Lighting up with hearts ablaze for English hero

Tobacco regulation

Last Thursday, when hundreds of Hindus and Muslims visited the shrine, they carried with them packets of cigarettes of all brands, depositing them in assigned boxes hung on the walls of the shrine that was built to honour the Englishman, a captain in the army of the East India Company who had backed the sepoys who revolted in 1857.

Folklore has it that Captain Baba, whose real name is not even known to the locals or those who manage the shrine, led the sepoys and gallantly fought his countrymen alongside the sepoys after the revolt broke out in the barracks of Lucknow and other adjoining garrison towns.

Legend also has it that the Captain, who was hailed as a hero by the sepoys, was a chain smoker and died on the battlefield, clutching a cigarette in his fingers.
There is no written record on when Captain Baba was born, but people believe he was born on a May Thursday and was employed in the East India Company’s army before he switched loyalties.

“I have been visiting the mazar for the past two years....I had been suffering from an incurable ailment but now I feel better. The Baba only likes cigarettes and nothing else,” Suhail, a devotee, said.

Another devotee, R P Singh, who runs a coaching institute in Lucknow, has been paying obeisance at the mazar for the past 40 years. “I consider it an honour to pay respects to such a hero. Being an Englishman he helped the embattled sepoys,” Singh told Deccan Herald.

Devotees to the shrine usually purchase cigarettes from local kiosks for whom last Thursday was a day of brisk business. They usually light the cigarettes and then offer them at the base of Captain Baba’s grave. Some others prefer to place the cigarette packet as people do with flowers in cemetaries.

A grand ‘mela’ (fair) is also organised at the mazar every year a few days after the Holi festival.

At that time, the mazar hums with activity with thousands of people thronging the fair which is also a symbol of communal harmony for the devotees who includue both Hindus and Muslims.

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