What do you do if a goose is plump beyond reason, gained’t lay eggs and wishes an excessive amount of feed? Cook it, I wager. And that’s what the British Crown did to Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh, who ascended the throne as a 25-year-antique in 1847 and was dethroned 9 years later in 1856, a 12 months before the first battle of Indian Independence broke out.
The British stated this was performed due to the fact he lived and ate like a king and did little else, hence overlooking his army reforms, his attempts at an administration which the East India Company did its first-rate to thwart, and his great popularity with his topics.
Packed off to Metiyaburj, about four miles south of Calcutta, the ousted king changed into joined by means of his prime minister, some of his better halves, musicians and officers. His chefs attended to this displaced court docket as first-rate as they might. They organized their grasp’s banquets with the lavishness of his days as monarch so that once he sat for his meals, he could don’t forget Lucknow as his incredible romance and now not the painful truth of its passing.
If five kilograms of lamb mince became used to make a single kofta when he was the king, they were now not going to scale back, whilst he became now not one.
But how do you declare, centuries later, that one among India’s most well-known ex-royal is your vintage man and that you are the sole heir of the royal cuisine he helped found? Wajid Ali Shah’s descendants Manzilat Fatima, fifty-one, and Fatima Mirza, forty five, of Calcutta are doing that, courtesy the files of political pensions of their households on the one hand, and by cooking his meals, on the opposite. Team Manzilat and Team Fatima, both say they may be the actual aspect.
Family recipes are a cook’s actual estate. Wajid Ali Shah’s descendants face the problem of lots. At the time of his death, the king had 250 better halves and 42 kids so no ‘own family recipe’ suits the other. The British additionally made certain that when the king’s death in 1887, his days in exile might cross undocumented.
“His successors and his subjects had been left with not anything,” says Wasif Hussain, the manager of the king’s mausoleum in Metiyaburj. “I’ve heard that during Chartwell House [the country home of a former British premier, Winston Churchill], his kitchen with its tea-kettle, his flour bin, the utensil rack, and the weighing system had been left intact…. It’s a museum….”
A regulation graduate, Manzilat Fatima, is from the ‘ruling line’. Her father, Kaukub Meerza, a former Reader of the Aligarh Muslim University, is the grandson of Birjis Qadr, the son of Begum Hazrat Mahal and Wajid Ali Shah. Birjis was crowned king by way of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar throughout 1857 as Wajid Ali Shah was by way of then in Calcutta. Birjis met his loss of life in 1893 after dinner at a relative’s domestic in Metiyaburj.
This became no longer the first time that poisoning had killed an Awadhi royal, Sudipta Mitra, writer of Pearl through the River, an ebook on Wajid Ali Shah’s exile, factors out. Royal biographies point out a consort sending the king paan as a token of her love at some stage in their higher days and the king not setting it beyond her to lace its leaves with poison whilst the one’s days have been over.
The murder of Birjis and its memory have stayed with the family for over 120 years. It has seeped into Manzilat’s remembrances of her early life home (“My paternal grandmother might always test the food earlier than it changed into served to circle of relatives participants”) and explains her impatience with ‘proof’-seekers. Ever considering she launched a pop-up restaurant of Awadhi cuisine in 2014 and domestic dining service, Manzilat’s, in 2018 in Calcutta, there are a few set questions she has needed to solve.
“ ‘Do I have monogrammed table-mats from Wajid Ali’s time?’ ‘Did I inherit a recipe book?’ No, I didn’t! Birjis’ murder snapped our hyperlinks with the opposite branches of the family. His wife escaped from Metiyaburj to Calcutta…. And except, my outstanding-exceptional-grandmother, Hazrat Mahal, become a queen who changed into fighting the British, not writing cookbooks. For some time, I made this my FB repute,” says Manzilat cheekily while including completing touches to an order of Ghutwaan Kebab (product of mashed meat marinated with papaya) that a delivery guy from Swiggy is awaiting her to complete, besides the required biryani.