Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Festival Of Lights

This is one festival which brings light in my eyes - literally. No other festival is more cherished, more awaited, better celebrated. Reasons are aplenty, but nothing more obvious than the fact that it is not a single festival, but rather a battery of festivals.

The party begins from Dhanteras - the day to raid markets. I am the one who hates crowd but not this day. The crowd is all smiles, fancy and colourful. For some it is the shopping of the year, for others it is the earnings of the year. Unusual day when both the shopper and the shopkeeper are in benevolent mood.

I usually like the exquisite sculptor work available on these days. Talented villagers from far flung hinterland showcase their expertise. Pity that it is not encouraged and marketed by the authorities.

Mythologically, there is no concept of Chhoti Diwali, unlike Chhoti Holi when Holika was burnt, but as Holidays used to begin one day before Diwali, for us kids it was Chhoti Diwali. This was the day to test fire our toy guns so that they don't misfire on the D-day. This was also the day of decoration, putting Jhaalar - the light bulbs.

Then came Deepawali. Guns, Atom Bombs, Phuljhadis, Rockets, Chataai, Lehsun. However, the stuff I loved the most was Anaar and Chakarginni, especially when more than one were running together. Ladies of the house are usually afraid of sound and blast, so they would stay away from Bombs, and would be content with Phuljadis.

Fun would get doubled when cousins also join the party. We usually never bought crackers directly from the city markets because of the exorbitant rates. They were directly bought on wholesale basis from the villages where they are manufactured. Cost was the factor, but quality was also better. More sound, more colour.

Of course, how can I forget the Laxmi-Ganesh Poojan, and lighting of Diyas and Candles before this celebration. "Is Din Padhogey To Saarey Saal Khoob Padhai Karogey" - Mummy says, so we use to keep with us our favourite books during the Pooja. Once Pooja gets over, time to munch on Kheel, Khilauney and other sweets.

When this never-seem-to-be-ending night ends, it breaks into the dawn of Jamghat - the day of endless kite flying in Lucknow. This day, no man does nothing except kite-flying, and ladies join too. Did a detailed post last year on this - The Beginners Guide On Patangbazi.

Then comes Bhaiyya Dooz, the exact replica of Rakhshabandhan minus Rakhis. Sisters are lucky, for they have two official days of loot-khasot every year, apart from non-official ones. Not that I mind. I have sisters and cousins abound, Isliye Zeb Thodi Halki Hi Rehti Hai.

After almost a week of festivities, Man Nahin Bharta. Yeh Dil still Mange More!

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Lucknow: What and Where To Eat

There is no better place to eat, but stomach do not have so much space. Nawabs loved their cuisine, and so do the current inhabitants, therefore almost in every colony of the city, especially the old city, one can find a famous joint serving your favourite delicacy.

Amongst fruits, Lucknow is famous for it's Dusheri Mangos, Safeda Kharbuja(Cantaloupe), and Gulab Falsey(Blueberries). So if you happen to be there, heaven's forbid, in Summer - that's the season to enjoy them.

Nawabs are credited to have discovered Dum Pukht(slow, prolonged cooking) style of cooking. So all the Dum varieties are popular over here be it Dum Biryani, Dum Mutton, Dum Murg or even Dum Aloo.

Amongst rice varities, Lucknow is known for it's Pulav - especially Noor Pulav, Moti Pulav, and Chameli Pulav. Sweet Pulav like Mazafar, and Khat-Miththe Pulav are popular too.

Roomali Roti, and Sheermal has distinct style. They are prepared and treated differently over here than the rest of the country.

And the Kebabs. This is the land of Kebabs. There is a shop called Tunde Kebabi in Aminabad and Chowk which is world famous. Shop is over hundered years old, and it's stuff get's exported abroad. Kakori's Nargisi and Seek Kebabs are in huge demand in every Muglai kitchen. Last but not least, Sakhawat's Shami and Galawat Kebabs are mouth watering too.

Hotel Taj Residency, Hotel Clarks Awadh, and Carton Hotel serve most of the popular stuff available here, but the real stuff is in the bylanes. There is shop of Mushtaq Mian near press club which is famous for it's Biryani and Kebab. There is always decent crowd in Rahim's shop in Maulviganj, which serves delicious Nahri Kulche. Biryani at Tulsi Plaza, and Sharma's Lucknow Ki Chaat are also well known.

In Chowk near Akbari Gate, which is the heart of the old city, there is place called Shahganj. It has numerous food joints serving delicious delicacies. Then there is Kali Mirch Ka Murga in Charbagh's Maharaja Hotel, which is very famous.

To satiate your sweet buds too, there are a lot of arrangements. Ram Asre, and Moti Mahal in HazratGanj, while Kabra Ki Dukaan, which is now known as Madhurima, ar Sri Ram Road Aminabad are famous for their sweet meat. Kishori sweets and Khairati's Namkeen are very popular in this part of the world.

Ram Asre's never uses tap water in their sweets because the washer in them has the animal leather. Not only this, they always use raw sugar instead of prepared sugar from the market because bones are used in the cleansing of sugar. His sweets are believed to be perfect fit for offering to God.

Makhkhan Malai or Lab-e-Mashook is known and eaten only in Lucknow during winters. It is prepared near Kali Ji's Mandir in Chowk and supplied to the whole city. No body other than the manufacturers know the exact recipe of the preparation.

Ram Asre's Malai Pan and Tirangi Barfi are Lucknow's orginal. Chowk's Raja's Thandai Lassi, Raja Bazar's Kapurkand, Radhe Lal's Doodhiya Barfi, Kali Gajar Ka Halwa, Rajbhog, Aam Ki Kheer, and Mewey Ka Dhoodh are famous. In Yahiyaganj Tatpatti Ki Rabri, in Aishbagh Babulal's Khasta-Kachaudi, Netram's Jalebi and Imarti, Pindi's Chhena sweets are very popular amongst the city residents.

