Tag Archives: Tourism

Can Lucknow be Paris?


It was an early winter morning in 1858. A British soldier, engrossed in his thoughts, was taking a third lap of his morning walk at Alambagh (outside the city of Lucknow). “Can Lucknow be Paris?” he thought.  He was Robert Napier, the chief of the staff at Lucknow. He had to draw an outline for Lucknow, which would change the city forever !

Somewhere in his mind, maybe he had an influence of an engineer, who had rebuilt Paris – Baron Haussmann. Paris was not always a beautiful city. It was congested and unhygienic. Haussmann was commissioned by Napoleon III, in 1853 to instigate a program of planning reforms in Paris. Sweeping changes were made and the wide “boulevards” were created.

Haussmann’s work destroyed much of the medieval city of Paris. It is estimated that he transformed 60% of Paris’s buildings At one time, one-third of Paris was torn down. His restructuring of Paris gave the city its present form; its long, straight, wide boulevards with café and shops, which determined a new type of urban scenario and had a profound influence on the lives of its people.

One thing lay common in the project brief to both the engineers: Haussmann (Paris, 1853) and Napier (Lucknow, 1858). Both were instructed to make the city more effective for military policing. Under this intend, the wide thoroughfares were to be constructed to facilitate troop movements and prevent easy blocking of streets with barricades. The straightness allowed artillery to fire on rioting crowds and their barricades.

Robert Napier, apart from being a successful soldier, had a big reputation for developing the Ambala Cantonment. The Ambala Cantonment was established in 1843 after the British abandoned its cantonment at Saphera(Patiala), following the malaria epidemic of 1841–42. Napier had been on the vacation to England in the autumn of 1856, and possibly had heard of the Haussmann’s work in Paris, back in England.

 When he arrived at Calcutta in 1857, every British was talking about the mutiny and more so, about the experiences of Lucknow. Napier was sent to Lucknow along with James Outram, the chief commissioner of Oudh, to command the force for the relief of Lucknow. Napier was successful in the siege of the city and had now been assigned to make a “controllable” Lucknow.

The Nawabi city of Lucknow formed the administrative and cultural core of vast, rich hinterland and the centre of its voluminous grain trade. Workshops of artisans, craftsmen, jewellers, bankers and tradesmen sprang up around the court to supply its needs and Lucknow had become the locus for the largest complex of luxury industries in northern India. This city had then narrow lanes and was very populated (about 1,50,000 population). In terms of economy, it was only next to the three port towns of India.

The Nawab of Lucknow had constructed large palace-garden complexes, the major mosques and gateways, the imambaras, the chowk and major markets to form the core of the royal quarter of the city.

 Engrossed in his thoughts, Robert Napier went straight to the drawing board and laid the city map of Lucknow on his table. Was Paris on his mind? Nevertheless, what he did thereafter was similar to what had been done to Paris, five years ago.

Some of the key actions of Napier, which were to change the social and physical fabric of Lucknow forever, were:-  

  • Important buildings were identified and the area around was ruthlessly cleared and the building demolished.
  • The narrow streets of Lucknow made way for 50 meter wide roads. The diagonal streets in the picture above, were drawn on the city map. These broad roads cut through the dense city, razing all construction that came into the way.
  • The main diagonal axis of Lucknow city, from the imambara to the Karbala, was changed. The Karbala was shifted and so was the entire city orientation .
  • The cantonment which was earlier north of river Gomti (3 miles away) was brought closer to the town, in its South Eastern part .

The limelight of Lucknow was shifted to Kanpur, when the British shifted their regional headquarters. To add upon, the new rail line connecting Delhi and Calcutta purposely ignored Lucknow. When it finally came in 1875, it divided the city into an old town and the new town. The new markets around Hajratgunj, were to become the new city center.

While a lot was added in Paris post Hausmann, to become one of the most popular cities in the world, Lucknow lost its grandeur.

The evenings of Lucknow, were never to be the same again !

Source of the Maps and Data:

1. The Making of Colonial Lucknow, 1856-1877 Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press by Veena Talwar Oldenburg .

2. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Napier,_Robert_Cornelis_(DNB00)  

3. Photo: Lucknow IMAMBARA by maneesh_agni (http://www.trekearth.com/)

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Assets of Indian Tourism: The Trees of HOPE !


“Soch raha houn, ghar angan me, ek lagaoo Aam ka ped, Khatta Khatta, Mettha Mettha, yaani…. tere naam ka pedh”

(Have been thinking, that in the courtyard of my house, I plant a mango tree, that sweet and sour taste, would symbolize ‘you’)

I heard the lines above, some years back, and somehow it just registered in my mind. What is very interesting is that one is trying to correlate his human relationship, with a Tree! When I turn to the Indian philosophy, I find this relationship with Trees is even more intense and is very spiritual?

The Christmas tree is decorated with fruits, nuts, gifts, ornaments and lights around the world. I could not understand its symbolical value and have some questions. Why does the humanity find HOPE and JOY, in a tree? Is it a way to thank the nature for giving us so much, or is there some deeper meaning in this gesture?

I looked around in my courtyard and found some of the Indian HOPE trees, which are surely the assets of Indian Tourism!

a. The Buddhist tree:The first on the list is the Mahabodhi tree, at Bodhgaya.

