Tehzeeb (mannerisms) and Nafasat (sophistication) can be said to be the true exponents of the world-renowned Lakhnawi culture. Lucknow city and its people have always been identified by the immense respect (adab) that they give each other.
The natives of Lucknow or the true Lakhnawi are known to be well-mannered, who would treat everyone with humility. Even the rickshaw pullers, auto rickshaw drivers, hawkers on the streets and laborers are known to converse in a typical Lakhnawi dialect symbolic of the entire city. This can be easily noticed when someone arrives at the Charbagh Railway Station or Amausi Airport from some other city or state of India. Visitors are treated here with courteous words such as “Aaiye” (come here), “Baithiye” (sit down), and “Aap Kya Khareedenge” (what would you like to buy) at the shops.
Awadhi people love to brag about their prized possessions of zubaan (language) and Dassehri aam (a variety of mango native to Lucknow). The Lakhnawees pride themselves in the sweetness and refinement of both in giving Lucknow a distinctive identity.
Visitors get to experience the old world charm and the rich culture of Lucknow on their very first visit to the city. The popular phrase “Muskuraiye Ki Aap Lucknow Mein Hain” truly holds significance for the visitors, who get to explore the rich culture and glorious past of the city and experience the calm and soothing feeling that being in the city automatically brings.
The uniqueness of Lakhnawi Tehzeeb can also be noticed when Hindus, Sikhs and Christians living in the city tend to converse in a common language – Urdu, which is considered to be a very soft and polite language all over the world. You can invariably spot people using refined Urdu words in their mundane conversations here. The city of graces uses exalted forms of addresses such as “Aadaab”, “Pehle Aap”, “Huzoor”, “Janaab”, “Hazrat” and “Shukriya” in Lucknow.
While speaking people generally use “Ji” (for “haan” or yes) as a mark of respect, particularly when someone younger in age speaks to an elderly person. Also, a Lakhnawi will prefer to use the “hum” over “maen” (both words meaning I or me) anytime. These peculiarities of Lucknowites can be easily observed even when they go out of the city and get instantly identified by the way of their usual Lakhnawi zubaan (dialect). It gets very easy to differentiate a Lucknowite from a non-Lucknowite even in a crowd.
Even the kids are groomed in accordance with the customs and traditions of the city where they greet elders with proper salutations such as “Aadaab“, “Namaste”, “Salaam alaikum”, “Dhanyawaad” and “Shukriya” instead of the usual “Hi” and “Thanks” used elsewhere.
Tehzeeb and Nafasat
The Aabo Hawa (environment) of Lucknow is so unique and appealing that it rubs off soon on people who migrated to Lucknow only recently. They tend to imbibe all the cultural richness and refined sophistication they witness in the city. “Hamara Lucknow” is the popular phrase used by the people of Lucknow thanks to the cultural heritage, unique lifestyle and old world charm that the city has in store. There is a sense of brotherhood and the famous “Ganga-Jamuni” tradition is still prevalent in Lucknow where Hindus and Muslims live together in harmony. This cultural uniqueness of the city has actually blended the customs of the two communities that have been coexisting peacefully for centuries.
The renowned Tehzeeb of the city can be attributed to the Nawabs of Awadh during whose reign, the noblemen, soldiers, courtesans, tradesmen, and the local people used to converse courteously. The Nawabs took active interest in day to day activities and encouraged people to attain perfection in whatever they do. Several traditions and customs of Lucknow have actually been passed on to the younger generations in the form of some cherished fables and legends.
Nazakat, tehzeeb and tameez occupy a distinct place in the hearts of die-hard Lucknowites and they are likely to be hurt even with the slightest hint of rude language or behavior. “Hamari Shaan Mein Ghustakhi” phrase still holds relevance in the life of a true Lakhnawi.
The people of Lucknow actually take pride while addressing the other as “Aap” instead of “Tu”, which is used extensively elsewhere in India. “Tu” word is regarded very demeaning in Lucknow and people get offended if someone refers to them as “Tu”. It is almost like using abusive language.
The remarkable culture, tehzeeb and nazakat of Lucknow is beautifully shown in various classic Hindi films such as Umrao Jaan, Pakeezah, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Chaudhavin Ka Chand, Junoon, and Mere Mehboob to name a few.
The Bollywood film fraternity tends to have high regard for artists coming from Lucknow as they generally have a good hold on Urdu language, diction, music and arts. This can be attributed to the rich culture and heritage that the city of Lucknow has. Popular actors such as Saeed Jaffrey, Nirmal Pandey, Rajpal Yadav, Shahnawaz Siddiqui, Amit Sadh and Anupam Kher, to name a few, have received training in prominent drama institutes of Lucknow, and have made it big in the Bollywood film industry.
The influence of Urdu poetry also leads to the popularity of legendary shayars (poets) such as Josh Malihabadi, Mir Taqi Mir, Majaz Lakhnawi, and Anwar Nadeem to name a few. The nazakat and tehzeeb of Lucknow played an important role in the lives of these shayars.
The Current State of Lakhnawi Tehzeeb and Nafasat
With rapid urbanization, constant migration of Lucknowites to bigger cities in India and abroad, and inflow of migrants to Lucknow, the city of Nawabs is witnessing a consistent erosion in its culture and tehzeeb. Youngsters are becoming more inclined towards the modern lifestyles.
The new localities of Lucknow such as Gomtinagar, Vikas Nagar, Jankipuram, Krishnanagar, and Sarojini Nagar are predominantly occupied by the immigrants where one may not get to see or explore the traditional Tehzeeb and culture of the city as it could be witnessed in old localities such as Aminabad, Moulviganj, Chowk, Qaiserbagh and Hazrat Ganj.
If you’re the kind who loves to find some meaning in the ruins and remains, then Lucknow is the place for you! The monuments of the city speak volumes about the lost legacies of a royal and colonial era. The lingua franca graced with the ever so famous tehzeeb and nafasat draws people to the shores of the Gomti. Visit the Nawabi city to retrace your steps back in time.