X is for Xenial City of Nawabs
Another timeless classic
I’m from Lucknow, capital city of Uttar Pradesh in North India, also known as the City of Nawabs. I choose to call it xenial as every pore of this ancient, city exudes hospitality, love and a deep-rooted pride for the cultural heritage. The people of Lucknow are warm, soft-spoken and courteous. The rich cultural heritage of the city is pretty much influenced by the Mughal era. This includes the ancient monuments, Awadhi cuisine, dance forms, music, language, clothing and embroidery; all of which have a touch of royal splendour. Lucknow is called the City of Nawabs as once upon a time it was ruled by Nawabs (semi-autonomous muslim leaders of princely states or province).
I was not born in Lucknow, neither my ancestors lived there, but I call it home as that’s where I went to college and my parents have settled there post my Father retirement. My brother and his family also live in Lucknow. Lucknow thus has become my second home. The first being?!! No clue whatsoever. I guess I’m a gypsy at heart. Over the years the City of Nawabs has evolved from being a township to a mini metro. The Hazratganj market where we “didn’t go shopping” but “ganjing” remains everybody’s old favourite, despite the fact that many other malls and shopping hubs have sprung up overnight.
During my three-year stint at Lucknow between 1990-1993, when I was studying at the Isabella Thoburn College, I learnt how to be self-reliant and independent after some prodding and pushing from my brother. My brother used to work in Lucknow then and he was my local guardian. My brother also fell in love and married a soft-spoken, adorable girl from Lucknow. I acquired some of my sister-in-laws traits of unconditional love, of being giving, gentle, sweet spoken and also some lady like traits; just by watching her. Other wise I was a bohemian at heart. The city also rubbed off on me and I’m glad it taught me how to speak to others with respect and politeness. Not that I was otherwise, but it helped build on that character in a more deep-rooted way.
I also lived and worked in Lucknow for 2001-2006. That’s also when my writing and spiritual journey flourished and peaked.
Now I love visiting Lucknow. I go there every 2-3 months, mostly to look up my parents as they get older and to meet my brother and his family. Though the city has now become quite multi-cultural as lot of people from other parts of the country have migrated here. The city has lost bit of it’s “adab” (polite behaviour) and it has been replaced by some amount of loquaciousness. But all has not dwindled yet. The Bara Imambara also known as Bhul Bhulaiya (where you can get lost in the passages of this huge monument), the Chota Imambara, Residency, and the wide, lush spread out parks are a sight to behold.
Lucknow offers the best varieties of chaats (savoury, snacks) that include Basket chaat, Papri chaat, Aloo tikki, Golpgappas with an array of paani/water (meetha, heeng, pudina masala, spicy etc). And how can I forget the legendary Tunday Kebabs? There’s a true story behind these famous Kebabs. There was once a Nawab who loved kebabs, but as he got older he lost his teeth and was unable to enjoy the kebabs anymore. So he setup a contest wherein whoever created the softest and most succulent kababs would enjoy royal patronage. The secret recipe was created by Haji Murad Ali, who had only one hand. A person with a hand disability is called Tunday, hence the name Tunday Kabab came into being. The secret recipe apparently has 160 spices (who knew there were 160 spices out there) including Sandalwood.
Lucknow with it’s old world charm, and all the heart warming characteristics, will always have a special place in my heart, even as I travel far and wide. I’m not sure if I’ll ever live there, but each time I visit this city, I bring back with me a small piece of it’s goodness and culture to imbibe in my every day life. Lucknow is a timeless classic and the memories that I share with this xenial city are irreplaceable.
My theme for this year’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge is Travel Epiphanies that are my very own tales of adventure and revelation. I will be writing 26 posts throughout the month of April. You can read my theme here.