June 5, 2018

A Lucknow ‘gali’, where ‘Chawal’ was never sold...

Picture- Swapnil Rastogi

The 'Chawal wali gali' of in Lucknow’s Chowk area never had the aroma of 'Basmati' (Indian rice species having an enchanting smell). Rice was never sold there. Sex workers used to live in the lane sold their bodies though.

The evenings in the ‘gali’ reverberated with the sound of ‘tabla’ and ‘harmonium’. The fragrance of the flowers in the hands of the customers used to be quite enchanting.
It still, however, a million dollar question as to how the lane got the name ‘Chawal wali gali’.

Situated near Akbari Gate, this lane currently has an array of shops selling various items like pickles, unique spices and street food attracting tourists from all across the world.

Some people feel though not sure that rice might have been sold at some point of time.
According to local people, the sex workers basically belonged to Nepal, Bangladesh they all were rooted out from this lane in 1980 with the help of the police.

Very few lanes in the city of Lucknow have such narrow serpentine shape where the Sunlight touches the surface only briefly. And this lane is one of them.

Awadh historian Yogesh Praveen says, Chawal wali gali was famous for its sex workers, eventually there were not  only dancers (Tawaif’s) but also  prostitutes for which this gali(lane) was well-known during 19th century.

One of the shopkeeper of this lane on a condition of not revealing his name said that by the arrival of these sex workers in Lucknawi culture, nawaabiyat and sweetness of tongue gone into vain. He also added that entry of military personnel was prohibited in this area. If any army man got  caught by the officers he used to get punishment for coming to the lane.

This lane witnessed many transitions since then now ‘kothas’ became shops and 'Sheermal (special type of bread)' turned out its speciality.

In next blog, we will continue trekking some more lanes.

To be continued....

Swapnil Rastogi


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