Chowk, the heart of the city of Lucknow, is a smaller and considerably less intense version of Chandni Chowk in Delhi. A quintessential Indian ‘old town’ with its maze of narrow alleys. Where once glorious haveli’s rub shoulders with hastily nailed together hovels. Where the smells and sounds evoke romantic fantasies, engendered by long forgotten travelogues, of oriental markets, and of medieval trades still being plied quite like they have been for centuries.
We are assaulted by the spice laden air. The fragrant smoke from the kabab stalls. The rhythmic clanging of the Varq beater. The thud, thud, thud of the printer’s block. But the impoverished visuals brush aside all illusions of romance. Progress has made these ancient trades unviable. Their days are numbered. Much as I detest the disneyfication of old towns in China, I found myself wishing someone would come forward to rescue ours from oblivion. From turning into characterless gallis lined with concrete blocks vending cheap electronic spare parts and mobile phones.