Lucknow: Barely five months ago, when the idea of
restoring the glory of Hazratganj was mooted on completion of 200
years of this historic city, no one was ready to believe that
Lucknow's main shopping street would actually get a makeover.
But some residents of Lucknow, a city of two million people,
succeeded in pleading the case of Hazratganj with the powers that
be to make it happen and that too in an incredibly short span of
"I could not imagine even in my dreams that Hazratganj would ever
look so beautiful," is the common refrain of the young and old. "I
am coming to my city after a gap of just six months and just
cannot believe my eyes," remarked 48-year-old Rashmi Tandon, who
was born and brought up here.
The upmarket street, which has stores selling a range of goods,
from clothes to electronics to food, has been made a no-hoarding
and no-parking zone and overhanging cables have been sent into
specially cast underground cement concrete ducts.
As a result, the grand old buildings along the wide street that
were overshadowed with the giant hoardings and partially hidden
behind dangling wires and cables are suddenly making their
Fountains have spruced up the street. Polish on the facade
outlined with pink arches and projections has brought back the
original glow of the oriental architecture, while uniform signage
in luminous black and white has given a modern blend to the
The construction of a multi-level parking lot in place of an old
and dilapidated police station has made way for extending the
corridors into well-aligned pebbled pathways, adorned with
piazzas, green areas, wrought-iron benches and with beautifully
crafted tall cast-iron lamp-posts, reminiscent of the Victorian
era, flanking the two sides of the street.
A group of enlightened citizens had barely put their act together
to moot the idea of celebrating the second centenary of the city's
fashionable commercial hub, when Chief Minister Mayawati's most
trusted lieutenant, Satish Chandra Misra, provided the much
desired shot-in-the-arm. He promptly got Mayawati's nod to
undertake what was considered impossible.
After drawing much flak for pumping in nearly Rs.6,000 crore
towards memorials, statues and parks, Mayawati's concern for
heritage of the state capital earned her bouquets even from
quarters that earlier had brickbats for her.
Ask Chander Prakash, the suave owner of Universal Booksellers,
Hazratganj's most popular bookstore, and he is all praise for
Mayawati and Misra.
"But for the chief minister's express support, this restoration
work could not have been accomplished. I am grateful to Satish
Misra and the team of officials for taking our cause to the court
of the chief minister, who readily gave her nod to go ahead,"
Chander, who also heads Lucknow Connect, the citizen's group that
took up the cause of Hazratganj as a mission, told IANS.
Mayawati, the chief minister of India's most populous state who is
otherwise known for her obsession with memorials dedicated to her
Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) icons and her own statues, took
everyone by surprise when she responded favourably to the idea of
taking up the makeover of Hazratganj.
Chander explains how the idea of refurbishing the market took
"It was a visit to Scotland that re-kindled my passion for the
city of my birth," recalls Chander. "It was my simple gesture of
holding on to the door while waiting for an elderly Scottish
gentleman to catch up, together with my remark, 'after you, sir',
that prompted him to shoot back, 'young man, are you from Lucknow?'"
Completely floored, Chander asked him how on earth did he guess he
was from Lucknow. Pat came the reply, "Well, there is no other
place in the world where one says - after you (pehle aap)."
Ever since his return, Chander was keen to do something for his
city. He mooted the idea of celebrating the city's bicentenary to
some friends who promptly joined him to constitute the citizens
group, which also roped in the Hazratganj Traders Association.
Twenty-one-year-old Deep Choudhari who moved out of this city to
pursue college only two years ago is now concerned about ensuring
the high-street is able to maintain its new look. "I hope they
look after the place now," he said during a recent visit from
Perhaps that concern has led some local youths to pitch in.
"We propose to start a campaign to dissuade people from littering
any more and that would be done through 'Gandhigiri' - offering
flowers to those who attempt to dirty Hazratganj, which is doing
us proud yet again," quipped Anil Agrawal, a college student.
(Sharat Pradhan can be contacted at email@example.com)