Monday, June 15, 2009

Cantt Commandment: Lucknow Cantt, more than Home

If it’s harder than usual to explain your exact address to the local pizza guy for the fifth time this year, if all landmarks in your ‘colony’ begin and end at MB Club, when questions like “And, where do we turn from MB Club?” or “How far exactly do you live from MB Club?” are almost always asked, you must certainly be living in Lucknow Cantt.

Residents of the green haven are used to being envied for the trees, clean air, walking plaza and other facilities in their part of Lucknow, and sometimes it can get embarrassing. “Cantt? So lucky yaar!” has been the usual response in college, university and then work. Sometimes one would almost immediately expect to be badgered for a treat at the famous (now closed, please!) momo-corner in the canteen. But apart from all the perks and the calm surroundings of the cantt, there is another older world with its own special character that exists in and around the Cantt.

The old Bazaars of the Lucknow Cantonment-- Topkhaana, Regiment Bazaar, Laal Kurti and Sadar bazaar still have living relics from an ancient British past. Eighty- three old Gore Nawab, a barber who operates under a yellow tarpaulin in Regiment Bazaar was christened after his exclusive services to British soldiers and young officers pre-independence. He laments the loss of his fresh faced, pink customers of yore and says he has fewer customers these days because, “the young boys want long hairstyles, with creams and puffs which I refuse to give”.

The little sweet shop run by Ganesh and Dinesh Gupta in the same bazaar was established in 1885, their most popular mithai was a milky barfi the British soldiers loved. Families such as those of Jangat Khan that left for Pakistan are still remembered as if it was only yesterday. Old rickshaw pullers such as Manvir who were just little boys then, remember the red cavalry coats of the British soldiers who walked these lanes. The same coats gave “Laal Kurti” its name. While“Topkhaana”was once a garrison for cannons.

The Chacha Book Sellers in Sadar Bazaar and some old tailoring stores with boards that were painted in the 1940s, continue to attract a regular stream of customers, like Chappan Bhog which is a stone’s throw away. Chacha, who sits chewing his paan at his counter has known some of his customers who are now post-graduates, doctors and engineers as little nursery going children. He is known to give a free pen or notebook every once in a while to needy students. Though sadly, old Kunj Bihari’s samosas are now forgotten while little stores such as Goel’s under the over bridge struggle against the burgeoning population and pollution around them.

While there are mysteries surrounding the many mazaars, the allegedly haunted bungalows there is also the joy of living so close to nature and amidst wilderness. The tiny wooded areas that were once home to blue bulls, partridges, wandering wolves and the like are still home to peacocks, hare, porcupines, numerous birds, snakes, civet cats and sometimes jackals.

But most of all, living in the cantt, you cannot help but wonder about the century old houses that were silent witnesses to a steady change of guard.


rajiv.saurastri said...

Nostalgia. Thats where your write-up leads me to. Precisely selected facets of cantt/ sadar. I would have added my cycling sprees to various obscure locations, often hauled up by the men in uniform, to the ups 'n downs somewhere on Sultanpur road, and to AMC centre to see the late evening films on Saturdays. And, yes... to the PT school and the canteens. Well written, Shinjini.

Mr.Dan said...

Don't know how u get words into lines ,lines into sentences and sentences into paragraphs but Lucknow Cantt cant be described much better than this one.
In a moment you get all those places in your mind and memories pass by...
Thanks for getting all those memories back to me Jini

Anurag Kumar Lucknow said...

Great keep up the good work please!