Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What was '1857'?

Historians and leaders and freedom fighters have termed '1857' inter alia as 'mutiny', 'sepoy revolt', 'first war of independence' . In India, the term "First War of Independence" was first popularized by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his book The History of the War of Indian Independence.

So recently I was asked my opinion about it - I had given it much thought when I first started my research- and the conclusion that I reached was that it was a bit of all . It started as 'mutiny' or sepoy revolt but gradually became 'First War of Independence' as simple as that. Let there be no doubt about its being the 'First War of Independence' because till that time it was perhaps the largest most widespread, most horrendous and one of the longest lasting wars in recorded history of mankind.

Truth is simple though sometimes clever academicians make it deliberately complex to show their 'scholarship'.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some of my old articles on history of Lucknow

Some of the these are in Hindi because English newspapers are no longer interested in that kind of stuff. I will try and get all published in English again in the form of a book. Some of these are original researches!

Here they are

Friday, November 20, 2009

Musabagh the last bastion of 'mutiny' of 1857

You can read a lot about Musabagh on the internet but what you will be able to read the real fact about Musabagh only on my blog. I am surprised that so many able historians never reached this conclusion. I am beginning to doubt whether they even visited the site at all. In short Musabagh was laid as a garden by Nawab Asafuddaulla somewhere around 1780's . Later Nawab Saadat Ali Khan built a house near it , but in all probability the structure that you see in the picture was designed by General Claude Martin. According to Sydney Hay the 7th Oudh irregular cavalry was stationed here and it first rose up in 'revolt' when asked to bite the greased cartridge. The final decisive battle for control on Lucknow was fought here. Well that was all historical data which you will easily find on the internet. What I am going to tell you now is what will disturb you most - this beautiful building ( as you can see in the black and white photograph) was destroyed in cold blood by the British army as probably they did not want a fortified building of this size in the vicinity of Lucknow. I say cold blood because you have to go to Musa Bagh to belive it but it is not half as lovely now as it was when I was first there I think nearly twenty years back. At that time there was only a very rocky kind of road and we had to stop the car much before Musa Bagh and walk upto the place. It is the loveliest location in Lucknow and must have been even more lovely about a century and a half back when the Gomti used to flow beside it. But the British army just destroyed this building and Kothi Dilkusha in cold blood. Please do not for a moment believe that they decayed and fell off due to age or disuse or whatever no they were destroyed deliberately perhaps with gunpowder, one historian says dynamite was used, a renowned historian but ha ha dynamite was invented only in 1863. The black and white photo is by Felice Beato a Venetian who was one of the first commercial photographers in the west. That photo was taken in 1858 after everything had pretty much settled down! So well you are intelligent people think for yourself!
Anyway now Musa Bagh is awaiting speedy destruction not gradual destruction mind you but speedy destruction, it may go off the map altogether like Polehampton bungalow , so if you have a plan to visit it , do it now! Tommorrow may be too late!

By the way if ever it does go don't worry you can see its photograph no infact the cover of my novel 'Recalcitrance' is Musabagh - my last ditch effort to save Musabagh for posterity.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where the 'mutiny' of 1857 started in Lucknow!

Did you ever wonder where the 'mutiny' of 1857 started in Lucknow? Well obviously the picture shows that spot. The granite memorial is on the spot where once stood the Residency bungalow occupied by Sir Henry Lawrence.

The Muriaon or Mandiyaon cantonment was garrisoned by 13th, 48th and 71st 'native' infantry units. Most of the troops from these 'mutinied' on the night of 30th May 1857 and burnt down almost everything except the Polehampton bungalow about which you have already read on my blog.

Thanks to the British that they left behind this memorial otherwise we Lucknowites have done everything in our power to destroy all tangible signs of that great episode in our history. About a decade and a half back I had to climb private boundary walls of several people, like a thief to reach and photograph this place. I wrote in local newspapers about the building after which now ASI has cleared the approach to this monument from the Sitapur road. At that time the gate to the monument was through a bog populated by pigs and was the dumping ground for all garbage from nearby areas.

