Hello and hello ! Yes, it has been a few months since I wrote anything ! Actually, visiting old homes in Lucknow is not as easy as I thought it would be and then I started to help with my daughter’s new makeup venture in Lucknow. But sometimes all you need is a nudge to get started again. That is what I got so here I am !
Narahi is an old market near our home in Lucknow. If you enter from the side of Hazratganj, the famous road with shops’remodelled’by the British, you find a narrow lane lined with small shops selling grocery, hardware, milk and milk products,clay khurias and handis, firewood, cloth, jewellery. There are opticians, tailors, watch repairmen, locksmiths and a shop that repairs electrical gadgets. Basically all your daily needs are taken care of. This lane forks into two. The right fork becomes slightly wider after a few yards. This has the vegetable market and finally the chicken, goat meat and fish shops. It is here that trees line the lane. On the right are forest department offices and on the left an elegant gate with impressive yellow and white painted gate posts and a name plate in marble, yellowing with age. It says, Dr.M. Abdul Hameed, MD,MRCP.
I had heard that this house belonged to Dr. M. Khalid Hameed or Lord Hameed of Hampstead. Some old Lucknow hands I know had only good things to say about him–how he always visited and stayed in this house a few times a year, that he was sociable and attended rounds of parties held in his honour, how he always helped anyone from Lucknow who knew him and visited London, etc.
We count A.J. Faridi, landlord, raconteur, fabulous host and one of the above mentioned old Lucknow hands, as a friend. In his usual helpful way, and knowing that I was interested in old homes, he wondered if I might like to see Lord Hameed’s house. Of course I did ! And the very next day he had spoken to the gentleman and our visit happened.
The gate was opened by an elderly, bearded gatekeeper dressed in Lucknawi muslim style- white kurta, pyjama and a topi.
As a child in Allahabad, I would often accompany my parents when they visited homes of muslim friends. The one gate I remember well was a tall wooden one in old Allahabad, that which led to the home of Zulfiqar Ullah, landlord(there were and are many in India), politician and my father’s patient. My father was a doctor. And he was doctor to and loyal friend of the extended Zulfiqar Ullah family and of many others. These gates were always opened by men dressed in the fashion of the gentleman who opened the gate of the Hameed house. And yes, there was the dignified, respectful greeting- head lowered, hand to the forehead, ‘adaab arz hai’.
We got the same greeting now from the gatekeeper- natural and from the heart.
A neat driveway lined by enormous trees—one of them being a frangipani of a size I have never seen-leads to a single storied yellow and white-painted house. It is a classic British-style bungalow, which probably had a sloping tiled roof in the past . From near the gate with the huge trees in the foreground the house tends to look long and very low.
A lot of the British era bungalows were of a similar style. Take a look at another one here.
It is certainly well maintained as are the grounds. On a cool November morning with dappled sunlight, it is the sort of grounds where you would want to just sit and do nothing. It is quiet and I almost forget that busy Narahi is next door !
In the centre of the house, in classic style, is a portico with beams in its roof. A Tata Safari stands in it-the only visible sign of modernity. I say a mental ‘thank you’ to the owner for keeping it that way!
The front verandah is enclosed with white-painted, glass pane doors. They look beautiful—not out of place at all. We enter through a door on the right and into a small lobby which leads to a long room which runs along the side of the house. This used to be the side verandah as we figured and that our host confirmed later.
Lord Hameed is a good-looking gentleman. He speaks quietly and pleasantly. He is a medical doctor and an alumnus of Lucknow University. His grandfather was a zamindar from Kannauj. His son( Lord Hameed’s father)Abdul Hameed prevailed upon him to send him to Lucknow to study at King George’s Medical College ( also my father’s alma mater). In 1916, Abdul Hameed’s was the first batch of students to graduate from the university. He then went to England and got his MRCP. He returned to Lucknow and started to teach at KGMC. He was Professor of Pathology and Physician to the hospital. He remained there till his retirement and bought this house in 1945/46 from the Raja of Surajpur.His wife Rashida was an accomplished lady, well-known in Lucknow society.
The young Khalid was sent to Colvin Talukdar’s School and then to Kanpur Medical College to study medicine- the degree of which was granted by Lucknow University. His father wanted him to be away from the comforts of home and family- which is why he sent the young Khalid to Kanpur. In 1968 he went on to study in the U.K. He, too, got his MRCP but unlike his father, stayed on. First for a year and then another and then another. He married an English lady, Christine, in 1975. This, Lord Hameed says, was another reason he stayed on. He worked hard and rose to prominence in the U.K. where he was made a baron. He was also awarded the Padma Bhushan by India.
The room is wood panelled—the panelling was put in by Lord Hameed. It certainly gives you an air of Europe. On one side are chairs and Indian-style sofas clad in soft orange silk and on the other are buttoned Chesterfield sofas in maroon leather-again quite European. It is as if two cultures, Indian and European, have been placed side by side—like Khalid Hameed himself.
A view of the garden( with a painted tin-roofed gazebo)from the drawing-room windows-
From this you enter the dining room. You get a sense of age and character as you stand in this room. You can visualize Abdul Hameed and his guests sitting around the large table as chandeliers illuminated the room. The chandeliers are still there. Cupboards and cabinets line the walls-all of them have crockery or glassware. I notice a particularly beautiful flower patterned English china set –slightly yellowing with age as china does– and I can picture, as well, the dinnerware on the table !
The two young men in the picture help take care of the house and were happy to pose for pictures.
A door leads to the rear verandah which leads to a kitchen on one side.It is nice and bright and looks well used-
In fact, the entire house is very well maintained and looks lived in. Credit goes to Khalid Hameed for making the effort to keep it that way ! And good for the house and us- he is in Lucknow a lot more these days because he is building a multispeciality hospital here.
Through the dining room we move into the original drawing room which is positioned in the centre of the house. The room is lined with sofas. They are in Art Deco style- a style which was popular in the 50s and 60s in Indian homes. The room is full of photographs of members of the family and remains as it was in the past.
Khalid Hameed is in the picture.
A door leads into, what I found to be, the most charming room of the house—the clinic of Dr. Abdul Hameed, Khalid Hameed’s father. The walls are filled with framed degrees, certificates and pictures. The desk with its top covered in red baize, and various items neatly arranged on it, remains as it probably was. The chairs are elegant and beautifully polished.
At the rear of the house are two cottages. These are where guests stayed and there were many, Khalid Hameed says. Lots of guests and parties/gatherings were things that almost all these large, old Indian houses had in common. Houses were large, owners generous and everybody had time.
Here is one of the guest cottages-
The building with arches on the right is the cottage. The ground in between is lined with brick–it is beautiful and clever–it allows rain water to seep through. And idiots that we Indians are–we choose to ignore all such techniques to replenish ground water !
We step out of house, ready to leave. I take a lot of time taking more pictures of the exterior. It is a wonderful feeling to just loiter in the grounds. I can smell the ‘Hazara’ marigolds that line the garden and I can get whiffs of the smells of food being cooked and the distant, comforting clatter of utensils from the kitchen. On that November morning it was as if life stood still !
Hope you liked the tour !
Thank you, Lord Hameed, for kindly sharing your home !
Many thanks to you all for stopping by to read. Please do post your comments–I would love to hear from you ! See you soon !