Awadh: Reminising About Lucknow and Environs
by Allen Kornmesser, September 13, 2018
The food of Lucknow, and Awadh generally, is close to my heart. I lived in Lucknow in the late 1980s when I was doing research for my dissertation. I traveled throughout rural Awadh, doing fieldwork in Mankapur (Gonda district), and in Deoria and Gorakhpur at the eastern edge of Awadh.
Lucknow has grown a lot since then, but I remember it as a small city with a rich history. Palatial buildings, tombs, mosques, and imambaras dot the urban landscape, fringed by parks and lush gardens, winding narrow lanes, and wide boulevards flanked by shops and government buildings.
The heat was oppressive from May to September, but the city would come alive after sunset, the markets thronged with shoppers, people milling about in the evening air, eating kulfi, or kababs and paranthas, at any of the hundreds of roadside eateries throughout the city. Parties, banquets, concerts, and wedding processions, all waited for sunset. Many of my memories of Lucknow are of the city after dark.
Lucknow is the center of Shia Muslims in India, and flowery and formal Urdu still influences the Awadhi dialect in the city. Poetry lives in Lucknow, and readings attract hundreds and thousands of vocal enthusiasts. Classical music and dance, especially Khatak, are taught and preserved in this culturally rich place.
So, it is fun for me to try and capture some of the spirit of this place I called home for over a year. Our ‘Awadhi Thali’ is a creation inspired by that happy time in my life.