Two years ago I met Dr. Sultan Ali Sadiq for the first time in Ram Advani’s book shop. Mr Advani had told me that Dr. Sadiq was an orthopaedic doctor and his friend. Also, that he lived in old Lucknow, was a direct descendant of Wajid Ali Shah and owner of a couple of original paintings from that time.
Now, two years later,Mr. Advani is no more, yet as my daughter, Geetika and I make our way through the narrow gali where Dr. Sadiq’s home is situated, I remember Mr. Advani and cannot wait to see what lies behind the unassuming frontage of the home of his friend. A bit earlier, we had waited at the gate of Lucknow Christian College, an old college established in 1862 on the grounds of Inayat bagh. Dr. Sadiq, in a grey bush shirt and trousers, his white hair brushed neatly back had arrived with his assistant to receive us and now our little entourage was making its way to his house on foot.The lane, like many others in old Lucknow, is narrow and cars cannot drive through.
We enter the doorway and through the dark passage I see what I was hoping I would: a large open courtyard , elegant arches lining it leading to open verandahs and rooms beyond. The courtyard is full of green plants. A sense of nostalgia hits me—I am transported to the homes of my father’s friends and patients in Allahabad-the home of Choudhary Hamid and of Tej Bahadur Sapru where my parents’ friend Mr. Qudrat Ali lived for a few years. Those are all gone but here I am, in a similar home and this one happens to be very much alive !
Dr Sadiq’s sister,Sahro who is visiting from the United States, is waiting for us in the verandah, lending the house feminine warmth. The verandah to the left that we are in is full of signs of life. A collection of clocks under which are cane-backed arm chairs in a group, is obviously a place you are tempted to sit in as you pass to and fro. From this kind of vantage point no teenager or servant can sneak in or out without being noticed !
Dr Sadiq takes us to his personal picture gallery which is the first room on this verandah. Copies of oil paintings are arranged on three walls. They are all portraits of his ancestors. Some original paintings stay away from most people’s eyes in Dr. Sadiq’s office. On the left wall is a portrait of the very recognizable nawab, Wajid Ali Shah. Then that of his eldest son, Prince Hamid Ali or ‘Wali Ahad’ from his very first ‘nikahi’(formally married)wife, Khaas Mahal.Then his son, Mirza Quratul-ain-Bahadur. His son, Prince Sultan Hassan Mirza. And finally, his only child, Dr. Sadiq’s own mother, Samar Ara Begum.
This beautiful house itself was built in 1923 by Nazir Hassan Khan, the father of Dr. Sadiq’s daadi. When her son was five years old and her husband died, Dr.Sadiq’s daadi, Kaneez Fatima Begum, moved into this house that her father built with a substantial’wasiqa'(amount incurred as interest)of Rs.700.Thereafter the house came to be known as ‘700-wali kothi’. Nazirabad, the locality adjoining Aminabad in old Lucknow, and where my daughter and I make regular trips to-to buy chikan-kari or have bags repaired, was once owned by and is named after the very same Nazir Hassan ! I felt good to have established a bond with Nazirabad !
‘ I remember there were guests invited frequently to this house- both by my daadi, when it was all women, and by my father, when it was men and women.There were huge amounts of entertaining done and we children used to be excited.’ Dr. Sadiq’s father was in the then Awadh-Tirhut Railways and worked with ‘gora sahibs’.So entertaining of both English and Indian guests happened both in the courtyard as well as in the drawing room.
Since Dr. Sadiq’s own parents were posted in different towns, their children stayed in Lucknow with their grand parents so there could be continuity in their school and college.The two brothers got a lot of freedom, Sahro says. They not only attended school and college but also played a lot of tennis at the Gymkhaana Club , won many trophies and were allowed to go out in the evenings. But, although the two sisters were allowed to go to Loreto convent and wear skirts, their daadi would not allow them to go out after school or play tennis. In fact, she disliked the idea of them showing their legs in skirts and would insist that a chaperone accompany them to school. So, their old servant, Bagreedi , with a few missing teeth, would sit in between the two sisters on their rickshaw, accompany them to school, sit and wait outside with his own water bottle and lunch and accompany them back !
Dr.Sadiq shows me three objects that his mother inherited that actually belonged to Wajid Ali Shah. Twin hookah bases in blue glass,probably from Belgium and a small, painted china vial to hold ittar. He takes them out and we hold them with amazement and the reverence they deserve!
Dr Sadiq retired as Principal, Aligarh Medical College in the year 2000 and now takes pride in living in this beautiful old house. It is full of many elegantly displayed objects and he is knowledgeable about most. What strikes you is that everything is very clean and well maintained. When he takes out objects like his father’s liquor or collar box to show us, he first wipes the dust away with care. He and his sisters are self-effacing and their manners are impeccable.
Dr. Sadiq walks us back to our car and stands till we are out of sight.
It is in these gestures that you see refinement that comes with inheritance and legacy.
We have been seeing so much and talking so much that I have forgotten to ask to see some of the original paintings. Which is just as well ! I will take that excuse to visit Dr. Sadiq again !
Hope you enjoyed seeing this house and meeting some of its members.
Thank you, Dr. Sadiq and Sahro for your kindness and patience in sharing your beautiful home.
Thank you, readers for stopping by and reading ! Do share this post with your friends ! And please write your comments in the ‘Comments’ section.
‘Bye until the next time.