Category Archives: Events

The Phantom: The Ghost Who Still Walks

Phantom-Charlton-Front

Enter the Phantom

Leon “Lee” Falk was born on April 28, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. While at college, he developed the idea for a comic strip featuring a caped stage magician, which developed into Mandrake. He sold the rights of the strip to King Features Syndicate, NY. Mandrake – The Magician premiered on June 11, 1934, when Falk was just 23 years of age.

Soon after, Falk developed another idea for a masked crime fighter, named The Phantom, which debuted on February 17, 1936. He drew the strip himself for two weeks, after which the artwork was left to Raymond “Ray” Moore and the strip was again syndicated to KFS. On the other hand, Mandrake was drawn by artist Phil Davis. During the Great Depression in the US, such adventurous comic strips became popular for their morale-boosting appeal among common folk reading the daily newspapers. Falk had created a winner.

The Mythos

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The unique features of the Phantom as an anonymous, masked crime fighter developed over an extended period of time. The Phantom’s debut story was The Singh Brotherhood, an epic of a story, which featured many conflicting features of the character, as Lee tried to pick up the best from fiction around the world and give a unique twist to his creation. Geographically, the Phantom lived in Bengal, India, fought Chinese pirates who wore turbans and had the title of “Singh”, rode about with tigers and elephants, stayed with pygmies but had European descent. Now, this strange but exotic amalgamation brought inherent contradictions to the character, which Falk ironed out gradually – by moving the Phantom out of India to Africa, thereby retaining the pygmies and jungle, and making the Singh Pirates fade into oblivion; the beloved tigers he explained as being due to a shipwreck near the African coast; since the ship had been carrying animals from India, these entered the African forest and multiplied there. Quite ingenious!!

The Ghost Who Walks

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The origin of the Phantom is described as being due to a pirate attack on a merchant ship off the coast of Africa. A young boy who saw his father being murdered by pirates, took the oath of fighting against piracy and furthermore, his sons, and their sons would follow him. This oath continued for 20 generations, over a period of 450 years; the present Phantom being the 21st of his line. The Phantom, after accepting the mantle from his dying father would never show his face again, except to his wife and children. Whether in his cowl and costume, or out of it, crime fighting would be the primary aim of his existence. He would also intervene in social problems, filial problems and other problems, including financial (and even health) problems which humans face from time to time. He would be fair, upright and moralistic always. He would never touch alcoholic drinks and in general be the epitome of proprietary. In the present context, he would not be a “Dark Knight”. His goals and his lifestyle were pre-defined for him, as decided by his forefathers, 400 years ago. There was no question of deviations or re-boots. The Phantom – the Ghost Who Walks would be there, if you called out to him for help.

The present Phantom continues to live in the Skull Cave of his forefathers, inside the Deep Woods, protected by the Bandar, or pygmy poison people. He is married to his childhood sweetheart, Diana, who works for the UN. He has twins, Kit and Heloise; it is a matter of conjecture who will succeed him as the 22nd Phantom. Devil, the fearsome mountain wolf, is his faithful companion, and Hero, the stallion, is his favorite steed. The Phantom is the ex-officio, secret Commander of the Jungle Patrol, a para-military organization, which guards the Bengalla jungles. He is on friendly terms with Dr Luaga, the President of Bengalla. In addition to his home in the Deep Woods, he has several other hide-outs, equally exotic; these include Keela Wee, a beach with golden sand and a Jade Hut. Eden is an island resort, where all animals live peacefully, subsisting on fish and vegetables. The Phantom has a hideout in South America, atop a mesa, called Eyrie. He also has a hideout in Romania, in the form of a abandoned castle. He maintains a menagerie of animals with him, most of whom are house-trained and rather cute. These include Joomba (an elephant), Kateena (a lioness), Baldy (an old gorilla), Hzz and Hrz (prehistoric cave monsters, who eat only mushrooms!!), Solomon and Nefertiti (dolphins), Bobo (a chimpanzee), Fraka (a falcon) and Stegy (a stegosaurus).

