Scion’s tribute to foody Wajid Ali Shah
The Last Nawab’s descendant takes Awadhi cuisine to the City of Joy, serving authentic home-cooked food passed on through generations
The great-great granddaughter of the last Nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah, Manzilat Fatima, 55, now lives in Kolkata and is not only the face of the family but has also emerged as a foodpreneur, promoting Awadhi cuisine in the City of Joy.
Fatima cooks and serves authentic Awadhi cuisine which she has derived from her roots at a small eatery, Manzilat, on the terrace of her house situated in south Kolkata’s Kasba area.
Begun in 2017, the place displays old photographs and the family tree, and some pictures of the City of Nawabs. “The restaurant is the result of awareness and myths that I wanted to debunk about Wajid Ali Shah. Since he was a patron of art and food, I decided to revive his legacy through food, as food is a universal language that everybody understands,” said Fatima, who was recently in Lucknow.
She serves Awadhi Biryani, Galawati Kebab, Seekh Kebab, Shami Kebab among others. “Awadhi cuisine is very aromatic; its aroma can be experienced from a distance. On Facebook, I started sharing recipes and stories. When I noticed the overwhelming response that’s when I got Manzilat started. Earlier, it was only Mughlai food that was popular, but now Manzilat has started creating a buzz with celebrities, foreigners, and even chefs coming to sample the ware. Today, I am determined to preserve traditional Awadhi cuisine,” said Fatima.
She says she has preserved the authenticity by keeping the stock limited and serving only to limited customers. “I cook myself without any help, people wanting to dine in will have to make a booking. I can serve around 30-40 people at a time,” she said.
Fatima was born in Kolkata but spent much of her childhood in Aligarh. Her father, Kaukub Quder Meerza, was an Urdu professor at the Aligarh Muslim University. She returned to Kolkata after graduating. “I began cooking at a young age, in Aligarh, living with my father. My mother Mamlikat Badr used to live in Kolkata and taught me some dishes. I started learning more recipes from her during my visits to Kolkata for summer vacations. But I started serious cooking only after I got married,” she confesses.
“My mother told me that ‘your father has written many books about Wajid Ali Shah to preserve his legacy; you should do something different to preserve his legacy in a distant land’,” she said.
Wants similar outlet in Lucknow
Fatima looks forward to opening a chain of such restaurants in Kolkata and is seeking investment for it. She also looks forward to opening similar restaurants in Lucknow. “As the government is planning to convert heritage buildings into hotels and restaurants, I would love to open my restaurant in one such building with the support of the UP government,” she said.