A month’s a long time to stay away from writing about my travels, but after a crazy wedding bang in the middle of November, I’ve had little time to breathe normally – let alone blog. But here I am, determined to write about a fascinating city called Lucknow and how it added extra pounds to my flourishing bulk.
Here’s how the sequence of events went.
Day 1: We arrive in Lucknow. It’s afternoon – we head to our hotel and from there, straight to lunch at the wedding venue. I was surprised at the level of smog in the city – quite unexpected. Over lunch, my dear friend Diwa – who had spent several of his younger years in Lucknow – promised to take us Gilauti-eating as soon as we were done with a token lunch at the wedding venue. I can’t tell you how hard it was to stop eating halfway through lunch to save some space for the kababs.
Here we are at Dastarkhwan – a place pretty well-known for its kababs – mere hours after our lunch. Between the 11 of us, we had about 8 plates of mutton and beef kababs. Somehow, our taste buds were not entirely happy. But we had no choice – it was getting late for the Mehendi and we had to hurry back to the hotel.
Lucknow takes its weddings very seriously, as you can see. This, however, is absolutely no indication of the madness that followed once the Mehendi started. It involved a lot of dancing, quiet corners to occasionally slink away to, and a whole lot of Punjabi-style eating and drinking.
Day 2: Heading out to see the Imambaras. One of the archways that leads to the Bara Imambara, a place where the Shia sect of Muslims comes to mourn the passing of their prophet. (At least that’s what the guide told us.) Before we can go into the Imambara, though, our guide tells us that we should visit the Chota Imambara first. We obey.
At the Chota Imambara. In all the time I have spent travelling and looking at Mughal architecture, this is the first time I have come across a structure that uses only black and white as colours of embellishment. The effect is stunning.
Even more mesmerising than the outer structure is the interior of the Chota Imambara. Chandeliers of every kind hang everywhere, and walking in is akin to walking into a dream. Refractions throw soft light across surfaces and the whole experience is pure magic.
At a Chikan Factory: Lucknow is famous for its Chikan work – a certain form of embroidery that is as delicate and fine as the language (or is it dialect?) and mannerisms one associates with pure-bred Lakhnavis. Hearing a Lakhnavi talk is like music to the ears, unless they’re chewing betel leaves of tobacco – which most often, they are.
Fancy Tonga: Dhanno (or whatever it is she is really called), was all decked up for our ride. She patiently took us sight-seeing from one Imambara to another, looking at us with her pretty eyes and nodding her head at our lot. What you see here in the background is an erstwhile entrance into the city.
Bada Imambara – a massive structure with the infamous Bhool Bhulaiya – secret passageway. It’s almost 4 p.m. by the time we’re done here, and we’re famished. Diwa comes up with the idea of going to the original Tunday Kababs. We agree wholeheartedly.
And we’re here! The famous and fabulous Tunday Kababs -100 years old, located in the old city, and food that lives up to the hype. We just couldn’t stop eating, but when we ran out of time because we had to head back for the wedding, we stopped. After 20 plates of kababs. 20. Between 5 of us.
And that’s how we marry: Good thing we ate that much, because we burnt all of it dancing in the baraat. The groom arrived at the wedding in a cycle rickshaw all decked up with flowers. The best men took turns riding the rickshaw and it was a sight to behold. Photo courtesy: Diwa.
At Janpath Market, where the signage of every brand – big or small – is in Black and White on the buildings. And I mean every brand. It sort of helps retain the old-world-ness of the area, I guess. This was also the night we checked out pubs/lounges in Lucknow. Pretty interesting, I must say, with women in teensy-weensy skirts and men in BMWs and what-nots.
Day 3: It was time to say bye to the city. I carried back an extra bag full of Chikan kurtas for 18 people, Gilauti kababs for the parents and a whole bunch of really fun memories back with me.
Getting there: Lucknow is accessible by air, with direct flights from Bangalore. There are trains, buses and flights from Delhi as well.
Go if: You enjoy history, food, culture, and shopping.