V.I. Braginsky could as well have been describing Parveen Talha and her book of short stories, when he wrote in a review of Anna Suvorova’s Nostalgia po Laknau1 that ‘it is characteristic of her scholarly style to find a specific leitmotif to thread through each of her works and define the essence of discussion.’ The similarity doesn’t end here. The leitmotif in both is also common.Unsur-prisingly, for two books on Lucknow, it is taqalluf—that cultivated dignified restraint, which in Braginsky’s words is the ‘paradigm of the entire culture of Lucknow’.
In the preface to her book, Talha embarks on the task of mapping the qualities, characteristics and nature of the ‘Lucknow-wala’. ‘How is he different from people of other cities? What is it that makes him stand out’, she asks and is quick to ‘ruminate’ that ‘there is something within the nature of these people, which makes them different, or how could the ‘tehzeeb’ (innate decency; elan) of Lucknow have evolved unless the city’s share of the sublime was predominant?’