Guest post by VIKAS BAJPAI
Mera abai watan, my ancestral home, the place to which I belong, is Lucknow. Lucknow is ‘my city of joy’; and for me Lucknow’s identity derives from ‘old Lucknow.’ The newer part of the city is a creation of barely thirty to thirty-five years and bears little reflection of what Lucknow otherwise stands for.
There can be little conceptualization of Lucknow’s legendary culture, its tehzeeb, without any imagination of ‘old Lucknow’. As an instance of how deeply this tehzeeb had percolated into society, I still recall, on a few occasions that I happened to accompany my maternal uncle to the Raqabganj sabzi mandi, the hawkers would attract buyers for slender and delicate kakdis (skinny cucumbers) with the poetic call – ‘lijiye – lijiye, laila ki ungliyan, majnu ki pasliyan’ (‘Come, get these delicate fingers of Laila, Majnu’s slender ribs’, referring to the legendary star-crossed lovers Laila-Majnu).
Old Lucknow’s lanes and by-lanes, its busy bazaars, the Chowk – famous for chikan embroidery and zari work; Prakash ki kulfi in Aminabad (a popular market in old Lucknow); the early morning doodh malai and jalebi stalls; the horse-driven ikkas and the tangas; the masjids and their aazaans; the Siddhanath Mandir next door to our house; burqa clad women and the Muslim men wearing dupalia topis, headgear sometimes worn by Hindu men too, especially on Holi; Chaar Bagh railway station; Hanuman Inter ‘Kalej’ and ‘Quins Kalej’ (colleges from where my mother and father matriculated respectively; in the Awadh area of Uttar Pradesh ‘college’ would typically be pronounced as ‘kalej’); and of course how can one forget the mangoes – all of these shall forever be etched as a part of my childhood memories.