The Phantom likes to move out to the cities from time to time like an ordinary man as Kit Walker (for the Ghost Who Walks), wearing a fedora, sunglasses and trench coat, accompanied by Devil. He is a menacing figure for evil doers; he is a favorite of children, beautiful women and royalty. In short, he is a human being, without any superpowers – yet his persona ensures that no other masked superhero can even come close to his charisma.

The Phantom in India

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India was first introduced to The Phantom in the 1940s in The Illustrated Weekly of India which carried Phantom Sunday newspaper strips. The first regular series of Phantom comic books in India were published by Bennet & Coleman as Indrajal Comics from March 1964 to April 1990. A total of 803 issues were published, after which the publishing rights were picked up by Diamond Comics and Rani Comics. In June 2000, Egmont Publications in collaboration with Indian Express (later Egmont Imagination), launched a new series of Phantom comics, reprinting few (pretty mediocre) stories created by the Scandinavian publisher, Egmont. Today, The Phantom is published in several languages in a vast number of Indian newspapers and magazines.

Although the Phantom debuted in the US, it remained confined as a comic strip; it could never achieve the success of a comic book hero, although Phantom comic books were brought out from time to time by publishers such as Gold Key, Charlton, DC, Moonstone, and more recently Dynamite. In contrast, the Phantom enjoyed immense popularity in India, through The Illustrated Weekly and Indrajal Comic reprints. One of the reasons could be that readers in India were exposed to original Lee Falk stories, amply illustrated by Wilson McCoy and later, the legendary Seymour “Sy” Barry. On the other hand, the US comic books mentioned above had their own authors and artists, and despite their best efforts, they just could not match the charismatic output of Falk and Barry. In India, the Phantom still enjoys a phenomenal cult following, and entire generations, irrespective of age or sex still go wildly enthusiastic over the charms of the GWW, as evident in a discussion in FB recently.

The Phantom in Other Countries

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The Phantom also proved to be very popular in the most unlikely of geographical locations, and got translated names according to the country of publication. For Italy, it was L’ Umo Mascherato, for Brazil, it was Fantasma, for Sweden, it was Fantomen, for Denmark, it was Fantomet, for Spain it was El Hombre Enmascarado, and for France it was Le Fantome. In Finland, he was called Mustanaamio and in Turkey, he was Kizil Maske. The Israeli Phantom was simply known as Phantomas, the Yugoslavian avater was called Fantom, and the Indian Phantom was known as Betaal.

Movies and TV Serials

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Compared to the likes of DC and Marvel characters who have starred in very successful and extremely expensive Hollywood productions, the Phantom, again, has been quite unfortunate in this aspect. He first appeared in a movie serial, The Phantom, in 1943, with Tom Tyler in the lead role. The 240-minute serial in fifteen parts, remained faithful to the character, despite its limited budget. A 1996 Hollywood film, The Phantom, Slam Evil from Paramount Pictures starred Billy Zane in the title role. It was a box office disaster.

Two animated series, Defenders of the Earth (1986) and Phantom 2040 (1994) were also produced for TV; these were hits, but primarily meant for young children. In 2009, SyFy Channel released a 4-hour, mini-series in two parts, called The Phantom, starring Ryan Carnes in the title role. It took too many liberties with the character and mythos, and was heavily criticized by Phantom fans (=Phans). Other Hollywood projects on the Phantom have been announced from time to time, but none have materialized till date.

The Present

With Sy Barry’s retirement in 1994 and Falk’s death in 1999, the character of the Phantom took a nose-dive, with artists and writers of different hues trying their hands in re-creating the Phantom. Commercial interests dictated that the strip should continue, as it still does, but the charisma slowly faded. While Scandinavian countries with well-established machinery for creating new Phantom stories, continued their output for a dedicated readership, Frew in Australia, continued picking up several of these stories and translate them into English for an enthusiastic Australian Phan base. However, current writers and artists for KFS, USA seem to be unable to match Falk even remotely in continuing the strip, which seems to be slowly becoming trivialized and diluted. The menace and the mystery has diminished; often the Phantom appears to have an identity crisis; sometimes he is made to act like a buffoon and act against the very tenets that made him so lovable in the hands of his original creators.

