My hometown Lucknow is known for its famed Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. Ganga and Yamuna are two mighty rivers flowing in North India, and their confluence is used as a euphemism to denote the union of cross cultures and communities. A blend of different people co-existing in peaceful harmony. The word “tehzeeb” can be roughly translated into good manners, discipline, and culture. Essentially, Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb rests on the premise of following proper etiquette with people from diverse communities.
Lucknowites are wont to use the extra polite “aap” when speaking to someone and generally live by the dictum of ‘after you’. The owner of a palatial residence will refer to his home as “gareebkhana”, the house of the poor, as a gesture of humility. When favours are asked, they are requested with sincere and profuse apologies for the inconvenience caused. “Shukriya”, which means thank you, is also frequently thrown around at the slightest excuse.
Growing up in a city with such a unique amalgamation of cultures has influenced me deeply. Lucknow enjoyed great prestige in the royal court of the Mughals, and its citizens continue to be well versed with Urdu. While not entirely proficient in the language, many Urdu words have crept into the Lucknawi dialects. It was only in New Delhi, with friends from other parts of India, did I fully realize how Urdu heavy my Hindi really was. The richness of this evolved, and this politely elegant language has always added depth to my communication.
This inherent tendency to be exceedingly courteous has helped me win many friends over, be it in India or Singapore. I have often been told how I am very generous with my “sorrys” and “thank yous”, consequently ingratiating myself in the hearts of veritable strangers. Being from Lucknaw, I am a magnanimous host, opening my home to friends old and new, with the trademark Lucknawi humility and graciousness. Culturally, Indians are known to be good to their guests, often comparing them to heavenly gods. This belief is only magnified in the well-mannered propriety of Lucknow.
Whether it is in group projects or in personal interactions, I have always paid due deference to colleagues, ready to help and support with a smile. Being politely nice leads to strong, respectful relationships in every culture and is a thumb rule I follow to this day. Making way for a diverse opinion and extending every possible decent courtesy is innately embedded in my Lucknawi self. Respect begets respect, and the end product is a mutually beneficial relationship. It is the fundamental attitude and action needed when we try to develop our cultural intelligence.
Lucknawi tehzeeb would be incomplete without its self-deprecatory humility. I am quite critical of my accomplishments and try to downplay their significance. This is not a conscious effort but simply how we view our achievements. This may seem endearing to others who are used to a world of pretense and window dressing. Again, the down to earth charm has a disarming effect when it comes to working with people from other Asian cultures.
The seemingly basic practices of common courtesy are a vanishing act in our fast-paced world. So the next time you struggle to strike a chord with someone from halfway across the globe, just try being nice for a change, it may work wonders!
Hi, I’m Sabhya. I grew up in Lucknow, India. After a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Lady Shri College of Women at the University of Delhi, I moved to Singapore in 2018 for my yearlong post graduate studies. I graduated with a Master in Management from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School. Since young, I’ve been a prolific writer who has travelled extensively across India and has also been a public speaker since the fifth grade. As I navigate and transits through my new life in the little red dot – Singapore, I hope that I can regale you with my anecdotal tales.