Lucknow Lights

Lucknow Reprise

Visiting a city after eight years provides you a chance to juxtapose your memories with the present. Some match exactly while others are a small part of the present scene. Some are totally unrecognizable. What you found was that the city is humming and alive. Successive governments have contributed in turning a laid back city into a throbbing capital of UP. Lucknow has some wonderful memories for you.

Lucknow – City of Pehle Main (me first)

Two centuries ago when the Nawabs were driving around in their horse drawn buggies they would give way of right to the horse drawn buggy of the fellow Nawab, both on their way to Hazratganj for shopping. This was perfectly normal in the true spirit of Pehle Aap (after you) culture of Lucknow. After all, that was the era of leisure, languidness and laid back, aptly depicted in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Shatranj ke Khiladi’.

Times have definitely changed now. Goons – elected or otherwise – sitting in their Endeavours, with number plates emblazoned with their self-christened designations, pressure horns on full blast, bulldoze their way through the crowded streets. Of course the number plates do not carry registration numbers and the horn has to sound the loudest. Few moments caught in this decibelly deafening din will bring in the worst headache and probably convulsions. Guantanamo Bay authorities could play this cacophonic recording and the Al-Qaeda inmates would start singing like canaries instead of paying royalties to music companies for playing their metal rock.

You are startled and jump off the street when you hear a truck horn, only to see a motorcycle whizz past you. In Punjab, your vehicle needs to be shod with the flashiest alloys. In Lucknow, people get turned on by going sadistic on your ears. It is auditory mayhem on the roads.

Pehle Main is intoned now. Everybody wants to be the first to the showroom in Hazratganj before the sales stocks run out.

Lucknow Lights


Gomti Nagar

Gomti Nagar is the place where I lived for two years. It also happens to be the most exclusive address in the city. Satyawatiben has built her National Park of Statues here. Politicians and bureaucrats after serving the impoverished masses by plundering the countryside come back to Gomti Nagar to build their humble palaces so that they can peacefully spend their retirement years. Owing to the ever growing number of honest politicians and bureaucrats, Gomti Nagar is growing at a furious clip. It is divided into Khands all starting with the letter V. Coming up with names like Vivek, Vikas, Vineet was easier earlier but now they really have to scratch their heads to come up with names like Vajra and Vijayant. At this rate, Gomti Nagar will soon swallow the neighbouring Barabanki. In that case, Barabanki will be renamed Varabanki Khand.

National Park of Statues

Besides palaces, Gomti Nagar is dotted with statues of elephants and purse carrying Satyawatibens. The evening I was out photographing rain soaked roads, somebody had beheaded one of Satyawatiben’s statues and had taken off with her purse. Bemused public and clueless police were out in full force. The perpetrator probably belonged to the Pehle Main tribe. He wanted to install his statue, but Satyawatiben had beaten him to it. Latest reports indicated that Satyawatiben was standing in place of the vandalised statue since they could not find a replacement statue.

Entire Gomti Nagar is paved with stones and gleaming marble. Media reports indicate that to quench this narcissistic edificying binge, it is apparent that approximately one gazillion tonnes of rock and stone have been dug out from the face of the earth to aid Satyawatiben’s perpetuity in Lucknow.

The past gone by ?


Memories of Lucknow

Apart from Bombay, it was Lucknow where I had spent the maximum time away from Delhi – about three years in two stints. I remember pillion riding on my friend’s LML Freedom bike and watching late night movies in the plush Wave Cinemas. West End Mall housing Wave multiplex was first of the mushrooming malls in the city. Now, that part of the city on Faizabad Road is unrecognizable with a flyover built on it. But then nothing beats the romance of movies than sitting on the paan stained wet front seats of a dingy theatre in downtown Hazratganj. Some nights we would sit on the house’s first floor balcony, get beer buzz going and sing.

Photographing Lucknow


Lucknow has great trove of monuments from the 18th century especially related to the 1857 mutiny. This was the Nawabs’ and British era. The city gained prominence after the downfall of Moghuls. This is when state of Awadh rose, and then the British followed. Again the city played a major role during the mutiny of 1857. Related posts will follow in the future.

29 Comments

  • parveen says:

    this post is different. catchy words. nice photo selection.
    and my vote goes to satyawatiben and her statue.

  • jaishree says:

    A very original imagination emanating from your audio , video and touch sense( to write )!