No doubt the Ghost Who Walks still walks on, but he doesn’t seem to be going too far these days.

Wallpaper

Workers-Literature Writing Competition by Lucknow Book Club

Ever find yourself looking at photos and thinking about stories? here’s a chance to write them and maybe even win a prize! Enter the LBC Workers Literature Writing Competition and email a 150 word poem/short story/dialogue in English/Hindi to lbc.lucknow@gmail.com quoting the code in your subject line..all entries will be published on www.lucknowbookclub.com and you may win a special prize from The Color Caravan! Last date for entries is 8th June 2014. A big thank you to Ajaish jaiswal photography and Najeeb’s Photochrom and Swati Seth Photography for the lovely pictures!

LBCW1: courtesy @the colour caravan

LBCW1: courtesy @the colour caravan

LBCW2: courtesy @Ajaish Jaiswal

LBCW2: courtesy @Ajaish Jaiswal

LBCW3: courtesy @Ajaish Jaiswal

LBCW3: courtesy @Ajaish Jaiswal

LBCW4: courtesy @Najeeb Photochrom

LBCW4: courtesy @Najeeb Photochrom

LBCW5: courtesy @the colour caravan

LBCW5: courtesy @the colour caravan

LBCW6: courtesy @Najeeb Photochrom

LBCW6: courtesy @Najeeb Photochrom

Impromptu Year-End Picnic of LBC

I was on a short visit to Lucknow during the last week of December 2013, and I had a chance to personally meet many of the LBC members, and that too in a picnic coordinated single-handedly by Missy!! The venue was Friends Rosery (Nursery), near Itaunja, Sitapur Road, The date was 26th December 2013, time was 2.30 pm. The nursery of Mr Agarwal had an awesome collection of ornamental plants and cacti, 2 lovely dogs and Mr Agarwal himself, was the perfect host, enthusiastically supported by his son, Zubin.

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As the members trickled in, I could recognise many of them, from their pictures seen earlier on FB. The surprise arrival was of Dok Sb (Dr Manoj Singh), who had earlier expressed his inability to attend the get-together.

A lot many members brought along snacks, including cakes, patties, cookies, eclairs, so-much-so that the food was in excess of the members present. Thumbs Up and tea was also available, together with teeny weeny morsels of exotic fruits from Mr Agarwal’s nursery.

The waning sun, the extensive greenery, the amiable and cheerful atmosphere and the hospitality of Mr Agarwal formed the perfect back-drop of the impromptu picnic, organized so thoughtfully by Missy, so I that could meet some of the folks of LBC in person.

Thank you, Missy, thank you LBC.. it was wonderful making new friends with all of you. Life becomes a whole lot easier when friends keep meeting and friendship keeps blossoming.

Wishing you all A Happy New Year 2014!!

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Fourth Sunday Meet Again – August’13

Lucknow Book Club welcomes the Cambridge Rickshaw Project as new members to their literary family.

Lucknow Book Club welcomes the Cambridge Rickshaw Project students as new members to their literary family.

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” -The whole world is one single family

Masto might have quoted this phrase to close the session but it surely was the theme of the day. The month of Freedom and with the celebration of Independence, it was the time for the fourth Sunday meet again and Lucknow Book Club could find no better way but to celebrate the occasion by welcoming this year’s students of the Cambridge Rickshaw Project as new members to their literary family. The meet was well attended by the club members, RTP students and friends at Hotel Deep Palace, Lucknow on August 25.

Mesmerized by the hospitality and smiling faces, RTP students enthusiastically participated in the chit chat session. One of the students was heard saying, “We just love the peace and serenity of the city”.  There was a quick round of introductions, followed by a literary enlightenment of the word Independence and the individual perceptions behind it.

People came up with beautiful thoughts and their version of freedom, leaving everyone with points to ponder upon, as to what patriotism is for a soldier fighting boundaries or for those who are immigrants to other countries.

