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A tribute to Wajid Ali Shah,
the last and greatest King of Avadh

By Muzaffar Ali
Reproduced from with acknowledgement due to :
THE TAJ MAGAZINE - Volume 23 No. 1
A Special Issue First Quarter 1994
The Magazine of The Taj Group of Hotels, India

One early winter morning, a buggy enters Matiya Burj.
The sound of hoof beats generates ripples of excitement and curiosity.
The morning breeze wafts in with a message from Lucknow.
It brings optimism to the captives in Matiya Burj.

The melody of a dadra rings across the long corridor as the group is ushered
Into the main hall. The ambience here is reminiscent of the former glory of Avadh.

The King emerges as the group is seated. He is delirious with joy to see
his beloved friends from his former court. The atmosphere is charged with emotion.

With tears in their eyes, they tell him that Lucknow is not the same anymore.
Their souls are starved of those beautiful moments of fulfillment in music and
dance and poetry. Deprived of the genteel ways of the past, their lives have
become mundane. Their eyes long to see His majesty dance, a sight they had
loved so much and sorely missed these past two decades. He declines, saying that
he has become old and ungainly… Time has been cruel…But their insistence
is so genuine, the King has to agree.

The arrangements are made. The floor is covered with a red cloth,
then over it is spread a white sheet, a chandni. Musicians and vocalists assemble.
As he stands ready, a thumri rings shrill and clear.

Ghungroos begin to sound, like and instrument played by an
accomplished musician, bringing to life a page from history.
To the gat of the tabla, the King becomes a graceful performer.
The audience watches enraptured this unfolding of enormous beauty and grace
which age and obesity cannot hide. His movements become vigourous as the rhythm
increases, exhibiting deft footwork that gets faster and faster by the moment…

Until the King collapses breathless.

He asks for the chandni to be gently removed. His request is complied with.
There on the red cloth, created with his gentle footwork, is the image
of Lord Krishna playing the flute.

The notes of the flute continue filling the hall….
in the hushed silence of deep admiration and awe.
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