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Jaishree,

      Tried my hand at some humour. But it is true, walking on the streets of Lucknow will turn you stone deaf. Plus the fact that Lucknow has grown into a mini metro. Those days there were couple of trains from delhi to lucknow – Lucknow Mail and Shatabdi. Now there are like ten trains and you still do not get reservations.

      Thanks,

      Nirdesh

  • Hats off to you Mr. Nirdesh! I really loved the way you slapped across the face of Satyawatiben and her breed of politicians. The sound of slap was music to my ears and I hope echo of it would be heart long after the slap was implanted. It is really a literary piece of writing which should find its place in Times of India or some other similar publication. You have tried to capture picture of the moving vehicles during night – perhaps without a proper support to your camera. Still, the pics are presentable and convey the essence of what u wished to say.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Dear Sushantji,

    Your appreciation means a lot to us all.

    The cacophony, the wastage on the statues, the SUVs, it is all very infuriating. And this in a state where thousands are dying of encephalitis. All very galling.

    No, I do not have a tripod yet. So tried to keep my hand very still, with speed of I think 5 seconds. Some photos come out okay. It is Lucknow @ speed of light!

    Regards,

    Nirdesh

    • You deserve Param Veer Chakra for your bravery. You indeed have to be very brave to hope for a sharp picture with 5 sec. shutter time on a handheld camera ! The thumb of rule says : If your lens is 1000 mm., don’t try to go for longer than 1/1000 sec. duration and if you are shooting with an 18 mm. lens, 1/15 sec. is the safe shutter speed. So, whatever is the effective focal length, choose the nearest possible shutter speed. You can also try to rest your camera on a beans bag – say a 250 gm. or 500 gm. in a cotton bag. It becomes a very good support for the camera.

      Sushant

      • Nirdesh says:

        Sushantji,

        You dont cease to amaze me.

        I am not too familiar with camera working. I have just checked these photo properties – it says exposure time of 4 secs, focal length of 5 mm. I wanted to catch this streaming light effect. So i was kind of pleased with the result. Hopefully, the photos will sharper with a tripod. I want to buy the tripod to catch Vijay Chowk lighting on 26th January evening.

        My camera is a Sony DSC HX100V. I dont know about the lens length.

        Nirdesh

        • Great. Mine is Sony HX1. If we ignore the zeros, we have identical piece of equipment. Haha. Your camera has got 4.8 mm. to 144 mm. lens. This means it is moderately wide to excellently telescopic lens. When you zoom in, you must go for faster shutter speeds. When you are shooting by selecting sports mode, camera choses fastest possible shutter speed for you programmatically.

          For focal length of 5 mm. the slowest shutter speed is 1/5 second which can offer you acceptable results if camera is handheld carefully.

          I don’t think any compact camera would let you know the focal length in use. While moving the zoom lever on the camera body, the top left part of the camera LCD screen starts showing zoom position but in terms of image magnification only. If the camera is showing 2x magnification, your focal length is 4.8 x 2 i.e. 9.6 mm. However, once a picture is taken, its EXIF data file reveals all the info to us. However, if such technical info doesn’t interest you, you may go on shooting without worrying about all this.

          Night photography can offer you some really breathtaking results, if you are agreeable to put the camera on a tripod or some other jugadbaji.

      • hahahaha. It is rule of thumb and not thumb of rule ! I read somewhere that there is a homoeopathic medicine for people committing exactly this kind of mistake while talking / writing. Thank God, the ghumakkars are very much forgiving on this count.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    I had last visited Lucknow in 1990. It was a dusty, moffusil town, a typical urban centre of the IndoGangetic plains and thoroughly undeserving of being the capital of the largest Indian state. I remember feeling distinctly disappointed with a city famed for its history and Nawabi tehzeeb. A couple of years ago, my plane flew over Lucknow, offering me a bird’s eye view of the city and it did look different, especially the massive memorial park built by the fabled Queen Satyawati of Mayapuri.

    Looks like the “Pehle Aap” courtesy of yore has given way to the brash and unbridled “Pehle Main” hedonism of today. Looking forward to seeing the city through your eyes, Nirdesh; it has all the makings of an engrossing series.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Hi DL,

    In the 90s, Lucknows air was vile with a cloud of diesel fumes hanging over the city. I would choke travelling in the chakras to Charbagh station. Air is comparatively better now. Traffic like anyplace else has grown manifold. Thanks to the Ambedkar Memorial construction, city seems cleaner in the Gomti Nagar area.

