If you ask me, which city in India I belong to, I will not give you a one-word answer. Try that when you meet me next time and you will know what I mean. My response usually is,
“Ummm, so I am from far East UP. Have you heard of Varanasi? My place is around 100 kilometers from there. AZAMGARH.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am not ashamed of the city I come from but most people I have met in Bangalore, Nagpur, Mumbai, Noida or otherwise haven’t heard of the city or they are not as interested in India’s political map as I am. So I start with the region, locate for them the nearest famous city (Varanasi, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur etc.) and then talk about Azamgarh.
Azamgarh seems to be always in the limelight. Unfortunately, for wrong reasons and that is why there have been instances where in interviews, I have been asked to defend my city. Just for the record, I have done that successfully every single time. When I came to Azamgarh, I was 8 months new in the world. Since then this city has been my home. My parents are still there and that association will stay. I grew up in Azamgarh and stayed there for first 17 years of my life. The city has given me a lot of things – and all that falls under a big umbrella of love and care. Even if there was a way to change and do things differently, I would stay put with my school and friends. Some of whom I am still in touch and we meet.
But then, I wonder why Azamgarh was caught in the wrong light? Which city hasn’t got some notorious folks who were born there? Which city is home to only good (wo)men? It’s always a mixed bag so why all this fuss about Azamgarh? Why do people fall trap to stereotypes? Why is there a communal bias? And if there is a so-called funding, what is law and order for? Who should keep a vigil? Who takes bribe and pushes cases under the carpet? Who beats up an innocent 17-year-old, makes him admit that he was involved in a case and then claims of a successful encounter?
When IndiSpire Edition #88 asked us to write about a city that is close to us, I thought of sharing a few things about Azamgarh that make it unique and special. Things that you may not have heard a politician speaking on TV. Things that you probably never knew.
- Azamgarh is 350 years old (as of today) and named after founder Azam, son of Vikramajit who was a descendant of Gautam Rajputs of Mehnagar and had embraced Islam. Talk of respect towards all religion.
- A small bridge was built in the city by Sher Shah Suri over 100 years ago represents its cultural heritage.
- Birth place of Kaifi Azmi – famous poet who brought Urdu literature to India Cinema. His poetry and personality is unmatched today too.
- Birth place of Rahul Sankrityayan – Father of Hindi Travel literature, he was one of the most widely travelled scholars of India.
- Birth place of Shibli Nomani – A versatile scholar in Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Turkish and Urdu and founder of Shibli National College and the Darul Mussanifin.
- Benarasi Sarees – No they are not done in Varanasi but Mubarakpur, a small town in the district of Azamgarh. The weavers there are not so well-known but their work is known all over the world.
- Nizamabad’s Black Pottery – Signifying the focus on art.
- Facts from 2011 Census
- A sex ratio of 1019 –India stands at 943
- Literacy of 70%
And know that this is not an all-inclusive list. There are so many other things that make Azamgarh unique. The many educational institutions, the religious places – temples, mosques and churches, the shopping opportunities from the very talented weavers and what not.
So when I hold back before saying where I come from, sometimes I am scared of being judged for what my city doesn’t stand for. So what if it is not a well-known city but it has made me who I am today. I want to ask people to not judge a book by its cover. I want to ask people to not label us into who we are not. Look at what the city has been contributing positively and think of what better can be done. Think of why UP needs help and not just Azamgarh.
I am from Azamgarh and that will never change.