26 November, 2020

How I Became A Pseudo - Secularist

The Outlook editor recounts life and times in Lucknow, as part of an anthology, Shaam-e-Awadh

How I Became A Pseudo - Secularist
Truth to tell, I am a philistine Punjabi who managed, in the most formative years of his life, to be lucky enough to claim residence in Lucknow. The Mehtas are middle-class merchant refugees from Pakistan, allegedly the land of the pure. So, you will not be surprised to learn that no one in my immediate or extended family has ever won a Nobel prize or even had the benefit of serious education. I am just about a middle-class Punjabi, born to an army father who in 1947 happened to be posted in Lucknow, while the rest of the Mehta-Talwar clan came variously from Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar. The declaration of domicile is necessary if I am to interest you in the haphazard tale of how to acquire a civilisational veneer and some elements of culture through osmosis, or simply by living and breathing the air of a blessed soil.

My earliest memory of Lucknow is a largish house in the cantonment area that suddenly became full of strangers. The Mehta-Talwar refugee fugitives from across the LoC arrived carrying odd pieces of hastily assembled...


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