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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Lucknowi tehzeeb in comatose

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

The Milli Gazette Online 

Lucknow: ‘Lucknow in its hey days/ approximated to the culture of aristocratic France/ With the difference that there/ It was destroyed by an internal convulsion while here it was colonised by an external power/ While an internal convulsion arose to save it. These are the words of an all-towering Josh Malihabadi complimenting the culture that withstood the onslaught of Britishers.

A scene of the demonstration

A scene of the demonstration

Funeral of Lakhnawi tehazib

Funeral of Lakhnawi tehazib

Despite the destruction of the city, the legacy of splendor and benevolence of a society refused to die as witnessed by foreign travelers, soldiers of fortune, official luminaries. The book Glimpses of the burning plain is a reminiscence of Lady Canning, wife of Lord Canning, the last Governor General before India was formally annexed to the British crown. She visited Lucknow in Oct 1859, after the “mutiny” and holocaust of 1857 and felt compelled to write ‘Lucknow is very well worth seeing even now but one can hardly imagine anything more picturesque than its old state. Many of the gilt domes are destroyed but enough remains to be gay and peculiar.’

"After the takeover of Lucknow the Britishers carried out indiscriminate demolition of buildings and residential areas to improve the defenses of the city and Sibtainabad Imambara, built by my ancestor Amjad Ali Shah was flooded by military consisting the Sikhs," is how Syed Badrul Hasan alias Puppu Polyster wrote. 

Pappu Polyster finds it difficult to describe the pathetic state of Lucknow today. Lucknow of yesterday would wait until guests arrived to start having food, but Lucknow of today waits for the guests to leave in order to to begin its meals! There is virtually no security of women on the streets, dowry deaths, indecent abusive language, music precisionists and dancing drunkards can be seen anywhere. From phele aap (you first) Lucknow today is phele mein (me first).

On May 30 Pappu Polyster led a procession over a kilometer from Sibtainabad Imambara via Hazratganj to Patel Statue. The procession held a boy laid on a stretcher with stitches on his head and limbs and on oxygen. This symbolised the state of the Lucknowi Tahzeeb today.

Banners, posters, placards spelt it all. One said, Rasto, kya hue woh log jo aate jate / har eik adaab pe kahte the ke jeete rahiye [oh lanes, where have all those people gone/who would love and give wishes on every salutation]. And, Baqi na ab adab hai na woh sheerin-e-zuban/Phale jo Lucknow tha woh ab Lucknow kahan [There is no culture and no sweetness of language/the Lucknow of yore is a Lucknow lost]..

Puppu Polyster, flanked by members of the erstwhile royal family of Awadh reminded people of their responsibilities to uphold the deteriorating values of the city which has now become a haven for illegal constructions, where libraries are vacant and manuscripts are a recipe for white ants. Today’s Lucknow is divided into New and Old, demarcating the rich and the poor of the city. 

It is the same place where Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh, used to open his palace for commoners for three complete days on the occasion of Basant with the only condition that everyone would at least put on one cloth of yellowish colour! When Wajid Ali Shah was forcibly transported from Lucknow, Hindu women cried Hazrat jate hai London/Hum par kripa karo Raghunandan’ [Sir is leaving for London/God help us to survive].

Next day, May 31, members of the erstwhile royal family of Awadh led a delegation to the UP Governor TV Rajeshwar and apprised him about the ills of a crumbling city which was envy to the world not long ago. A charter of 10 demands was handed over to the Governor which asked for more funds for the Archeological Survey of India to take care of the city’s badly neglected monuments.

Meanwhile Pappu Polyster, now a Bollywood star, has postponed his shooting assignments and is camping in Lucknow co-ordinating meetings to bring around awareness waging a lost battle to revive a dead Tahzeeb.
His next agenda is to stop illegal constructions which have appeared on the backside of the first king of Awadh, Saadat Ali Khan’s mausoleum.

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