Churi / Qaenchi aur Lucknow

Uski Kathai Ankho Mein Hai Jantar Mantar Sab,
Chaqu Waqu Churiya Wuriya Khanjar Wanjar Sab,
Ishq Ke Sare Nuskhe Yeh Sab Mujh Se Seekhte Hain,
Nirmal Wirmal Jauhar Wauhar Manzar Wanzar Sab. – Rahat Indori

Among our many other daily needs, qaenchi (scissor) and churri/chaqu (knife) are quite important. We often forget to acknowledge the makers of these articles who able to create an easy living for us. The use of knife dates back to evolutional period when tools were made using bones and rocks. Lucknow has beautified these tools with exquisite designs and shapes. Apart from domestic use, qaenchi and chaqu/churri finds its use in phrases also like meethi churi, chappan churi, muh mein ram bagal mein churi, peeth me chura bhokna, udhar prem ki qaenchi hai, qaenchi ki tarah zaban chalana, etc. Even bollywood has shown fascination with this profession in songs like chaqu churriya tez karwa lo sung by Asha Bhosle, chaqu wala – churi wala, churriya chal jae teri matwali chaal par, etc.

Raees Ahmed in his shop at chowk has been sharpening knife, scissor, razor, etc since many years. The shop was established in 1922 and is being run by the fourth generation of the family. The dimly-lit shop suddenly illuminates with great amount of light when the karigar sharpens a blunt metal object on a large spinning wheel. The main customers of this shop are tailors, barbers and housewives and sharpening would cost only 30 to 35 rupees. His shop is one of a kind and is able to maintain the age old practise. Due to availability of cheap and fibre made knives and scissors, not many people indulge in maintaining their old ones. This is the reason why there are only countable numbers of chaquwalas in Lucknow. A few years back one would see number of chaquwallas in Lucknow on bicycle shouting ‘chaqu churi dhar karwa lo’ and it was always an amusing experience to see them sharpening knives and scissors.

Credit : Intern – Nishita Banerjee