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After only just getting into the Ganga Gomti Express at the Allahabad Station, the journey was quite peaceful. Yeah, it was. Thoroughly enjoyed my first time in a chair car of the Indian Railways. The view from the bio vision Television sized bread shaped window was quite picturesque. But the peace was soon to be lost. I was recalling many of Seema Goswami’s countless mentions in the Sunday Brunch of how Indians lack etiquette. Could hear a guy from seven rows back talking to none other than a customer care executive of his cellular phone service provider, a medical school professor husband complaining to his wife of the same profession how he should have been the new HOD of some plasmo-something department and not Khan, a guy who was showcasing the amplification abilities of his new Chinese handset by playing the whole album from Slumdog Millionaire. Lattika’s Theme put me to sleep. Jai Ho!
And there we were, at the Charbagh station, Lucknow. The Lady who sat next to me in the train, said “Aap Nawabo ke sheher mein hai!!!” as a reply to a sarcastic comment of mine on the vocabulary of Lucknowites. Nice. As I got out of the station I heard this Beggar say “Bhaijaan ek rupaiyyah deejiye na!”, almost made me drop a note in his bowl. The Charbhagh station was like this pseudo-Sufi structure. At first glance it seems quite impressive, on careful observance you notice that its quite a decent way to fool tourists just about to enter Lucknow. They have made neat usage of Rajasthani and Mughalai architecture, but the paint on the walls of the building ruins everything. It seemed too fresh for my liking.

The Lucknow Malls turned out to be quite good, much better than what I had expected. Saharaganj was very sleek, though the crowd over there was quite a bummer. The Gomti Nagar-Indira Nagar side malls fared much better in this department. However from a list of very fond memories that I have of Lucknow, something that comes quite close to the top is the Gol Guppe of Royal Cafe at Hazratganj, and the basket chat from there is quite delicious too. The best chat I have ever had in my life. But here is a bummer: the taste is restricted just to Royal Cafe, other chat waalahs across the city have failed to reproduce the taste, Delhi still enjoys the status as the Chat capital of the world. Other food items that I loved from Lucknow is a variety of selections from Tunday Kebab’s, Kulfis et al.
The monuments of Lucknow are quite similar to each other with the exception of the Residency. My journey started with a drive through the magnificent Rumi Gate(darwaza) which led to the Grand Shia Muslim Monument, known as the Bara Imambara. Walking around the site was quite an experience. The Bouli, well its in shambles now, but one can imagine how impressive it must’ve been back in its days. And the stories of the guides only add romance to all of it. The Imambara and the Bhool Bhullaiyya had this old world charm connected to it, tracking down the dark cool paths of the labyrinth in hope of this one untredead path that would lay open to us. Unfortunately we found none.

The Chhota Imambara was nothing like its elder cousin, but sitting down on the carpetted floor and absorbing the Sufi air around us was one experience. The lights, the decorations, the culture, it was all so charming. Residency was an altogether different experience. There were no domes, no putti paint, no Jhoomars there. It was all so British. It was stoned, paved and cemented. It reminded me of the so many of the remains that the British have left us Delhiites to spend our winter afternoons at. The la Marteniere school was a major dissapointment. At best it was this neglected heritage building that cried out for maintenance. Rustic is allright only till a point.
What else… Saw Ambedkar Park…what a waste, LU-charming, Bhoot Bangla-dont want to get started on it, JJ Bakers-delicious, needs to be a tad better for an upmarket area like Hazratganj, Chikan work-Mum and Dad love it, I have got no idea. In all a great experience. What I would remember this trip the most for is reasons I wont ever be able to explain to you on this blog. Sitting with friends at coffee shops and talking about quite heavy things, meeting new people and starting off with them, Jodha, the political spark in the autorickshaw(ask me about it…a good story), the return journey in the Shatabdi…thinking about this trip gives me a high. Loved this city. Would rate it very highly. One of the best cities I have ever been to. Needs a better government though. All in all, a trip worth remembering for the rest of my life. Would definitly be going back there.

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