By the lanes of Aminabad – Lucknow

A business trip for two days to the city of ‘Tehzeeb’, as Aditya said in his post on Lucknow, had to have some room for non-business activity, even though the activity is in/around an old and charming business center. I was there to pick some brights lads for my company from IET. It was to be a 2 day affair so we decided to stretch long on Day1 (interview till everyone is dead and you wonder that whether the ones you are still interviewing are real people or ghosts) so that we have some time for ourselves to while around. Everyone else was a first timer so I chose the place (selfish), of my personal preference (more selfish) and it was to be the old Lucknow, specifically Aminabad. The plan was to have lunch at “Tunday’s Kebab” and then get closer to narrow alleys, road side vendors, local nuances of Lucknawi Hindi and to soak that special ether which you can find in these places.

First a little bit of history. Lucknow is on the banks of river Gomti and is capital of ‘Uttar Pradesh’, the state which probably have produced most number of ‘Prime Mininsters’. Ruled and developed by Nawabs of Oudh (Awadh), most of today’s city could be attributed to the efforts of one man called Asaf-ud-Daula. The same person was also instrumental in developing Aminabad as a place for all business. Today you can find almost everything in Aminabad, ranging from chikan-dresses to electronics, foot wear, food, house hold articles, sweets etc etc. So a quick dose of history to help you imagine the past, let me take you to the tour which we did.

img_2661.jpg

As we got out of parking lot, I realize that I didn’t tell you that you are better off parking your car outside the market, you look around and taste some of the old buildings. These are functional, even though one would expect them to be ruins. Its so much a different feeling to look at an old structure and see ‘Dish TV’ dishes gutting out. As we proceeded, we discovered more such things where the past has got amalgamated (I just had to use this word somehow) to present without any fear of being non-relevant or out-of-date. Read it again if it doesn’t make much sense. Read further for sure.

Jagat Cinema Sundar Picture Palace
The first thing was this old cinema hall called ‘Jagat Cinema’ and they were playing ‘Paap Ki Kamai’. Its one of those raunchy Mithun movies with lots of action. Its surprising to see that da still sells very well and I must have seen Ms. Bijalni Azharuddin after a long time. Back. Back. On looking hard, it seemed that this building has more things then just the cinema hall. The facade is mughal-ian and the inscription says ‘Sundar Picture Palace’, I also read somewhere that there is this “maulana jauhar ali hall” inside this building. So after admiring the structure and getting bowled over by the fact of its being used actively I asked our driver/guide for the age and he laughed (rather smirked) off my query. We moved ahead.

img_2667.jpg

Then comes this series of book shops, pretty close to what someone sees in Nai Sadak (Delhi), though at a much lower scale and as you cross these, you get into the heart of Aminabad. With every few steps, the variety of hawkers increase manifold and so are the number of people. As you maneuver your way around, you reach a ‘chauraha’ (where four roads meet) or rather ‘chhe-raha’ (make it six) where each of the road-let has an own world. We wanted to be done with ‘Tunday’ so we took a hard left and after a while we were standing right in front of the great Tunday Kebab place.

Tunday Kebab Lucknow

The kebabs are juicy and soft. Biryani is delicious, Mutton Keema was just right and once you look up the walls you would see those framed pics of Yousuf Bhai (aka Dilip, of Madhumati and Naya Daur fame), Rajiv Gandhi, Salman and even Anil Kapoor, proudly standing along with the owner. Incidentally the rates are very reasonable and the total bill was less then Rs 250 for four of us which included soft drinks and more food then we could consume.
img_2663.jpg

After having a hearty meal, the ladies decided to do shopping and me and Srijesh chose to take long walks. While Srijesh shared his experience of traveling in ‘Samjhauta Express’ (the one that supposedly goes to Lahore from saadi Delhi), we cherished those narrow bylanes, those shops which probably are there since Daula’s time, loads of people on all kinds of vehicles and that sheer mass of variety. If some one has to find unique (Select Unique rows kind of SQL command) items, I am sure one’s lifetime would be short enough to sort the results. We were a week away from Holi (festival of colors) but we didn’t encounter anything unwarranted.

img_2665.jpg

As we were doing rounds of our walks, we came across things which made us feel a part of an era which somehow appeared as gone. One interesting sweet shop which we hit upon was named ‘Puraane Kabra ke paas waali dukaan’ (shop near the old grave) and it was a sweet shop, if I remember correctly. It was getting hot and humid and we tried to find a joint to get a pint but could not find it easily so gave up. Probably we were not inclined enough and were rather happy getting lost in that noisy, humid chaos.

img_2664.jpg

And as we were closing down on our sojourn, we found this chap who was selling ‘batteries’ which can charge your cell phone or play your radio. Interesting the source of power for these batteries was solar. So here’s a video. Dont pay too much attention to these chinese toys but rather notice his tone and accent.

We left for Airport to catch our evening IC flight, dozing off in car. A hot summer afternoon well spent.