Ryan, from New Zealand and a student in Cambridge says, “While I was in India this year on the Independence Day, I realized, Independence should not be taken for granted. I have never seen any place where this day is celebrated in such a grand manner.” While the eloquent speaker of the club Sulekha ji said that “freedom is the right to say -No, it is the right to be what you want to be, to do what you wish to do”, Puja ji shared her feelings when she was in England and missed India. Rabindra Nath Tagore’s “Where the mind is without fear … was also quoted by Nitin sir.

Ajaish sir and Sangita Ma’am hosted the meet humbly while Nitin sir,  Manoj sir  and Masto conducted the sessions. Everyone enjoyed their cup of coffee and a scrumptious lunch while posing for pretty pictures. The group parted with fond memories and wishes for the students, along with a promise to meet again for the final show of the RTP team , JOSH and LBC volunteers and the little star children from the NGO’s on the 6th of September.

 

Bringing the Cambridge Rickshaw Tour to Lucknow!

2012RTPteamIn 2010, I met the spirited young Nkoko Skete from Johannesburg, we were doing our MPhils together and he was the ‘big thing’ in theatre. Cambridge was overrun with posters of his ‘thinking’ face and the iconic role he played as Anthony Study. I never did see the play and he never did of course forgive me, but we had one too many wonderful lunch dates to care.

It was on one such lunch date at the St. Michael’s Church cafe, while breaking bread over delicious thick carrot soup that I told him all about The Lucknow Book Club, about JOSH and how Lucknow was a little secret because nobody really knew just how much potential it had for creative expression, what it’s heritage held, how proud and wonderful our artists are and just how badly we want to be abuzz like maybe Delhi (only better!). Being passionate about development, talk came to children and NGOs and work I had been involved in and around Lucknow. Stories about children who had no real futures, forget culture, fun, games or even access to school… Nkoko was quiet. He brought it up. He was the tour manager for the famous Cambridge Rickshaw Theatre Project or ‘RTP’ for 2011, he would be travelling to India- to Delhi and then Nepal with a group of crazy young students from the University, bringing smiles and laughter to the lives of children without… would we like to have RTP come to Lucknow?

OF COURSE! And without thinking twice, I said yes. JOSH and LBC would do it! And we did… Pravin, Masto, Ananya, Nitin, Dok Saab, so so so so many volunteers from JOSH and around Lucknow made RTP 2011 a reality. We worked with the wonderful children of the Mamta School, SEWA and Puran Shiksha Kendra. Deepak Saha of envisage communique and ACC cement made it possible for us to have a stage show, kids who had never been on stage found themselves in the spotlight- equal with and finally ‘above’ all.. who can forget the mad laughter, dancing, brilliant acting and tearful goodbyes? In 2012, because of the awesome response we had in 2011, RTP returned! To work with Puran Shiksha Kendra and Ehsaas with maskmaking workshops and more fun for kids at Mamta and games with KHEL. We also found a fabulous friend in Naheed Verma’s ‘Lucknow Homestay’, a safe home away from home for our volunteers from Cambridge who can afford to volunteer and live in Lucknow for 2 weeks only because of Naheed’s generosity and excellent yet cheap services! And now, in 2013, RTP returns for a third time! Lucknow and KHEL inspired RTP members to start another project, the Rickshaw Sports Project to play indigenous and international sports with kids as well as teach them life skills. RSP started its first ever workshop from Lucknow earlier this month. On the 25th, the RTP team will return to work with three partners, Puran Shiksha Kendra, Make A Difference (MAD) and Ehsaas.

We hope the team in 2013 has as much fun and makes as big an impact as the teams have made in previous years. If you would like to know more about the Cambridge Rickshaw Tour and read previous year’s reports visit- http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/centres/cce/awards/rickshawtheatre/ if you would like to volunteer in the Lucknow leg of the tour or recommend a NGO that works with children in the 8-16 year age group or if you would like to donate to the cause and expenses related to doing the final show on the 6th of september, please contact Nitin Prakash (9839015751) or Masto Gaurav Srivastava (9336670006).

