I was on Nauchandi Express, travelling from Allahabad to Lucknow – the City of Nawabs. I recall, it was on November 12, 2015, when I was going to attend the Awadh Literary Festival (ALF), which was to be held in Lucknow, three days later (November 15). I was the core coordinator of the festival. Other team members were working on my advice. I was there to check the preparations and take charge of the event.
I had three days prior to the festival for any possible damage control.
Let me tell you a little about myself. Lucknow is my native place. My grandfather, Abdul Majeed, was a philanthropist. He donated large tracts of land to the underprivileged and was one of renowned persons of the city. But, the materialistic lifestyle, known for its mad rat race, had scattered our joint family. We came together only on certain occasions.
My Daddy often said that the social transformation had adversely affected our family. Sadly, we too were caught in the web of ‘more and more’. All these saddened him. He agonised that the wild rat race had been affecting our language, value and culture adversely.
For some reason or the other, I was mostly away from the city. I felt rootless. I had seldom visited the tourist spots in Lucknow, the city of my birth. But, this time I wished to amend these. The visit held promise and hope.
My train was late. I was tired and hungry. My friends who had come to receive me almost coaxed me for a grub en route home. We went to a nearby restaurant. I too was ready for junk food in this City of Nawabs. My exhaustion had evaporated. We were laughing and talking like a bunch of school children.
I was happy and gleefully dazed. We left the place in high spirit. We were on an e-ricskaw, known as Tuktuk, though I call it ‘e-kka’. When we reached home and I was fumbling for money in the purse. To my dismay and shock, I realised that I was so absent minded, having met my friends that I had forgotten to collect the balance from the restaurant. It was a large amount. I was tense.
We immediately rushed back to collect that amount, with little hope of getting it back. We were mighty happy to get back the money. The second ride back home was joyous. We recited poems and sang. The air was celebratory. Even the rickshaw driver joined in the revelry. He recited sher (verses) of a famous shayar (poet) of Lucknow, Mijaz Lucknawi. Soon, he was reciting verses of other famous poets from this city.
Delicious food awaited me at home. That night, I went to bed with a smile, happy to be home and among friends.
I was at the Press Club the next morning. My friends had done a good job. With some minor changes, we were all set for the event, ALF.
A day before our event, there was a conference at the Press Club. It was organised by Star Rising Welfare Society and Urdu Academy. It captivated our attention. There were many scholars and writers like Dr. Abdul Salaam Siddiqui, Dr. Kidwai, Dr. Masihuddin Khan, Ghufraan Naseem, Shahnaaz Aara and Naeem Abdul Salam Quraishi. The conference was about the renowned poet ‘Faiz Ahmed Faiz: His Life and Contribution in Literature’. It was a wonderful experience.
What stole my heart at this conference was that younger people were vacating their seats for the elders and women. There were more people than chairs. The quintessential Lucknow of ‘Pehle aap’ (you first) was vibrant. The charm and dignity of the city lived on. Despite many changes, the city of my forefathers was alive and vibrant. I realised that the culture of a place gets embedded in one’s marrow.
Some cities grow on us. I realised this when I went to meet my Gujarati friend. It was barely a year that she was here. But, I sensed that Lucknawai essence had seeped into her. Later that day, we enjoyed delicious kebabs at ‘Tunday Kababi’ – a favourite place of my Daddy. ‘Prakash Kulfi’ was the next place we went to. The creamy, yummy taste was divine!
Next morning, we were happily anxious. Awadh Literary Festival (ALF) was to be inaugurated that afternoon.
The invitees, including the dignitaries, had arrived in time. Some of them were on the dais. The inauguration began with the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon. It was tied over a book, Lifenama. It was a book with contributions from poets far and wide, all over India. I was happy that Serene Publishers, Ahmedabad, gave shape to my idea.
Let me digress and tell you about the book, briefly.
There was an open competition for the poems. We were amazed by the tremendous response. Finally, 108 entries qualified for the publication. Since the selected verses covered all aspects of life, we named it Lifenama. We, thus, had one of the most diverse poetry books.
At the inauguration, even the ribbon had been sketched with winning poems from the book. The ribbon was a treasure. The dignitaries invited a lucky person from the audience and offered the ribbon to him. Umashnaker Yadav, director of Serene Publishers, welcomed the guests at the literary festival.
ALF was inaugurated by noted thinker and philosopher, Deepak Mishra (SP leader). Many noted persons
like Anees Ashfaq (poet), Professor Kalicharan (HoD, Hindi Dept., Lucknow University), Dr. Qamar Jahan (Retd. Prof., Urdu Dept., BHU), Dr. PK Sheth (former director, ITRC), Dr. Bushra Tufail (All India Radio host and SRMU Mass Communication faculty), Ramakant Yadav (editor and writer), Shamshuddin Azhar (editor and writer), Siddharth Yadav (founder of Change India Initiative) and many others expressed their views and discussed the current state of Indian literature and its impact on the society.
The poetry reading session enthralled the audience. Many prominent litterateurs expressed their views on ‘Literature and its impact on society in today’s context’. The Lucknawi flavour of poetry was palpable. Winning poems of Lifenama were presented. Poems in Urdu, Hindi and English were winsome.
The crowd was huge. I welcomed everyone. The media was well represented with people from the print media and some radio stations. The event was memorable. Grace and dignity were its touchstones. Finally, the event concluded with a vote of thanks.
My team, the invitees and the audience made ALF a grand success.
Pix and Text from Author
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