32 Comments

  • Srijesh says:

    Awesome write up! Just to live up to my “nagging” self, the Tunday’s Kebab shop had the title “Grandson of Tunday Kebabi” or something.

    I also loved Lucknow’s political decorations(You know poster’s welcoming Mayawati everywhere along with the pic of the local MLA with that evil grin on his face).

    I loved the politeness in “road rage” there. My cab driver politely used to ask “Sasural se mili hai kya gaadi” or “Sabka insurance karaa liye hona”o vehicle drivers who weren’t driving properly. No wonder it’s the city of “tehzeeb”

  • nandanjha says:

    ha ha. I missed about the political decorations but cabbie thing….. not a right forum to mention those special acronyms but the sound of his scoldings were more music to ears then a fellow gurgaon cab driver.

    thanks for the praise.

    You would be a good asset to fellow ghumakkars if you chose to write :)

  • bikerdude says:

    Nandan, I hope when you went to Tunday ke Kebab you got some of his stuff in the frozen form to re-live the taste…

    Had a taste of the stuff when one of my very dear friends, who hails from the “Land of Tehzeeb” got the same frozen variety from there… “Finger Lickin’ Good” was what came to mind… KFC can go fry chickens… I would still be reminded of Tunday Ke Kebab whenever I hear that jingle play.

  • Nandan says:

    :) no, we had those fresh ones, hot and soft.

  • akshaya says:

    Wonderful write-up. It made me remind myself of my only trip to Lucknow long time back. A wonderful place – one of the most prominent and architecturally rich place in British India – but now all ruined by lack of care of those marvelous buildings and concrete rush in urban India.

    Srijesh is right in his observation of the “Grandson Of Tunday Kebabi”. The guy who runs the place now is grandson of original one-armed Tunday, who started it all and made street food from Lucknow as world renowned. If you understand Kebab, then Tunday Ke Kebab and Galawat Ke Kebab in Lucknow are something really different. In Delhi, the closest one would be the ones served at The Great Kebab Factory (although much much costlier then the original ones).

  • smitadhall says:

    Interesting account. Each time someone talks about the narrow lanes in walled cities, I feel as if I belong there… and would never turn down an opportunity to explore such places. Are such places existing mostly in Delhi/UP/Rajsthan or are prevalent in other parts of the country as well? Instant names that come to mind are Chandni Chowk and Aminabad. What else?

  • Nandan says:

    Thanks Akshaya. I am not sure on how many people know about your culinary tastes :) and about your blog. http://gluttonous-me.blogspot.com/
    Write about Bikaner at ghumakkar. It would be good info to share.

    Smita – Thanks. Good observation. I am sure fellow ghumakars can fill in about their own cities. I would think that the ‘Charminar’ area of Hyd would fall under this as well. Any more folks ??

  • Celine says:

    Interesting read. I particularly enjoy culture related stuff.

    Like Smita, it reminded me of Chandi Chowk, and memories gorging on those delicious kebabs at the crazy, crowded Karim’s near Juma Masjid.

    This post also brought back memories of Bhopal, and its famous culture on parda, zarda, garda and namarda. :)

  • Ram Dhall says:

    What a great write up. You have enlivened my memories of this lovely city of gardens.

    I have been visiting Lucknow since my childhood. A very dear maternal uncle from armed forces was posted there. After getting out of the train, the first thing that touched our senses was the aroma of the “Dussehri” mangoes. The armed forces bungalow was surrounded by half a dozen mango trees. In the evenings, after a stroll in the Hazratganj, uncle alongwith his jig band (me and cousin), invariably landed at Tunday’s shop for some delicious kebabs.

    Over a period, the sweet aroma of ‘dussehri” almost vanished, the bungalows were replaced by flats but blessedly the ‘tehzeeb” and Tunday Kebabs still persist.

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

  • Aditya says:

    Interesting read. Being from Lucknow, i can sense each and every thing you covered in your post.

    Actually there were/are 3 separate cinema halls in Aminabad itself. Jagat, Prakash and Naaz, You can rate these all as single star. So they hardly get chance to run any A grade movie. :-)

    Aminabad covers very wide variety in terms of shopping. Actually there are various sub & main markets adjacent to this place like ‘Naziarabad’, ‘Gadabad Jhala’, ‘Latoosh road’, ‘Naka Hindola’ etc which add to the importance of this place.

    I guess even after number of malls and markets evolved in Lucknow, Aminabad is still on top, where you can get good quality at reasonable rates.

    Next time when you go to Lucknow, do taste, Prakash Kulfi :-)

  • Gyana Geetha says:

    Very interesting post. I can visualise what you mean by ‘amalgamation’ of the past speldours and the present attractions in this city. (I ‘ve visited it once for a Friend’s wedding). It’s amusing to know about the ‘politeness ‘ in road rage as recounted by Srijesh!

