब ऐ दिले-मजरुह तुझे

उसने देखा तो ब-अन्दाज़े दिगर आज की रात

What else you need my lovelorn heart

She saw you with a twinkle in her eye tonight

नूर-ही-नूर है जिस सिम्त उठाऊँ आँखें

हुस्न-ही-हुस्न है, ताहद्दे-नज़र5 आज की रात

Where I look there is light and more light

As far as I see  there is beauty and more beauty tonight

मेरी हर सांस पे वो उनकी तव्वजह क्या खूब

मेरी हर बात पे वो जुम्बिशे सर आज की रात

She cared for my every breath,as if

She nodded on  every word I said tonight

अल्लाह-अल्लाह वह पेशानिए-सीमीं का जमाल

रह गई जम के सितारों की नज़र आज की रात

Allah Allah that shinning forehead

The stars almost  stopped blinking tonight

नग़्मा-ओ-मै का यह तूफ़ाने-तरब क्या कहिए!

घर मेरा बन गया ख़ैय्याम का घर आज की रात

This wonderful storm of music and intoxication

My house has become the house of Khayyam tonight

अपनी रफ़अ़त पै जो नाज़ाँ हैं तो नाज़ाँ ही रहें

कह दो अंजुम से10 कि देखें न इधर आज की रात

O stars if you are proud of your high place,please be

Just tell the skies not to look this way tonight

उनके अल्ताफ़ का इतना ही फ़सूँ काफ़ी है

कम है पहले से बहुत दर्दे-जिगर आज की रात

Her magical kindness has bestowed this upon me

There seems to be no pain in my heart tonight

नर्गिसे नाज़ पे वो नीदं का हल्का सा खुमार

वो मेरे नग्म ए शीरीं क असर आज की रात

Those sleepy eyes of  her flower face

That effect of my love song on her tonight

Poet ~ Majaaz Lucknowi

interpretative transaltion by aahang

हम पी भी गये छलका भी गये

तस्कीने दिले मेह्ज़ूं  न हुई ,वो सईए करम फर्मा भी गये

इस सईए करम को क्या कहिये,बेहला भी गये तड्पा भी गये

हम अर्ज़े वफा भी कर न सके ,कुछ कह न सके,कुछ सुन न सके

यां हमने ज़ुबां ही खोली थी ,वां आंख झुकी ,शर्मा भी गये

ये रंग ए बहारे आलम है क्यों फिक्र है तुझको ऎ साक़ी

मेहफिल तो तेरी सूनी न हुई ,कुछ उठ भी गये ,कुछ आ भी गये

रुदादे गमे उल्फत उनसे, हम क्या केह्ते ,क्यूं कर केहते

एक हर्फ ना निकला होठों से ,और आंख में आंसू आ भी गये

उस मेहफिले कैफो मस्ती में ,उस अंजुमने इरफानी में

सब जाम बक़फ बैठे ही रहे ,हम पी भी गये छलका भी गये

Taskeen-E-Dil-E-Mahzoo Na Hui, Woh Saay-E-Qaram Farma Bhi Gaye
Us Saay-E-Qaram Ka Kya Kahiye, Behla Bhi Gaye Tadpa Bhi Gaye

Taskeen = Peace or Contentment; Mahzooz = Delighted; Saay-E-Qaram = Futile Efforts of Kindness

Ek Arz-E-Vafa Bhi Kar Na Sake, Kuchh Keh Na Sake, Kuchh Sun Na Sake
Yahan Hum Ne Zubaan Hi Khole Thi, wahan Aankh Jhuki Sharma Bhi Gaye

Arz-E-Vafa =  Tale Of Love

Ashuftagi-E-Vehashat Ki Qasam, Hairat Ki Qasam Hasrat Ki Qasam
Ab Aap Kahe Kuch Ya Na Kahe, Hum Raaz-E-Tabassum Paa Bhi Gaye

Ashuftagi = Misery; Vahashat = Loneliness; Tabassum = Smile

Rudaad-E-Gham-E-Ulfat Unse, Hum Kya Kehte Kyun Kar Kehte
Ek Harf Na Nikla Hothon Se, Aur Aankh Mein Aansoo Aa Bhi Gaye

Rudaad = Story; Ulfat = Love; Harf = Syllable

Arbaab-E-Junoon Pe Furqat Mein, Ab Kya Kahiye Kya Kya Guzaara
Aaye The Savaad-E-Ulfat Mein, Kuch Kho Bhi Gaye Kuch Paa Bhi Gaye

Arbaab = Friends; Junoon = Passion; Furqat = Absence (of Lovers)

Yeh Rang-E-Bahaar-E-Aalam Hai, Kya Fiqr Hai Tujh Ko Aye Saaqi
Mehfil To Teri Suni Na Hui, Kuch Uth Bhi Gaye Kuch Aa Bhi Gaye

Is Mehfil-E-Kaif-O-Masti Mein, Is Anjuman-E-Irfaani Mein
Sab Jaam-Ba-Kaf Baithe Rahe, Hum Pee Bhi Gaye Chalka Bhi Gaye

Kaif = Intoxication; Anjuman-E-Irfaani = Gathering For Wisdom; Jaam-Ba-Kaf = Hands holding glasses of Wine (Ba-Kaf = Hands filled with)

The below sequence from the movie Pyaasa shows Majaaz reciting the Ghazal above.The old man is Jigar Moradabadi.

नन्ही मुन्नी सी पुजारन

इक नन्ही मुन्नी सी पुजारन, पतली बाहें, पतली गर्दन।  ananya

भोर भये मन्दिर आयी है, आई नहीं है माँ लायी है।

वक्त से पहले जाग उठी है, नींद अभी आँखों में भरी है।

ठोडी तक लट आयी हुई है, यूँही सी लहराई हुई है।

आँखों में तारों की चमक है, मुखडे पे चाँदी की झलक है।

कैसी सुन्दर है क्या कहिए, नन्ही सी एक सीता कहिए।

धूप चढे तारा चमका है, पत्थर पर एक फूल खिला है।

चाँद का टुकडा, फूल की डाली, कमसिन सीधी भोली-भाली।

कान में चाँदी की बाली है, हाथ में पीतल की थाली है।

दिल में लेकिन ध्यान नहीं है, पूजा का कुछ ज्ञान नहीं है।

कैसी भोली और सीधी है, मन्दिर की छत देख रही है।

माँ बढकर चुटकी लेती है, चुपके -चुपके हँस देती है।

हँसना रोना उसका मजहब, उसको पूजा से क्या मतलब।

खुद तो आई है मन्दिर में, मन  उसका है गुडिया घर में।