We welcome you to attend the final show put together by the RTP team, JOSH and LBC volunteers and the little star children from the NGOs on the 6th of September. Your presence and cheering would greatly encourage the children as well us the youth who give 14 days every year to make forgotten young children feel confident, happy and equal.

Study Hall Reading Club and LBC – face to face

Study Hall, Gomti Nagar is already organizing regular activities in zero period – Book Reading, Creative Writing, Debating, Pottery.
LBC had the privilege of interacting with the lovely children at their Reading club and Creative Writing club.

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Dok Saab initiated the talk by turning the concept of their club upside down. He suggested that passive reading at the book club be reduced/done away with, to be replaced by activities like discussions on books and authors.

Prashant asked the children to name some books which had moved them deeply.

Masto stole the show as always with his great style and flair, as he guided his speech from Gulzar to a career in journalism/writing, to how to improve your writing.

The meeting broke up with promises for more such get togethers.

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Sex, Society and She – Play by Arshana Azmat

LBC Comments

sex_society_and_sheThose who didn’t attend the play missed out on something in their life.

The play tried to address the issue of woman’s satisfaction in relationships – physical, as well as mental.

Arshana Azmat has delivered a play which beats known and established copywriters and producers. The quality of the script leaves little to be desired. The tasteful manner in which the delicate subject (specially in a society where sex is a taboo) has been handled is highly admirable.

Personally, for me, the best part of the show was the superb selection of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasiaji’s music, played at just the right volume, at just the right times. The satire in the play too deserves a special mention for being on the dot, and delivered with finesse.

Director’s Note

This play is not fiction; nor is it based on imagination. It is based on a survey on sex, conducted by a leading news magazine of India – which clearly indicates that Indian women are not sexually satisfied.

The data mentioned in this survey clearly shows that 70 percent of Indian women are unhappy with their sex life. This does not imply that these men are cruel, rude or autocratic; sometimes they are just unaware, ignorant or lack enough sensitivity to understand the demands and desire of a women.

Yes you may blame that maximum Indian surveys are fake or far away from reality but if you will type the phrase sexual pleasure of women in google, you will find many real stories shared by Indian women. In which they are crying for libido. They are breaking the myth that women doesn’t feel orgasm. All these things tells that the women are searching sexual pleasure.

As a new play write I found this subject quite interesting both for writing as well as direction. I have tried my best to not to make it an anti men drama. Keeping this in mind, I kept Jai and Allap in center. In my play, men are discussing these women’s issues because I personally believe that every man is not bad or anti women.

The launch of my play in Lucknow is not a random act, but a careful choice – Lucknow is among the top 5 city where’s women are not satisfied with their sex life. I am extremely lucky that I managed to find a team who accepted it as a social issue and are willing to discuss and share it with as many people as possible.

Cast

Jai: Rishi Raj Maurya playing as Jai is a sexually liberal but anti women. The play shows him as an Asst. Director in Bollywood.

Meera: A women who believes in casual sex but very clear about her own pleasure. Simran Gupta plays Meera on stage. Meera is an activist cum theater actress. Her focus area is single women’s sexuality.

Allap: A mediator who doesn’t look like a mediator. He believes in counseling and conversation rather then preaching or speeches. Prafful tripathi the theater actor will speak as allap on the stage.

Maya: She is a a bold person; In some ways childish, but in many ways she is sensible. At a point she is confused but for the rest, she is crystal clear. Shweta Saxena, a teacher by profession and dusky diva by look is portraying Maya.

Boss: He is a man who knows the answer to all questions, but is still full of questions. Rizwan Haider – a law graduate and an actor acts out the Boss.

Jes: Starts the play and plays the climax too. She is a perfect friend. Her philosophy is to support a friend for the sake of friendship rather than finish the friendship for the sake of personal philosophy. Shishta a mass comm student and aspirant photographer, plays Jes.