  • Nandan says:

    Thanks Celine. Does ‘garda’ is referring to ‘dust’ or ‘beaten/mashed tobacco – khaini’. Interesting phrase though :)

    Thanks Ram for the praise and for sharing your experience. I also come from Mangao-Land (North Bihar is blessed with Mangoes) and I can imagine the fun. Thanks again.

    Aditya – Done for Kulfi.

    Geetha – If you can visualize what I wanted to convey, thats terrific. Traffic is not great to really worth writing home about, probably the language adds to tezeeb then a real intent in case of Road Rage. Some of the other languages do the reverse so even though there is no mal-intent, it seems as if the other person is rude.

  • Celine says:

    Nandan,

    The famous tobacco products of Bhopal is referred as ‘zarda’ while ‘garda’ is associated with the the loose dirt (like dust) that used to blow across in the summer days.

  • smitadhall says:

    ‘Garda’ from ‘Gard’

  • nandanjha says:

    Got it. In mythili (my mother tongue) gard is called garda only :) but better to double check.

  • Celine says:

    Now I know at least one word in Maithili. So what script do you use to write Maithili? Is it Devanagiri?

  • Nandan says:

    Yes, mostly. The original script is called ‘Mithilakshar’ which it is getting lost. Very few people of my generation user the script. These days its used mostly for sending marriage invitations and for other auspicious occasions. It has lot of similarity to Bangla which gets spoken in upper Bengal.

    I am not 100% sure but people say that Darbhanga could have been ‘Dwar-Banga’. It was a princely state but post Independence , the king heirs were not as able and sort of lost things over time. It used to be one of the RICH kingdoms at its peak :). So much for history.

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Good write up Mr Jha. Good that you became selfish and more selfish to pick Aminabad as the venue for rendezvous with the essence of Lucknow, as had you picked The newly developed spots, you would have landed up in something similar to Shipra Mall!

    Your trvelogue is centred about the Tundey Kebabs and for a vegetarian it is a bit difficult to make a connect. Unfortunately, Lucknow is becoming synonymous with ‘the city of Kebabs’ and the kebabey culture.

    The ‘Kabr ke pas wali purani dukan’ is a renown sweet shop by name ‘MadhuMita’. There is one peculiar thing about the sweet shop/restaurants in lucknow in that they all have got the acronym MM. There is Madur Milan (You should have gone to this one in Aminabad to quench your thirst, it has ac section as well), Moti Mahal, MarksMen, Mera man, MehMan.. I am told they are a chain with different names but common proprietorship. Someone said about the kulfi of Prakash. But I would suggest Moti Mahal in Hazaratganj for Kulfi and some of the best bengali sweets the city can boast of.

    Keep up the good work.

    Rajeev

  • nandanjha says:

    Thanks Rajeev. You are right on spot, infact we were being suggested Sahara Ganj and like and I had to play a little stubborn.

    You seem to be from Lucknow. Would keep all of your suggestion handy if I get to visit again.

    Thanks again.

  • Celine says:

    Thank you for your response to my question and the additional interesting information. :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Interesting post, but above all very interesting comments :)

    I just returned from Lunch but feel like having Aromatic Dussheri or a delicious Kulfi.

    Mithundaa too impressed me, I wish he could read how he still rules in small cities of India.

  • nandanjha says:

    Dussheri must be on the way, it should hit stands within next four weeks.

    Da knows it very well. His whole business model for last many years have been to act in B-grade movies, get it shot at his hotel (ooty) and make money. What I last heard was that he was finishing movies in 40 days.

  • manish khamesra says:

    What I last heard was that he was finishing movies in 40 days.

    I too heard the same, but it was almost 10 years back and may be more than that (Life moves ahead very fast …)

  • Patrick Jones says:

    After going thru your ‘juicy kebab’ description, I started dreaming about it and finally when I just couldn’t hold on anymore, we set out in search of those dishes last week and boy! found them exactly as described.

    We were so delighted with the first experiece with Tunday, went back for another go at night and decided to try other places on next trip!

    Thanks a lot for the introduction.

  • nandanjha says:

    ;) What joy. Thanks for believing me and venturing out.

  • Manas says:

    hey.. nice article..

    I re lived my memories of lucknow, since I belong there, but stay in hyd :( this is the sad part..

    am taking some input from this post for my article.. Thanks Buddy!!!!

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Thanks Manas. Glad.

    I should be there again later next month.

  • neelam says:

    Hi, I really miss my Lucknow………………. can u mail more pics old lko, old cinema halls , old houses
    Thanks

  • neelam says:

    Hi, I really miss my Lucknow………………. can u mail more pics old lko, old cinema halls , old houses
    Thanks
    ng

  • nandanjha says:

    Neelam – I do not have lot of other pics but I am planning to write a story on ‘The Residency’, which we visited last month. Would look fwd to your comments on that story. Thanks.

  • sanjay says:

    the top one photo is of my house and it’s looking very nice

  • nandanjha says:

    :-) Wow. Sanjay, tell us more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.