Once upon a time the Central Hall of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Vidhan Sabha (state Assembly) was a second home to reporters. It was once possible to keep a watchful eye on decisions that affect the life of the population, taken by legislators.

The decisions taken under the roof of the Vidhan Sabha by lawmakers were conveyed to the outside world by journalists. Today the journalist is not allowed into the central hall of the Vidhan Sabha where the Budget session began last Friday.

This session, journalists have been prevented from taking their place on the second floor of the Vidhan Sabha to report the proceedings of the House. Journalists no longer have spontaneous access to lawmakers in the building to question them, or discuss matters of concern to the majority population.

In the past the Opposition parties had also used the Central Hall to talk to the media and often to protest against any unfair policies of the government.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) is the main Opposition party in the Vidhan Sabha with 113 legislatures in a House of 403 members. The SP legislatures make a lot of noise. However, with the press gallery emptied out of reporters, the Opposition parties will no longer make headlines in the media any more.

The government has banned the media from reporting from inside the Vidhan Sabha to silence the voice of the Opposition, is the opinion of many journalists in Lucknow.

The Vocal Vibrato

In celebration of the birth centenary of Talat Mahmood, a lush biography of the Lucknow-born singer was released at the recently concluded Mahindra Sanatkada Lucknow Festival (MSLF). The author Sahar Zaman, is a grand-niece of the singer, and has dug deep into the family history to fill up nearly 500 pages with little known aspects of Mahmood’s personal and musical life.

Gifted with a natural vibrato in his voice, Mahmood’s reputation as the king of ghazal endures to this day. The vibrato had added a special quivering effect to Mahmood’s performances, allowing listeners to endlessly marvel at the quick and subtle changes the singer was able to bring to his songs.

Surprised at the way his voice had naturally vibrated, Mahmood had wanted to get rid of the resulting sound. However, his music directors convinced him that the vibrato had made his singing uniquely luxuriant.

Mahmood was born in 1924 in a conservative family in Lucknow on February 24. He had to put up a fight to sing his way through life. The family had allowed Mahmood to enjoy the night-long musical concerts hosted in different parts of the city, but it frowned upon acting and singing as a career.

Mahmood had basked in the refined culture of Lucknow, and his command over the Urdu language had allowed him to regale his listeners with soulful renditions of the verses of Urdu poets like Mir Taqi Mir. Soon he was invited to perform on the radio, and HMV made his first recording in 1941. By 1944, Mahmood was a household name with the release of the non-filmi ghazal, “‘tasveer teri, dil mera behela na sakegi’ (your photograph will not satiate my heart)”.

Mahmood was as good looking as he was talented. With an aquiline nose and a crop of thick wavy hair he had left Lucknow determined to become an actor in Kolkata.

He was a disciple of Pandit S. C. R. Bhat at Lucknow’s prestigious Bhatkhande Music College. While in Kolkata he appeared in about 16 films. Three of his Bengali films went on to become blockbusters.

In Kolkata, Mahmood had changed his name to Tapan Kumar, to record Bengali songs. He moved to Mumbai in 1949 where music director Anil Biswas got him to sing for the 1950 film “Arzoo” starring Dilip Kumar. With “Arzoo” Mahmood was showered with much fame and fortune.

Talking Books

The annual MSLF is a cultural extravaganza, showcasing the best that there is about the Lucknow way of life. The festival is now in its 15th year and has become famous for hosting a virtual feast from traditional kitchens of the city.

Lucknow is also the home of many arts and crafts, and the birthplace of poetry, dance and music that is enjoyed for a week under one roof at the MSLF. Along with the revival of traditional activities like the art of storytelling and the poetic competitive game of “bait-baazi”, many books were launched at the festival like “The Chandayan” that was followed by lively literary discussions.

“Talat Mahmood: A Definitive Biography” by Zaman saw the author in conversation with filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, author and journalist Rashid Kidwai, and Vice-Chancellor Bhatkhande Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya Mandvi Singh.

Ali said that Mahmood’s singing had immortalised the many characters played on screen by thespians like Dilip Kumar. A Kathak dancer, Singh added that she is proud to head an institution today where Mahmood had once studied.

Kidwai reminded the audience that Mahmood had campaigned for the rights of singers, and had performed for soldiers of the Indian army in Ladakh. He had turned down offers to lend his voice to the film industry in Pakistan.

Mahmood’s many fans now want his biography to be translated into many more languages. However, the wish of the starry-eyed author remains to see her book adapted as a biopic on the silver screen.

Colourful Cauliflowers

Today certain corners of the green fields of Uttar Pradesh (UP) are dotted with bouquets of cauliflower in different colours. Everyone is familiar with the white head of a cauliflower but few are aware that the same vegetable can now be grown in purple, orange and green.

All these different looking cauliflowers belong to the same cruciferous vegetable family. They taste the same, but contain a slight variation in the nutritious value.

According to experts at Kanpur’s Chandra Shekhar Azad University for Agriculture and Technology the purple cauliflower gets its colour from anthocyanin, a naturally occurring phytochemical that is also found in other red, blue, or purple fruits and vegetables.

Carotenoids are found in carrots and squash and make the cauliflower orange. The green head is from the broccoflower, a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower. Green cauliflower contains more beta carotene than white cauliflower.

The colourful cauliflowers with distinct shades of purple, yellow and green are indigenous to Australia. Seeds have been imported from Australia for cultivation in UP.

Farmers across the state will soon have the choice to cultivate similar karotina and valentina varieties here. Yhese are rich in antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids and ascorbic acid and are perfect for a nutritious diet.

Experts at the university said that the colourful cauliflowers are loaded with vitamins A and C, and will enrich farmers economically as well.