What I find amazing is that after 152 years the government has not thought it fit to erect a single brick in memory of our brave forefathers who raised their voice against injustice and challenged the mightiest power of those times. Bravo!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A visit to GPO Lucknow !

I wonder whether GPO Lucknow is an accursed place! It has witnessed trials of some revolutionary freedom fighters during British rule. Some of those tried were later hanged. Now this GPO (General Post Office) building is..... well it is self explanatory the main post office in Lucknow. In this age of privatisation and when private players have taken away so much business from post offices, you need to experience the behaviour of GPO employees to believe it! I shudder to think what opinion an outsider will have of Lucknowites if he ever visited GPO Lucknow. It is undergoing major renovation these days but after what I have known of the place I suppose they should be renovating the work force rather than the building. Today I went to post a copy of my own novel, generally I leave that to a guy I pay for doing that, but today I decided to post it myself. It was a big mess out there with all the counters gone. Before this renovation stuff I remember very well that there were about half a dozen counters manned by lousy postal clerks and one had to stand in line for close to an hour to get anything done. This has been happening for year after year but the Honourable Post Master General of Lucknow does not seem to be bothered. Whenever I went to complain about this I could never locate the senior officers because they were hardly ever in their offices. The guys subordinate to them are so clueless and ill educated one does'nt feel like talking to them. They have no idea whatever about simple procedures. I wonder why they should not be kicked out and hardworking young jobless people asked to take their place. Most of them do not know the very basic things about computer hardware or software.
So well I went there today with a copy of my book. I stood in line for nearly forty minutes only to be told by a young inexperienced lady clerk that I had not packed the book properly. How was I to know what is the proper way of packing, there was no inquiry counter whatever , there were no signs to direct people to proper place. Will the Honourable Post Master General of Lucknow pay me some kind of compensation for my time that his subordinates wasted.
I was coming back disappointed when I decided that some senior officer should have a piece of my mind so I asked a clerk for the directions to a senior officer, he answered "Go back and find for yourself yaar!", now this was more than I could take and I said to him "Hey listen if I publish all this and the state of your GPO with your photo you might be in big trouble", this mellowed him down a bit but I knew nothing can permeate their thick skins except invasion by private companies which is taking place surely but certainly. Although as a bit of a Marxist I do not like this but perhaps that is what will happen.
Tomorrow I will my guy to book the copy of my novel for USA - he will go bribe the postal clerk who will book anything for the bribe without checking what is inside.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Was it something supernatural!

I have narrated this story only before a few relatives, this is the first time I am narrating it publicly. You may scoff at me for trying to make a chance happening, a supernatural experience, well you may be correct ! But if you were a character in that story it would be nothing short of supernatural for you too.

It was about ten years ago, people were celebrating the birthday of a Guru Ji in Ayodhya in a big way. His followers from all over the world had started collecting at his ashram in Ayodhya about a fortnight before the actual big day. We, that is me and my father, were not invited to that function officially since it was only for ladies but my mother was an invitee and was already in Ayodhya and at the ashram.

It was November and a panch kosi parikrama (circumambulation of five kos [a unit of distance in rural India]) was going on which meant that no vehicles were allowed inside Ayodhya except those having permits from SP (police chief) of Ayodhya . We did not know this so were kind of lost as we had no idea about an alternative route ! It was dark when we reached outskirts of Ayodhya and very foggy too. Ayhodhya is much colder than Lucknow in winters due to lack of pollutants which are liberally present in the atmosphere of Lucknow all the year round.

So it was quite dark and foggy and we asked for alternative routes and ultimately found one route which was supposed to take us to another entry point in Ayodhya nearer our destination. It was really dark with only our car's headlights providing the light, there were no streetlights, no houses could be seen, no flourescent signs nothing at all! We were about to climb what looked like a flyover, a new structure for us since in our numerous visits to Ayodhya prior to this one , we had never come across a flyover. As were just about to start the climb a person dragging a bicycle stopped us by wave of hand, now when we think about it - it seems incredible since it was foggy and dark and there were no lights whatever heaven knows how we saw him waving. He stopped us and said very politely that he knew a better route and that was just parallel to the over bridge and we need not climb the over bridge . We were highly suspicious of him mainly because there was no person around except him and we could not see his face in the dark at all but he was so insistent that we backed up the car and took the road beside the overbridge, we wanted to bid goodbye or thank the person but by that time he was gone.

