Friday, September 23, 2005


The Martiniere, Lucknow
From a cigarette card published ca. 1919-1929
Courtesy: New York Public Library

Named after a Hindu icon, Lucknow is home to India's magnificent Muslim tradition. One in five Lucknowis are Muslims. Muslim women in burqas are all over town. Shia College and Hazratganj, the two Imambaras and Chattar Manzil, Ameenabad and self-flagellation on Moharram; all are integral parts of the Muslim Lucknow this blogger knows so well.

This once-youthful city -- a maximum city in its own right -- now is bent with age.

The Muslim Rifah-e-Aam club, once gracious host to Hindu wedding parties, yawns in disrepair. Chattar Manzil, where Muslim Nawabs of Awadh once frolicked, has become a sterile laboratory. Old men with white beards shuffle around defeated. Lucknowi tehzeeb has become a tacky punchline.

This is the eventual fate of even maximum cities with soul, but lacking spirit.

What Daniel Henniger writes about New Orleans is just as true for Lucknow:

Several years ago, Sir Peter Hall, the British historian of urban centers, delivered a lecture in Glasgow called "Creative Cities and Economic Development."

What, Peter Hall asked, enabled the rise of six famously potent centers of urban creativity--Athens, Florence, London, Vienna, Paris, Berlin? They "were all capitalist cities," he answered, and "they were all great trading cities."

Those cities, Mr. Hall said, became "magnets for the immigration of talent" but were also "generators of the wealth that could help employ that talent." Indeed, "most creative cities were bourgeois cities.

But most intriguingly for New Orleans' edgy reputation, Sir Peter also argues that "creative cities . . . are places of great social and intellectual turbulence; not comfortable places at all," a place "where outsiders can enter and feel a certain state of ambiguity." Then comes this proviso: Greatness can never be achieved "in societies in which all sense of order has disappeared."

The great creative cities Peter Hall described were exposed to the forces of the market in ways unthinkable today, giving them what he calls "unstable tension."

It is precisely such an unstable tension that Lucknow needs for renewal -- but, in our intellectually stagnant Hindi heartland, it shall likely never receive.


Harini Calamur said...

the saddest part of lucknow, as friends of mine from there point out, is the decline in "tehzeeb". Friends from there point out that it is getting to be an unsafe city. eve teasing is on the rise, as is lewd comments against women. And communal harmony is no longer something that can be taken for granted.
Much of it they blame on migration from adjacent areas - by people who have no concept of Tameez and Tehzeeb.
Finally, the educated middleclass is busy sending their kinds out of hte city. in the last 6 months atlest 10 people i know have come to mumbai to set up their lives.

Primary Red said...


Your last point is really key.

For those who can get away, there's little left in Lucknow to stay. In turn, as its ablest leave, Lucknow's vicious cycle of degradation finds more energy.

Best regards.

doubtinggaurav said...


I hope, therefore I am ;-)


sanjay said...

I guess I have a different view of Lucknow although I can perhaps agree with you w.r.t old lucknow.

Like any other ancient city, Lucknow, too is renewing/ reinventing itself. It is certainly not dying - consider the following:

- virtually every tier 1 builder of India is currently in Lucknow constructing condos, apartment buildings, townships, gated communities, malls etc;
- at least 3 brand new multiplexes already exist plus Cinemax is opening a Rs 15 crore high end multiplex soon, as is Inox Leisure
- Lenovo of China is opening a state-of-the- art "Thinkworld" outlet
- foreign entities like macdonald's (at least 3 outlets), KFC, pizza hut, domino's etc in the city already
-Apollo has a hospital & will soon open several clinics;
-Dubai's Lifestyle retail chain to open 100,000 sq ft retail outlet;
- along Sitapur road, GoI is building a modern, Rs 190 crore R&D lab focusing on pharmacology, toxicology, pharmacokinetics and metabolic studies;
- around the city, Reliance has opened modern "dhabas" that are modern refreshment hubs for travelers & frequent drivers;
-Austria's Swarovski is opening an exclusive crystals showroom;
-China's Mark Pi will open a Rs 50 lakh restaurant
-Dior Watches will open an outlet soon
- Lucknow is fast becoming India's premier Biotech City. In April 2005, The American Biotech Research Association decided to set up its India office in the Lucknow Biotech Park.
- City based Sahara Parivar is a dynamic, global, diversified, fast growing business group. It has interests ranging from banking to airlines to hollywood;
- The recent explosive growth in India's textiles manufacturing will bring tremendous employment & business opportunities to Lucknow's muslim community

Primary Red said...


No one would be happier than this blogger if the city of his birth did turn around; hoping desperately that you are right.

Best regards.

sanjay said...

Primary Red: It is not a desperate situation by a long shot. Even places close to Lucknow, like Mankapur, are booming due to ITC, Japanese investment, and sugar.

While UP has a long way to go, there is good news on a regular basis i.e almost $4 billion investment in the UP sugar industry is currently underway.


doubtinggaurav said...

Sunjay is partly correct, there has been lots of changes in Lucknow.
However what I find missing in my city of birth is absence of dynamism and sense of heritage.
I have with shock seen my friends disfiguring our historical monuments.
The city which was famous of it's view has been abandoned by it's citizens.
Hopefully "we" (including will be able to change it).


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