Production management by Crow Creative Labs

Multimedia and backstage : Vikas Jaiswal,Jeewan Singh Rawat,Ananya Pandey , Devesh Singh bora,Asmit Joshi,Rohit Rawat,Suyash

Lights : Mohammad Hafiz

Music : We borrowed music from the flute collection of Hari Prasad chaurasiya. The entire music is based on classical ragas. In the romantic scene you can feel the texture of rag Madhuwanti which is a romance based rag. In the spiritual scene you will get the smooth feel of rag shivanjali which is a evening based meditation rag.

Music operated by : Mohsin

Special Thanks

Pooja mishra: A trained Bharatnatyam dancer, Pooja choreographed poetry in this play. She brakes the monotony of play through her dancing moves.

Jai Shankar Pandey : A prominent theatre actor of Lucknow, Jai supported us in many ways. He gave us many ideas regarding the drama element of the play.

Kanak rekha chauhan: Kanak mam, a well known socialite of city and one of the prominent organizers of Lucknow Literature Festival organized the first prominent reading of the play in a very beautiful manner.

Sajhi Duniya: We are very thankful to Sajhi Duniya and Rooprekha Verma mam – Mrs? Dr?, who also organized the formal reading of the play.

Ratna Maurya, Monika shilpkar, Tarun Raj and SNA staff.

For further questions, contact

lbc.lucknow@gmail.com, masto96@gmail.com
Masto Gaurav Srivastava (Phone) : +91-9336670006

Media Coverage

Coverage of play Sex, Society and She on Jagran - INext Live.

Coverage of play Sex, Society and She on Jagran – INext Live.


Bold and Beautiful - says Hindustan Times

Bold and Beautiful – says Hindustan Times


Coverage of play Sex, Society and She by Daily Pioneer

Coverage of play Sex, Society and She by Daily Pioneer

The City’s Jewish Author in Search of Love and Identity!

by Dr.Navras Jaat Aafreedi

Sheila Rohekar is precious because she is the only Jewish writer in the Hindi language. Recipient of the prestigious Yashpal Award for her maiden novel Dinānt (1977), Sheila tells the story of a woman’s search for her identity and love in life. About to publish her third novel, Sheila tackles Jewish life in India. It never occurred to her before that the Jewish society in India would interest people hardly aware ofJews who have been present in their midst for more than two millennia. Born in Pune in 1942 in the Bene Israel community, numerically the largest of the three Jewish communities in India, Rohekar began her literary career in 1968 with the publication of a Hindi story in Dharmayug and a collection of Gujarati short-stories, Lifeline nee Bāhār. Her first Hindi novel, Dinānt (1977), was followed by her second novel, Tavīz, in 2005. It is the story of the developments that take place once Révā, a Hindu woman, marries Anvar, a Muslim. Afew years after Anvar’s murder during the communal riots, Reva remarries. Her son from Anvar, Annu, conscious of his mixed parentage, finds acceptance and solace in a radical Hindu activist group as a college student.However, he succumbs to the police bullet he receives while participating in the Ram Jańmbhūmi agitation. During the preparations for his final rites according to the Hindu norms when it is discovered that he was circumcised, his mother is immediately killed by the radicals to avoid complications.

Book Launch : मिस सैमुअल, एक यहूदी गाथा

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Lucknow Book Club has the pleasure of launching renowed author Ms. Sheila Rohekar’s third novel, “Miss Samual :ek yahudi gaathaa”.

Date : 30th  March, 2013 ; from 1PM to 4PM.

Venue : UP Sangeet Natak Academy, Gomti Nagar, opposite FUN Mall


Lecture by Dr. Aafreedi

420303_10151367934153183_857452805_nAlong with the Book release,  Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi, Ph.D. Assistant Professor and Post-Graduate Programme Coordinator, Department of History & Civilization, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Gautam Buddha University, will  speak on Indian Jewish fiction, including the writings of Sheila Rohekar


Since Ms. Rohekar does not use internet, we do not have access to any of her public profiles. So it will be very interesting to meet the author and know about her from herself.


HT City has posted an article on it, but their paper does not seem searchable.

Here’s a link we’d managed to save – http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=UYT4P6CJIEU6&issue=89332013032000000000001001&article=84507c4a-f65f-49ba-98d1-5fa7944ddeea


 March 30 – Some photos of the event.

