“Muskuraye ke aap Lucknow mein hai (Smile for you are in Lucknow!)” was an old message spread around Lucknow when I was young….. please do not take it to mean that I refer to the days of Nawab Sadaat Ali Khan, or of Harcourt Butler and James Scorgie Meston, or even Chaudhary Khaliquzzaman or for that matter Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant… I am not that old (even though I may look close to it).
No, I refer to today….. the Nov 3, 2010 (or what was Nov 3 since I have just go home and it is almost 0200 hours) – a day steeped in nostalgic meetings, and several trips down memory lane. But let me tell you all in chronological order.
In the morning, I had fixed a meeting with an old ustaad, Ehsan Kidwai sahab at the UP Urdu Academy. With one thing and another, it was quite over the time we had fixed to meet there that I reached the rendezvous, but thankfully he was still there. What followed was the stuff dreams are made of….. though a lot of you might see it differently. For more than the next two and a half hour or so, followed a sparkling chat with Kidwai sahab and some others over tea and paan, touching Urdu literature, various facets of life, happenings in Lucknow – now and in the past, and so on and on and of course, the khatmal and the machhar controversy (well, if you don’t know about this, I am not going to tell….. fasad ho sakta hai). Imagine a conversation liberally sprinkled with ama‘s and oh fo‘s (both expressions which signify a dyed-in-the-wool Lakhnavi) and taslims when you passed something to the person sitting next to you…… In short, a typical Lakhnavi interaction, which is now sadly a rare thing with the few steeped in this particular ethos getting fewer and fewer…
Alas, as happens with all good things, it came to an end and I realised I was one and a half hour late over the time I had given my mother, who would be waiting for me and I had something surreptitious left to do (Sorry, I am not going to spill the beans here, in case, any of my family is reading in….
However, I accomplished the task I had in mind in double quick time, and not only did I find what I was looking for but also hit on a bonus… a brace of bonuses to be exact. Then I rushed to RV with my mother…. home and then another round of shopping. This was worthwhile but slightly expensive for me…. but in all good measure.
We reached home and then there was no activity planned. Sharing a couple of bottles of beer with Otets, I was dining when the phone rang…. the landline to be exact. I picked up and heard someone asking for me. I identified myself and found it was the Gharial himself…. He was coming to pick up some food from near the erstwhile Tulsi Cinema and asked if I could on. I immediately assented, and fixed up a RV in 20 minutes… which wasn’t bad since it wouldn’t take me more than five minutes.
As it happened, it took slightly more since I missed the turn and had to go around the circle again…. but I did reach within the stipulated time. As we met with a warm embrace and the Gharial (Vikalp Srivastava, to give you his real name) introduced me to his wife, I found another long-lost friend was on his way. This was Lampat (Venkatesh Agarwal)…..
Over a surreptitious drink, we caught up with old times and some scandalous episodes from my past (it was a good thing it was dark and they couldn’t see me blush as they dredged up the stuff). However, it was very good…. both looked the same, well almost the same…. minus a considerable amount of hair, while they said I looked more or less the same, except the more bushy moustache and the white hair. Eventually we parted with promises to meet the next day.
As I left, I decided to visit my old place of work and see whom I could meet… I met about half my old colleagues. It is close to two years since I left, but it seemed like just yesterday… such are the tricks our memory plays on us.
And then it was time to head home and pen down the recollections while they were still fresh…. and now its done, i will go and sleep.