Ten or twenty metres down that road my father who was driving, was extremely irritated as there was a lot of mud on the road and the windscreen was getting really dirty. About 200 meters down that road the car just stopped and would not move forward at all. We got down and found that it had got stuck in a lot of mud. We looked around to see if there were people we could ask for help but there was no soul in sight and in any case it was so dark. Just then I happened to look above me and what do I see ...... there was no flyover ...... I mean to say that the middle plateau part of the flyover had not been made at all....... I did not say a word but just pointed out that gap to father .

Later I pushed the car a bit and it got out of that muddy hole and started. We did not speak a word about that incident not only that day but for years afterwards, I really do not know why. Only years later we told mother about that incident, when the bridge was all complete and I had taken the government bus to come to Lucknow from Ayodhya . I estimated that the plateau part of that flyover was almost three stories high!

I am not sure of the details of that incident but one thing I am absolutely sure of and that is that the person on the bicycle never ever mentioned a single word about the bridge being incomplete and that is the only thing my father is sure of about this whole incident.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Speed breakers or life takers!

Those in Lucknow might have noticed that a new convention centre has come up near KGMC or KGMU or CSMMU or as people know it better Medical College. With this convention centre a number of speed breakers have come up on either side of the railway bridge opposite Hathi/Buddha park. Since I pass this road almost everyday I have noticed a huge traffic jam on this road when commuters go to or return from office - so what's the big deal! The big deal is that this road leads to King George Medical College's /CSMMU's Trauma Centre , Lari Cardiology Institute, CSMMU Emergency and SIPS (a private hospital's) 's emergency centre. It is very very likely that next time you are on this road you will see an ambulance with a seriously ill patient inside helplessly blowing its siren but actually just remaining stuck there in the jam for God knows how long. I have been seeing this for nearly two years now (a conservative estimate) . Wonder how long it will go on! At least three Nobel Prize winners have also travelled through this road to attend seminars in that convention centre wonder what they must have thought. Pic taken at about 1 pm so condition just a bit better but I still saw, while taking the pic, two ambulances slowing down and taking almost a minute to cross this stretch of road.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Horrible traffic in Lucknow!

In the last thirty days I have had two accidents on Lucknow roads. I had one last evening. Accidents are just accidents but I guess the traffic police has to share a bit of blame too. They are there, it appears just to fine people for not wearing helmets. That is their sole concern perhaps! It would embarrass a Lucknowite if photos of Parivartan Chowk or Burlington crossroads were published in a major newspaper during peak hours. It is worse than cattle running helter-skeltor .

Since the last quarter century I see that traffic is absolutely crazy when big schools like St. Francis get over but since the last quarter century they have done nothing about it. Similarly Red Hill School for toddlers on Gokhle Marg. There is hardly any space to walk on the road when Red Hill school gets over. But the traffic police is at the crossroads fining people for not wearing helmets. Wonder what kind of prioritization that is?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peel and HMS Shannon and the guns !

I distinctly remember my first association with 'mutiny' of 1857, it was on top of a naval canon in the grounds of The British Residency in Lucknow. My father took me there for a walk when I was quite young. It is one of my earliest memories, rather photograhic image from childhood. My father put me there on the canon like one would do a little kid on a pony. The fixation started from there. The gentleman on your screen is Sir William Peel. "He was born in the Mayfair district of London, the third son of Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister of Great Britain 1834-1835 and 1841-1846, and entered the Royal Navy in 1838." He was already a VC when he came to Lucknow with his naval brigade from HMS Shannon. That canon there is from that ship. It was a magical canon and atop that canon I embarked upon this wonderful journey of 1857.
These guns were used in the so called 'second relief of Lucknow'.
(if there are any copyright issues regarding pics please do let me know and I will do the needful as desired by the person concerned)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Great Great Grand nephew of Rev. H. S. Polehampton

It surprised me greatly when a gentleman named Mr. Chris Wilkins contacted me! Why? Because he is the great great grand nephew of Rev. H. S. Polehampton! Given below is additional information about his great great granduncle which he provided.