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Masto started the affair with a brief intro to the Lucknow book club.

Words cannot describe the quality of Navras’s presentation. It was well researched, and well planned. The oration was excellent, and delivery rivetting.
Navras gave a brief history of Jews, jewish authors & their writing in India, and went on to touch many issues – authors, discrimination, minority community and more.

Mr. Shakeel Siddiqui took up compering after this. Starting with Mr. Virendra Yadav – a literary critic to tell us his thoughts of the book.
Then, Miss Rohekar gave her own introduction to the book.

After this, Mr. Siddiqui called up a bevvy of poets and critics to give their impressions of the book –

  • Akhilesh ji
  • Vandana mishra
  • Virendra yadav
  • Rakesh ji
  • Surya mohan kulshrestha
  • Dr. Ramesh dixit
  • Ravindra verma

The book had universal acceptance in the literary community, and their description and praises made several attendees (myself included) wish to purchase and read this book. Unfortunately, copies were not available on the spot…

The Heritage Food Walk

What’s the heritage food walk about? Throw in some passionate foodies, add the main ingredients,  which happen to be generations-old food shops, swirl them in the dusty bylanes of the old city. Serve hot in the architectural marvels of the area and garnish with the local shops selling knick knacks around them. Tastes best when accompanied by stories from old timers about the joints. Simply put, it’s a gastronomic tour of the old city where the sights and sounds are as important as workings of the olfactory senses and taste buds. Like the idea? You begin like this:

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The ideal time to start is 7.00 pm. Reach the Chowk area, park your car at the entrance to the Akabri Gate. Walk through the imposing facade of the gate. You are in the Sarraafa Bazar, the hub of the jewellers trade where, if you are lucky, you might come across a bargain which the shopkeeper might be tempted to squeeze in because it’s just about closing time. Amble towards the end of the lane while browsing through the countless chikan shops which dot the market. Towards the end of the lane you come across Rahim’s, famous for nahari-kulcha.

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Nestled between a few ittar walahs, the smell of the freshly baked kulchas hits your before the ittars’ can. Nahariis a thin syrupy gravy dish available in two types: the paya ki nahari and gosht ki nahari, which needs no translation. The paya is a bony member devoid of flesh, but much more aromatic than the gosht ki nahari. Paya is supposedly very rich in calcium and is sometimes prescribed by bone setters and malishwalllahs if you have weak bones.

Depending on who you’re visiting with, you go up to the family eating room or descend into the stag area, which is much like any happening rave party. I order the gosht ki nahari since I have Punjabi bones. A plate full of gravy overflowing with ghee with two pieces in it is served. The accompanying kulcha is made of flour kneaded with what I suspect some milk and ghee. It is perfectly baked in the tandoor to give it a crispy crumbly exterior with a golden sheen. The insides are perfectly done and slightly thick. It is done this way to soak up the ghee-laced curry. The curry itself is hot, though the heat is tempered by dipping the kulcha into it. The pieces of flesh are tender and fall off the bone easily.

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The ingredients are not what they used to be, rue regulars, though the taste continues to reign supreme. Whereas in the old days, one’s nails used to stay yellow for days from dipping into the curry, now it doesn’t happen much. Maybe the new hand sanitizers are to blame. On one of my earlier sojourns, I also sampled the kali gajar ka halwa. The combination of the terrace, the full moon and the steaming hot halwa has stayed with me since. You get this delicacy now only if you are lucky, it’s the right season and if you ask for it in advance.

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Next, you move inwards into the bylanes and saunter through the local confectionary shops where picking up a candy is almost de rigeur after the spicy meal. The ittar and confectionary shops soon give way to a certain buzz which grows louder with each step. This is the sound of the warq makers. These warq makers keep a bit of silver between two wooden blocks and beat it with a wooden mallet to make chandi ka warq. Welcome to Chowk wala Tundey. Amid this din you sample kebab and parathas there. Having many branches in the city and as many owners, this branch was picked because it’s the oldest and still does not serve anything except the kebab and paratha while some others branches have become full-fledged fast food joints. In the days of yore, I remember taking my own onions to have with the kebabs since no onions were served then.