The list has become too long, and I am still not even half over. No detailed mention of Lucknow's trademark Imartees and Revdiyan for which it is well known. So you can see there is much much more to offer, but as I said earlier, there is not much space left in the stomach. You all must have already started burping aloud.

Rest of the story may be some other time. Till then you all can enjoy the above stuff in your imagination.

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Monday, October 17, 2005


Almost an year ago, before going home for Diwali( this time I am not going), I had posted this touchy poem by Sahil Lucknawi.

'Sahil Lucknawi' is a psuedonym taken by Dr. Narendra Nath Tandon - a senior scientist, now settled in USA. Dr Tandon while searching for his poem landed on my blog. It developed a new relationship across the web world, since he has been graciously sending me his old and new works through email regularly.

After taking due permission from him, I am posting a few Dohe written beautifully by him. These days, apart from the likes of Gopal Das 'Neeraj', one really doesn't find nice Dohe. For change, these are good nice ones.


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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kaante Mat Bo

This one is Kaante Mat Boo by Rameshwar Shukla 'Anchal'. Telling words which we could do well to follow.


Previous Poem - Phool

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Mai, Meri Patni Aur Woh

Well, the inadequate promos were adequate enough for me to take the decision of watching this movie. And the verdict is that despite a bit-let-down second half, or rather I should say the last half an hour, the movie is definitely a must watch.

What makes it work? To begin with, the Hrishikesh Mukherjee touch given by director Chandan Arora work wonders for the movie. The narrative is smooth and unhindered. The story is very simple, and incidents are very much realistic. Like any Hrishi Da's movie, all the characters look next door, and most of the events look like happening around you.

Next are the almost natural acting put up by the brilliant cast, and the authentic locations. Rajpal Yadav unleashes his full talent before us. His action and reactions to the situation he finds himself in are perfect. He is the protagonist, and manages the hold movie well. He was the perfect Mithlesh Shukla, and Mithlesh Shukla was him.

The national award winner Rituparna Sengupta convinces why she is the queen of Bengali film industry. She perfectly complimented to Rajpal Yadav, and did full justice to the character of Veena. And yes, she is beautiful too.

Supporting cast is very important in such films, where the protagonist is not larger than life, so every miniscule character sort of takes the movie forward. The Vinod Nagpal plays adorable Mamaji. Saw him after a long time. Chubby Varun Badola does full justice to his character. Kay Kay is as reliable as ever. Even that three shot Tempo wala looked so very convincing.

Locations are perfect. Lucknow is rocking these days. After brief appearances in Bunty Aur Bubbly, and Sehar - this movie painted the whole city red. Almost entirely shot in Lucknow, I could recognize every nook and corner. Dialogues were perfect, keeping in line with local lingo, even the cast had the strong Uttar Pradesh leanings. You can call me prejudiced :-)

The two let downs, however, were the slow, Lucknawi style, pace which becomes too blatant in the second half, and the lack of that final twist. In second half, the story became too predictable, and it needed a typical Hrishkesh Mukherjee style high voltage climax. That never came. Director had ample time to do that, but the script writer floundered.

But never mind that. Movie has much more pluses, than minuses. Such movies should be enjoyed and encouraged. So please go to nearest theatre and watch this one. You would love it.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lucknow: Ganjing

Been to Lucknow, and haven't done 'Ganjing' is as good as(rather, as bad as) you haven't been there at all. I will shed more light on this term.

Ganjing is a term used to describe leisurely, aimless amblings in the wide lanes and bylanes of city's most happening market -Hazratganj. Well, it is not entirely aimless, I must say. It is the main shopping area, it has the best cinema theatres, it has coolest ice cream parlours, and it has the crowd.

So if you want to have your favourite coffee, a bite at ice-cream, lazeez biryani or simply want to have an eyeful of opposite sex, Ganjing is the best way to go about it, in the city of Nawabs. Shopping is the last thing on the mind. Every vacation of mine has at least one day reserved for the MG Road in Hazratganj.

The place is very romantic. Shops are not like the bland Gurgaon malls. They are a blend of old and new. Most building housing shops, restaurants, cinemas are almost 100 years, and they present an old world charm about themselves.

The four landmarks about the Lucknow, which stand out in Hazratganj are Mayfair cinema theatre, which always showed the choicest English movies; British Council Library, the Lucknow chapter; Lucknow Coffee House, which the great thinkers like Premchand, Yashpal, Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to frequent and Ram Advani Bookshop - arguably the best managed bookshop in the country.

Of these, the first two have shut shop, perhaps, a hint of changing times. Coffee House is struggling hard to make ends meet. Though the old glory and patrons are lost, still it's trying to hold it's own against the attack of Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days.

But Ram Advani Bookshop is still alive and rocking. Mr Advani personally looks after each visitor, and helps him/her in finding the desired book. The collections also is marvelous. Some of them are rare gems of history, and literature. Every visit is an experience in itself. In fact, many people incuding historians, foreigners visit this city only to visit this shop and meet Ram Advani.

If you were visit Lucknow, don't ever miss out Ganjing, and more importantly - Ram Advani's Bookshop.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Taken Over

A month back, I went to one my friend - Parimal's daughter's second birthday. The one peculiar thing which stood out appreciatively was the fact that almost everyone who had come had only daughters. No male child was around in that decently large party!

Also, as the news are coming in - almost every colleague's or neighbour's wife who were expecting, end product has eventually been daughters.

These girls...they seem to have taken over. Not that I am complaining.