 This is the tree where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Now, the Tree gets an all together a new supreme dimension. Lord Buddha had many births/ lives in his search of truth of life and amazingly, he could understand ‘enlightenment’ under this Tree. To understand Enlightenment, it’s important to know the Four Noble Truths, which are the foundation of Buddhism. The truths are:

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering
  3. The truth of the end of suffering
  4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering

I am in no capacity, able to address the truths above. But I intend to understand the correlation with the Tree. The very fact, that such a relationship may exist, between enlightenment and the Tree, makes it so important.  

b. The Sufi Tree: One more special tree, I came across is the tree at Matka Pir in New Delhi, near Pragati Maidan.  

Well, Matka pir was a Sufi saint and is today a very popular shrine in Delhi. This  is dedicated to a holy man who answered the prayers of a man and his wife. Now, what should be understand when we see these earthen pots (matkas), filled with dal and jaggery, hung to this Tree of hope? Are these matkas, anything else but Indian hopes and beliefs?

 c. The Hindu trees: Hinduism if I may say, does not tell its meaning directly. Instead, it would make a story around it first. We are expected to search for the moral of the story. There are many close associations with the tree and the Hindu religion. But I would like to choose one ritual of Vat- Savitri puja to understand the relationship. The Hindu women pray to the tree, for the well-being and a longer life of their husbands. One may tie threads or may put some bells, in HOPE, on these trees. This is amazing!

 

 d: The Sikh tree:  Another example of tree representing a larger moral, is the sacred tree in Gurudwara Ber Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi . It is believed that appreciating the fruit bearing qualities of the tree, Guru Nanak planted the twig near the site of meditation which blossomed into a grand tree and bears fruit even today. It is believed that Guru Nanak Dev gave the message of unity of God, who is beyond the religious divides created by humankind.

What a range of Hope- from enlightenment, to have a baby, to the longer life of one’s husband? I think, these are the Trees of HOPE and BELIEF of Indian culture! Lets take care of them, as they are so symbolic and very very important.

India Tourism: Learn from your Food!


It might sound strange, but does it? I feel Indian Tourism can pick some learning’s from its food. The secret formula is there. The formula of how should the Indian tourism experience, be offered to the world.

Food served in major part of the world is so monotonous, where the first bite and the last bite taste the same (except for the temperature may be). But the Indian Food, it’s different! 

ImageImage

 Let’s observe the images above of a Gujarati Thali and a South Indian Thali, taken for reference. What do we notice? There is rice, roti, different green vegetables, fresh fruits, dal, curd, ghee, pickles, chutney, salt, salad, green chili, lemon, papad, sweet dishes and many more. Some are cooked in steam, while some are fried in oil. I have at times wondered, that why should an Indian meal consist of such a big palette of tastes. Moreover, irrespective of the different regions, where there are variations but on a broader term of taste, a meal served in Indian home has many elements of uniqueness. When served to a group of people, I can bet that no two people would have enjoyed the same taste, from the same food served.

For the world, the taste of food is limited to five basics – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (savory). Is the Indian Meal cooked in this limitation?  The experiment done with flavors or smell in an Indian Meal is humongous. Thanks to the rich Indian spice collection, even a modest vegetarian meal offered in less than $ 2, would take you to a roller coaster of taste. That’s the Indian uniqueness, which I feel has some learning’s to offer to the Indian Tourism.

I would like to share my observations of Indian Food, leading to my inferences or lessons drawn for Indian Tourism.

  • Option of a Variety of tastes: Even the modest food we eat in our home has a variety of tastes, spiced up. Unlike the western option of “Salt and pepper to taste”, the Indian meal offers a reasonably large option is a fact. Taking the clue, our each Indian Tourism destination needs to be packed with options (with unique tastes!)? I mean that even religious destinations like Haridwar or Ajmer, need to have more tourism products.
  • Specialize in a vernacular flavor: While the Incredible India advertisement shows the entire gamete of experiences offered in India, it is upon the states to choose for a particular flavor. If the thali’s of Rajasthan, Andhra, Bengal, Kashmir, Gujarat etc are so different, why should the amusement park in all these places be same. I feel the local “Tadka” is important! The varied tourism products may be planned “of the place”.  There is also learning for some states like Himachal, Jharkhand etc, who do not have a popular Thali (read Tourism Theme or Image), to introspect and discover their uniqueness.
  • Scope for Customization: USP of an Indian Meal is customization. People mix different elements of an Indian Meal and create their own tastes. Some might mix rice with dal then add some mango pickle and for the next bite some rice with vegetables and a bite of green chili and in very next bite, have some papad to add the crunchiness. One should really observe, how you eat your Indian meal and may be count the different tastes you had, in our food bites. Believe me, it’s amazing!

 I wonder if there can be any guide book of how to eat an Indian meal; what to mix, when and how?  There cannot be any one defined way to experience Indian meal (please read Indian Tourism). Similarly, Indian Tourism should create different tastes (tourism products) in a destination and leave on the tourist to customize their experience.

Do not bother about a planned sequence. Instead, let’s create experiences, and let the tourist plan on how he customizes “a rainfall of tastes”, in one single meal.