Culture ! What Culture ?
An eye-opener to cultural hypocrisy
We keep on talking about our cultural legacy, its riches, glorious past, mannerism, literary treasures, poetic ways, social ethos and lot more to keep ourselves occupied by telling the world that we belong to a wonderful yesterday. However the focal point of all this exercise remains if we are really honest or we just massage our egos and console ourselves by patting our own backs. It has been a sad reality in regards to culture when it shifts from living rooms to the drawing rooms and from tea-stalls of street corner to the posh ambience of restaurants. The obituary of the culture is already on the walls when traditions become a symbolic gesture for stand-up comedians and social values become a barrier in carrying one’s own identity in the name of adjusting with the modern world. This signifies the hollow states of mind and desperation within one- self to cope with the surroundings. And that is when it actually is the time to wake-up to the realities and accept that the culture we boast of is actually slipping out of the hands and we are surrendering to the slavery of mental frame dubbed as freedom.
Our society has been a witness to many political changes and variations but one thing that remained constant was the social values but now it is apparent that the damage is more indigenous in nature than what British is held responsible for. In modern society we come across all the characters defined by William Shakespeare in form of those who are born great, those who achieve greatness and those who have greatness thrust upon them. In wake of the altered social system based purely on economic lines, the last category leaves no stone unturned to impose its authority even on cultural spectrum that leaves a very tiny window for us to determine what we were, what we are and where we are heading towards.
Lucknow has been a centre of culture, a benchmark of literature and a host to a series of architectural greats, where mannerism are evidently visible even in the street fights, the place now is turning out to face a stage where the portrayal of literary initiatives are facing a daunting task and they are struggling for survival. The fancy music shows would gather huge crowds but places of serious literature that deals with masses would always be short of takers. Nothing could be more dangerous for a culture of a place than the disrespect of its literary activities and same people find it a matter of pride to be a part of glamorous gatherings where literature, history, arts etc. are merely a showpiece.
It is sad though we are known as the custodians of literature in this part of the world and we delivered to live to that reputation to a large extent but we failed to preserve the identity of a legend called Meer Taqi Meer (1723-1810), more importantly because he was a guest of glorious Lucknow and with him began the new chapter of Urdu literature. There has been a lot of academic discussion about the life of Meer at Lucknow and lots of speculation about his death and burial place. It is most unfortunate that Lucknow could never establish that actual grave of Meer Taqi Meer, something that adds injuries to the insult remains the fact that whatsoever attempts made during various time periods succumbed to the development, edifices and neglect.
Meer lived in a locality, known then as Sathati in Lucknow, reportedly it was located somewhere between Residency and Roomi Darwaza. Mir, who died due to purgative overdose, was buried at graveyard of Bheem Ka Akhara area of Sathati locality. This was even written by Mohammad Mohsin Alias Zainuddin Ahmed just a week after Meer’s death. This area was located north of City Station near Peanut market, it must have been facing the River Bank Colony or adjacent to the existing Railway’s under-pass of City Station, near the junction of Jubilee College on the road that connects the Crown Gate area to Rifaah-e-Aam Club. The two most noted attempts to establish the grave of Meer were that of Prof Masood Hasan Rizvi and Dr. Mehdi Hasan. It is to be noted that until 1960’s the resting place of Meer was known to the localites and the people of literary taste of the city. The picture extracted from Kulliyat-e-Meer by Maqbool Ahmad Lari clarifies the statement.
It was in 70’s that Maqbool Ahmed Lari, who also set up Mir Academy and did some extensive work on the great poet, got installed a plaque “Nishaan-e-Meer”on the tri- section just in front of Rifaah-e-Aam Club hinting towards the location where Meer lived during his stay in Lucknow and died.
Similarly, there was a defaced road-mark installed on the other side of the railway underpass for which LUCKNOW Society tried its best to get its facelift and actually succeeded but soon after it was replaced, it vanished from the scene along with the broken old one. No substantial effort is ever undertaken for the restoration or even at least to justify the great contribution this legendary poet made to the very language of the city.
“Baad Marne Ke Meri Qabr Pe Aaya Wo Mir
Yaad Aayi Mere Isaa Ko Dawaa, Mere Baad”
Can we expect some consideration from the concerned corners that can enable us to restore the much deserving respect to such legends by at least restoring the memorials of their names. If tomorrow the next generation talks about Meer then certainly they might have a valid question asking that where Meer used to live, where he died and where he was buried but unfortunately we would only have regrets to offer telling them, we really don’t know.
This is just one of the many situations that attracts our attention and demands from us to restore the deteriorating legacies. In this series, we are committed to uncover many such injustices towards the personalities and contributors of our cultural heritage.
Shaheer A. Mirza
Writer is a travel professional, freelance writer, commentator and a political analyst
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 1 Issue 12, Dated 05 March 2015)