So you have been to Lucknow, stayed at the best of hotels, gazed at the Rumi Darwaza, gorged on its cuisine, taken a stroll inside the Bhool Bulaiyya,Imambaras and you think you have seen it all. Right? Well, the city with all its magnificent monuments, houses more than just history, courtly manners and culture HT City has tried to dig out some little known but amazing facts, juicy tidbits, odd and uncanny secrets to give you the other side of the city.
Over a cuppa at Coffee House
It takes two to tango.Our very own desi bhaiyya from Barabanki, Naseeruddin Shah, realized this at the Indian Coffee House here in Hazratganj more than three decades agowhen he was yet to carve a niche for himself on the silver screen. Back from a day’s hectic shoot for ‘Junoon,’ the versatile actor shared and discussed the life’s nitty-gritty with fellow artist Benjamin Gilani over a cuppa in the dimly lit restaurant on a nippy wintry evening in1977. Discovering their mutual love for the stage, they concur that they should do theatre together. It was here that the duo sowed the seed of Motley theatre group and planned their first production “Waiting for Godot”, the popular play that has drawn packed audience ever since.
Kebabs For Inspiration
Do you know what stoked the passions of Ashutosh Gowarikar, Aamir Khan and AR Rehman for that money-spinner movie ‘Lagaan’? The tongue-tingling,sumptuous Lakhnavi kebabs, what else. Yes, he bollywood blockbuster was discussed by the trio over a plate of piping hot kebabs that were specially brought from Lucknow by Rehman. The music maestro had come to receive the Awadh Samman here in 2001 when he got a call from Aamir reminding him not to forget to bring a plateful of the famous kebabs from the city’s famous joint ‘Dastarkhwan.’
Major General Claude Martin apparently had more than one reason why he chose rest in peace on the premises of the prestigious educational institution he established in1785. The sprawling structure designed by Martin, also an accomplished architect, had caught the fancy of his friends, the Nawabs. The French adventurer, it is said, wanted to foil the Nawabs overtures to takeover his property without annoying them. The wily warrior devised a plan. He willed that he be buried beneath the Constantia inside La Martiniere College. A desire fueled not by vanity but a clever ploy to protect his property by turning it into a mausoleum.
When United Provinces became Uttar Pradesh, both Allahabad and our very own City of Nawabs, vied for the capital (city) tag. Billed as Oxford of the East and also the hometown of then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru Allahabad had an edge over Lucknow. Till, of course, Sir Harcourt Butler, the then Governor of UP intervened and swayed the scales in favour of Lucknow, not entirely without a favour though. The Raja of Mahmudabad, who had built a beautiful and palatial building (the Butler Palace) for himself, gifted it to the Governor to win him over to his side in the Capital tussle.
When the East Met West
The famous siege of Lucknow at the Residency claimed the lives of many top ranking British generals, and not just because of dysentery, Gomti was probably as polluted then as it is now. Among those who were killed was William Theed, the third son of British Prime Minster Robert Peel. The highly decorated officer (he was the first man to be awarded the Victoria cross for bravery) sustained serious injuries and succumbed to them. And guess who was covering the war for our very own local English Daily The Pioneer, Winston Churchill, of course.
Bob The Destroyer
Talking of siege, the man who proved to be the nemesis of British troopers garrisoned in the residency was a black sniper from South Africa whom the Brits called Bob the Nailer. His most famous bag was Major Banks commander of British garrison at the besieged Lucknow Residency who he shot dead on 21 July 1857.Nailer was icily preciseand earned the sobriquet as he used to put nails in his musket shots. A special mine was dug by British to destroy the House which this marks man used as his post as a result of which he was killed on 21stAugust.