Chowk, in Lucknow, has a penchant for exciting, unexplored and undiscovered sights around every corner. One turn you take will lead you into a lane flush with ittar shops, while another will transport you into a whole world of colloquial Awadhi food.
If you’re an explorer, then you may come across a few dilapidated shops, with hordes of seemingly unexplained square shaped pieces of paper. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that these are kite stores, which are numbered and in many cases, the last of their kind.
A dying business
We all know Chowk for Tunday Kebabi and Chikankari, but you surely didn’t know about the dwindling kite culture. One small shop we came across, run by a man who goes by the name of Waseem, dabbles in the business.
His store is nameless, and often remains empty, except for when the festive season is around. However, that doesn't stop Waseem from opening up shop each day of the year. Since he’s been around for the past 22 years, he’s sold his kites to numerous people not just from Lucknow but from other cities as well.
The sky was the limit
He says that he is the last of his kind and in his family, this has been the trade for the past several generations. Though he disapproves of the current generation and their habits, he understands them and also makes light of them. However, do not let his funny, lively and chirpy demeanour fool you. He’s got a few interesting stories up his sleeves. If you’ve got time, head over to his store and say hello and he’ll greet you with a kite and a smile.
He also speaks about how Lucknow and Chowk, specifically have undergone a major change since the nawabi era. “People used to love flying kites. Kids, old people and even the Nawabs themselves would indulge in kite flying. Now, people are always on their mobiles. The charm of being in a community, partaking in activities with one another is long lost.”
Waseem’s words ring true and they will even a hundred years from now, long after he’s gone. His shop, his kites and his art will only remain memories in our minds and a few others alike. The least you can do to honor him would be to get a kite, gather all the kids in your mohalla and show them the simple pleasures of living in a community.
As you stroll through the snaking lanes of Chowk, you might come across a few similar shops. The vendors there will tell you the same and you can't help but feel a sense of disconnect to these people. They seem so distant, so unreal, but here they are, living a life unlike any that we can imagine. However, do not forget that they are, in some way, the ones that tied together the community, many, many years back.