    You need to see to believe the acres of open air gleaming marble floors in the memorial. You wont find that much marble even in the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayyan Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi!

    I like the epithet Queen Satyawati of Mayapuri!

    Regards,

    Nirdesh

  • Nandan Jha says:

    A different take on this bustling city.

    I have been making an annual pilgrimage to Lucknow for last 7-8 years. Guess it has been a full cycle for me and now I enjoy the 2 day stay, I get to make every year. This time, we were treated at the ‘Lucknow Gymkhana’ by a friend and with the attractive price tag, Beer tasted a tad more sweeter, the local lingo now appears more honest (it sounded rude few years back) and I have probably turned deaf to the mindless horn. On one of the trips, the park actually seemed like a good break since it was quiet and green once inside. And the kebabs, undisputedly, remains soft and juicy.

    I have found my peace amid the cacophony.

    Would look forward to read more.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Hi Nandan,

      Yes, despite the changes, the city does retain its old world charm in certain quarters.

      I just want a day when they make me the traffic police chief. I want to pull out the owners from their cars, push their ears against the engine grill and pound the horns.

      Nirdesh

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Photos really good, may be next time we can see photo shoot in day time also. Thanks

    • Nirdesh says:

      Thanks Surinder.

      Just like to experiment with the camera after getting motivated by professionals.

      Yes, day time photos next of Bada Imambara!

      Nirdesh

  • Amitava Chatterjee says:

    A different post indeed, never been there but heard a lot from my roommate (long time ago) about the city and the transformation.

    Like the post very much.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Thanks, Amitava!

      Yes the city has undergone a transformation.

      After Noida, it is Lucknow that has seen the most changes.

      Do visit.

      Nirdesh

  • Very humorous Nirdesh,

    Can’t help people like Satyawatiben and many more are going to breed here unless something drastically does not change in thus kaliyuga .

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Ek kissa yaad aaya…ek baar Dilli and Lucknow ke shayar ikkattha huye ek mushayre me, Dilli ke Balli Maraan me. Mirza Ghalib ko bulaya gaya faisle ke liye ki batayein kaun behtar sabit hua.

    Raat bhar mushayra chala. Subah huyi, to Ghalib sahab se poocha gaya ki kaun jeeta.

    Ghalib ne kaha, “Ye to kah nahi sakta, kyonki dono ne hi bahut achche sher kahe…lekin ek baat hai. Raat bhar Dilli waale ‘haan ji, haan ji’ kahte rake aur Lucknow wale ‘jee haan, jee haan’ kahte rahe.”

    Sadly, the city of ‘jee, janab and aadab’ has now been hi-jacked by those who don’t even understand why ‘Pahle Aap’ was such an integral part of the city’s culture.

    Mere marhoom valid kaha karte the ki ‘Lucknow ki nazaqat hai, ki rasgulle bhi chcheel ke khaaye jaate hain…’ Ab na maloom mere pyaare shahar ko kis ki nazar lag gayi hai…

    Nirdesh – good post. Thank you. As I read your profile, I recommend to you Amaresh Misra’s book, Lucknow: Fire of Grace. The historian in you will surely love it.

    Best,
    RRG

  • Nirdesh says:

    Dear RRG,

    I can understand your father’s pain. But all is not lost. Old timers and their children still retain the nazaakat in their language. People abuse and fight using ‘aap’ words.

    I also bemoan the changes in Delhi and yearn for the Delhi of yore.

    I will definitely read the recommended book.

    Regards,

    Nirdesh

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    No words , great post !

  • rastogi says:

    hi nirdesh
    i think you forget to mention name of munshi premchan before satyajit ray.
    no doubt photo graphs are very impressive.

    • Nirdesh says:

      Thanks, Rastogiji!

      My bad! Of course, Shatranj Ke Khiladi was penned by Upanyas Samrat Premchand. And was adapted by Satyajit Ray for the screen.

      Regards,

      Nirdesh

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Nirdesh,

    An interesting post described simultaneously across the windshield and rear view mirror.

    My memories about the capital city (visited some 8 years back) appears to be similar to all thats been told here. Description about endeavour of those driving the Endeavours is so endearing :-)

    Enjoyed,

    Auro.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Thanks Aurojit!

    I like the analogy of windshield and rear view mirrors.

    It is especially enadearing to the ears!

    Regards,

    Nirdesh

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