Children of Edward Polehampton and Elizabeth Stedman
-6.1.Edward Thomas William Polehampton born 27th December 1822, died 1890
-6.2.Henry Stedman Polehampton born 1ST February 1824, died 1857
-6.3.John Polehampton born 1825, died 1895
-6.4.Elizabeth Mary Polehampton born 1826
-6.5.Thomas Stedman Polehampton born 1827, died 1904
-6.6.Catherine Polehampton born 1828
-6.7.Arthur Polehampton born 1829, died 1885
-6.8.Emily Polehampton born 1830
-6.9.Henry J Polehampton

6.2.HENRY STEDMAN POLEHAMPTON, second son of Edward Polehampton and Elizabeth Stedman
Born 1824, died 1857. Married Emily Augusta Allnatt, daughter of Charles Blake Allnatt on 10TH October 1855 in St Chad’s Shrewsbury.
Attended Eton College
Matriculated at Pembroke College, Oxford 17th November 1842
Wightwick Scholar 1842-45: Wightwick Fellow 1845-56.
BA 1846, MA 1849
Rowed for Oxford University in 1846 at bow position.
Rector of St Aldates, Oxford 1849 but resigned after 6 months as it was not compatible with his fellowship at Pembroke College.
Assistant curate St Chad’s Shrewsbury
Chaplain of the residency at Lucknow where he died in the Siege of Lucknow after contracting cholera after being shot. Widely praised for his heroic actions.
In stained glass window in dining hall in Pembroke College,Oxford as being a fellow in 1846/47, memorial in St Chad’s Shrewsbury (plaque) and in Hartfield Church, Sussex (stained glass window).

Polehampton Bungalow gone!

Though I was interested in the so called Mutiny of 1857 from the age of 8 when I heard stories about that event from people who were born in late nineteenth century. However books on 1857 were not easily available or I did not know about them. Also as a student I never had the money to buy a lot of books. When I dropped out of medical college I had a lot of time on my hands and started research on 1857. I got to know about Mandiyaon or as western historians call it Muriaon - that was the site for the original cantonment for the British in Lucknow. The present cantonment only came up after events of 1857. So one day I took a primitive film camera and went to Mandiyaon. I did not expect to see any buildings from 1857 still standing - and lo what happens I saw Polehampton bungalow the only surviving building from that cantonment site that was left standing by the 'mutineers' really ex soldiers of the Nawab's army and 'native' soldiers of the company's army. They had burnt down everything else if we are to believe contemporary British accounts. There was a well beside the Polehampton bungalow and there were also traces of a gateway and a bit of boundary wall so it appeared to me that the bungalow was surrounded by some sort of garden and had a wall all around it. Due to tremendous hurry I was not able to incorporate this building and events that occurred around it, in my novel but I want to in a subsequent edition. I have the only photographs of this building in this world. I wrote about this building and one Hindi newspaper published the article on front page.
About three years back I got a digital camera and took this colour photograph of the building. Sadly an year back the building was demolished and a school has come up in its place. So it was not just a building but the only tangible trace or relic of that brilliant episode - the start of the First War of Independance in Lucknow.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Who am I in short !

Well who am I - simple answer is I am a Lucknowite - complex answer is I am a lot of things writer, observer, bad photographer, medical college dropout ........ My family - well we have been here for at least 170 years living in the same area and in the same house for almost 90 years now. In all probability we are here even before the Nawabs but not sure of that one. People say my great great.... grandfather helped the so called 'mutineers' with a lot of money since he was a prominent businessman of the city ... but it could just be something people made up. So well that's it let us talk about Lucknow only from now on - coz that is why you are here ! We will talk about a lot of disconnected things or well things that are connected by the keyword 'Lucknow' . Thanks for sharing a bit of your precious time with me !