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The uniqueness of this joint is also due to the fact that this is the only branch to be cooking the kebabs on a wood fire. And that gives them an element of smokiness not found otherwise. Though the branch in Aminabad does smoke the mince by placing a white-hot ember between the mince to trap the smokiness into it before roasting the kebabs on a gas lit stove, but it’s not the same thing.

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Timing is very important when you have kebabs since a time devoid of customers adds up to charred and dry kebabs, which keep waiting on the tava and at rush hour, the kebabs are a bit underdone. So, go at about 8 pm when the dinner time rush is just about to start to get kebabs done to perfection.

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We then walk towards the Nakkhas Market Road at the end of this lane. Pass alongside innumerable silversmiths selling all kinds of curios and trinkets. Research says that the right time to shop is on a full stomach, so after the two delicious meals, the right time to pick up a bargain is now. Once this lane ends, you will find yourself at a T-junction with the left road going towards Nakkhas and the right one towards Chaupatiya, while bang in the middle, on the opposite side of the road, stands Mubeen’s. The eatery which started by serving everything from nahari kulcha to kebabs and roasted chicken and gravies, due to the exigencies of the market, it is now best known for its pasandas. A pasanda is a distant cousin of the tikka but a more battered and moist avatar. The mutton pasanda made on request (they usually serve the beef variety), is served with his signature chaat masala, which gives an earthy twang to the dish, they need no accompaniment save for some onions in lemon juice.

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Next, we take the right side of the lane and keep going down past the architectural marvels once bustling, but now occupied by nuclear families, many having become backdrops of film shootings in Lucknow, towards a fork in the road from where you take the left towards Chaupatiya. You will know you have reached Chaupatiya when you reach a crossing and you see a grand mandir sharing a boundary wall with an equally imposing and beautiful mosque. One of the things keeping the communal fabric intact is our Lalla Bhaiya, a pandit, selling biryani. Yes, that’s right. How I found him is fodder for another story, but suffice to say in our foodies’ quest to find the best biryani in the city we discovered, ate and crowned Lalla Bhaiya’s biryani as the best. The best thing about this place is the owner. Lalla Bhaiya lords over the one handi he doles out food from, every evening roughly between seven till whatever time it lasts. So, book ahead if you plan to go late.

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Sitting there chewing what I suspect is something more sinister than an innocent paan, he greets you with a quiet nod and a polite smile. He can be found there come rain or sunshine, except for all Hindu festivals. He is a pandit, so what if he makes the best biryani: good quality rice coated with the juice of mutton, infused with cloves and cardamom, the melt-in-your-mouth mutton and the bheenee-bheenee khushboo!

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Some stories surrounding the man and his mutton biryani go thus: Lalla Bhaiya learned to make biryani from his ustad, who now runs a chola bhatura stall! I don’t know if this is true but the next one definitely is. My friend got some biryani packed and placed the leftover in the kitchen. Next morning it was gone. His dadaji had eaten it. When confronted about having eaten mutton in spite of having dentured and soft teeth, his grandfather replied, “It was so soft, I just swirled the mutton in my mouth a few times and swallowed it”.

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After doing all this you turn and walk back. The walk will do you good and help everything settle down and digest well. It will also help make space for something sweet, without which no meal is complete. If you can’t walk, take a rickshaw and take the circuitous route through Nakkhas back to the car park, and if the day is right you might go through the remains of the weekly makeshift antique flea market there. Reach the car park and cross the road towards the other side and you are accosted with a horde of sweet shops. Go further up a few meters and have thandai at Raja Bhaiya’s.

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One of the oldest shops on that circle, this shop is choc-a-block on Holi when the sweet yellow coloured thandai is mixed with something sinisterly green for an extra punch. The devout owner of this establishment is a soft spoken gentleman who knows what to serve to which customer and has his regulars who imbibe the lethal green stuff. The perfect blend of sweet and spice makes this thandai the perfect end to a perfect evening.

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