An Artists Impression of the Old City of Lucknow

Sweet are the remembrances of the city that has given me so many fond memories to cherish. Deep within is a sense of pride of belonging to Lucknow having grown up in its unique ambience, the take it easy kind of attitude and subtle mannerisms. Alas! things are changing at a fast pace in the city. Some years back I saw a part of the beautiful arcade near the famous Love lane being pulled down to give way for a modern new shopping cluster. My heart pained to see the damage being done. Even the latest efforts to conserve the beautiful arcades of Hazratganj seem to have somewhere failed to preserve the essence of the place. The Gomti river now much tamed and polluted has almost turned into a nalla. If news reports are to be believed there’s hardly any aquatic life left in the river that has its source high up in the himalayas.

Today there is no difference between Lucknow and any other metropolitan Indian city the same malls, similar lifestyle, the Baristas, the Café Coffee Day’s, the same glass boxes that can house anything from a hospital to a theatre to a shopping mall to an office, who knows even our place of worship would one day be designed in the same vocabulary. Change is the law of nature but what is happening to the city today is deeply agonising.

Where is the spirit of the place? Where is the tehzeeb, where are the gardens and where has all the music and art gone? We have failed to preserve the city’s natural and cultural wealth. Rapid urban development has consumed all the baghs and the bageechas. What are we going to leave for posterity? Depleted resources, a polluted environment and a noisy city. How are our children going to remember us . . . of having greedily consumed their share of fresh air, water and other natural resources. We are depriving our children of simple pleasures in life which seem to have become rare and impossible to recreate.

A few years back after seeing an exhibition that captured the splendour and charm of Lucknow of yesteryear through old photographs I was both amazed to visualise what the city was in its glory and shocked to see what we had lost. What we are left with today is not even a fraction of the old charm. Here’s the beauty of the city captured by William Howard Russell who covered the Mutiny for the London Times. Describing the city from the terrace of the Dilkusha he says:

A vision indeed ! A vision of palaces, minars, domes, azure and golden cupolas, colonnades, long facades of fair perspective in pillar and column, terraced roofs – All rising up amid a calm, still ocean of the brightest verdure. Look for miles and miles away, and still the ocean spreads, and the towers of the fairy city gleam in its midst. Spires of gold glitter in the sun. turrets and gilded spheres shine like constellations. There is nothing mean or squalid to be seen. There is a city more vast than Paris, as it seems, and more brilliant, lying before us. Is this a city in Oude? Is this the capital of a semi-barbarous race, Erected by a corrupt, effete and degraded dynasty? I confess I felt inclined to rub my eyes again and again . . . Not Rome, not Athens, not Constantinople, not any city I have ever seen, appears to me so striking and beautiful as this; and the more I gaze, the more its beauties grow upon me.

Wish we had some time to ponder and reflect on this city beautiful.

To Lucknow with Love . . .

Disclaimer: The article expresses individual views of the author. The rights to the content of the article rests with the author.

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