In Lucknow recently for a two-day trip, filmmaker Imtiaz Alimade the most of his visit. The ‘Highway’ director not only visited his favourite eating joints in that city, Tundey kababi and Netram kachori-wala in Aminabad, he also shopped for chikan clothes in Chowk. “I went to Tundey and Netram both and managed to eat at both places. I’ve also got some kebabs packed to take back home. These are places that I never miss going to whenever I am in Lucknow,” said Imtiaz when we met him at Humsafar, an NGO for women victims of domestic violence.  Imtiaz served Chowk’s famous jalebis and khasta- aaloo to the lady drivers as well (BCCL/ Farhan Ahmad Siddiqui ).  Ali visited the NGO to meet the lady e-rickshaw drivers he had met last year, when he was invited as a guest to a function organized to felicitate these women and gift them an e-rickshaw each. The lady rickshaw drivers, happy and excited to meet the ‘Jab We Met’ director, were completely floored when Ali laid out a plate full of khasta-aloo and jalebi for each of them and offered it to them. “Itne bade director sahib hamein plate laga ke de rahe hain, aisa maine kabhi nahin socha tha,” said Lalita, one of the lady drivers with whom Imtiaz later went for a joyride.  Another one offered to take Imtiaz on a tour of the city in her rickshaw on his next visit to Lucknow. “Ab bas main chahti hoon ki agli baar aap Lucknow aayein toh hum aapko Lucknow ghumayen,” said an elated Pushpa. On being asked by Ali about her life, Pushpa proudly said, “Main bahut khush hoon, apne bachchon ko ab khud padha rahi hoon. Ab main life mein aur aage jaana chahti hoon.” Having gone around town in a cab this time, Imtiaz was kicked about the idea of going around the city in an e-rickshaw driven by one of these lady drivers, whom he was happy to know now number more than a dozen.  He promised the ladies he’d travel in their e-rickshaws on his next visit to Lucknow and said, “Abki main aaunga toh aapke saath hi Lucknow ghoomunga.”  Imtiaz showing a selfie to the ladies which he’d clicked with them (BCCL/ Farhan Ahmad Siddiqui )  Ali got several selfies clicked with the women and later told us, “I have immense respect for all these women. When I’d come last year and seen them, they were these scared, shy women and so unsure of themselves. And today when I see them, I am surprised. Last time, there was this show they had done in which each one of them had enacted and narrated their own life story. That was very impressive because it was in the nukkad natak style and when all of them were enacting it, I was deeply moved. They are so inspiring. When you know about them and know what they have gone through and emerged stronger and more confident through it all, that makes you feel strong. Jisko aap achhe se, nazdeek se dekhte ho, toh uske liye aur strong feeling aati hai. I’m so happy that they’ve all come to meet me today because they all work. They have taken out time from their work just to meet me and that is indeed a very humbling experience. I am so happy to see them now, they look so happy and that’s because they are financially independent. That happiness of prosperity is evident on their faces.”  The Times of India : 11th. May,17


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