Lucknow Diaries

Dear Diary,

I went to Lucknow recently. Every time I told anyone I was going there, people asked me – why? So, I think it’s important I explain why I went to Lucknow. Well, FIL had a pharmaceutical expo there that he needed to attend. Tarun had to accompany him. So, I had a choice of staying back alone with Anay or tagging along with them. Hence, I chose the latter. 🙂

I always like visiting new places and they need not be touristy. I like seeing how people live in various parts of the country. India is such a culturally-rich place, there is so much variety and variation in the days and lives of people, it’s unbelievable. Money definitely plays a major role in it but a lot is the kind of place, the people and their tendencies which also decide what kind of life people live. e.g. Anyone who has big money in Delhi would be living in a lavish house / wearing expensive clothes/ owning flashy cars. People MUST show-off their wealth here. It’s the way of life. It’s a norm. It’s something you cannot escape. However, if you were living in Bangalore with the same kind of money, this may not necessarily be true. I know for a fact that they don’t necessarily spend on clothes or houses or cars. What is their evil-spending, I don’t know. I’m sure there must be something because no society is perfect, but this is just one way where the two places differ, despite being metropolitans. Hence, I believe, each place has a unique way of living and I enjoy seeing that.

Lucknow is a well-developed city. We stayed at Hotel Clarks Awadh in Hazratganj, Lucknow. We chose the hotel because the expo was held here and because we needed to be close to FIL and Tarun participating in the expo, we thought it better to book in the same hotel. I think it turned out to be a wise decision.
It’s a typical business hotel and hence I wouldn’t say I enjoyed my stay very much. Most of the business hotels are over-priced. Except clean lodgings and a functional TV, I don’t see how they are anyway better than a 3-star hotel. And the kind of prices they charge, their services are at-best average. The food was not very good and the services varied based on the time you order. I was traveling with my 6-yr old son and there was no way of keeping him busy in that hotel. There’s nothing around to pass your time. They claim to have gardens but they are untended to. Mosquitoes and unattended grass makes you steer clear. My son killed time watching TV and waiting anxiously for evening to come so we could all go out somewhere. Keeping some board games is hardly a challenge for a hotel of this standard. Anyways.

Coming to Lucknow, the city. Ahh! Politics and Power flow in the air in Lucknow. Yes, I knew Lucknow is the capital city of UP but living in Delhi, which is the state where Central Govt stays, I never felt this what I felt in Lucknow. 🙂 The fact that Rahul Gandhi was holding a rally for the upcoming elections, nearby, only deepened it in the atmosphere. People in white kurtas, school boys ganging up in groups, marching along roads, random college boys chanting slogans at public places, everything is about power and politics there.
The hotel lobby was a wonderful place to sit and watch all this unfolding. Police officers, at least 40 of them, from all ranks, holding a meeting in the same hotel. There were folks from Dainik Jaagran who had some conference happening in the hotel. I think the hotel is a hub for power people. I even saw a call girl (if I gather correct) crossing the lobby to the lift for rooms. What makes me think she was that? Well, I did eye her a little more than usual, when I saw that her dress ended barely under her hips. It didn’t mean much. It wasn’t a surprise when I saw the men-folk watch her intently either. Rather, it was interesting slow motion play of people turning around, taking off their goggles, or trying to hide yet unable to hide that they want to take a good look at her. All these were normal and didn’t bring me the idea that she maybe that. It was when she was questioned by the Hotel Manager who was standing at the lift gate at that time, about her room no and if she was checked-in there or visiting someone. She did answer him alright but she returned from her room in about 10 mins, wearing a skirt full-length, which was a sure-shot giveaway. That was completely a case of ‘chor ki daadhi mein tinka’.
It’s all so filmy- when I think back about it. The way our movies portray political areas, people, the little details, it all is pretty much the same. Interesting.

Well, I didn’t remember Lucknow as a political hub when I went there but I’ll remember it as that from now on. 🙂

Tourist-wise, I wanted to eat good food in Lucknow as I had heard a lot about it. I wanted to see if I get the ‘tehzeeb’ in the spoken language as people claim. Well, if you’re a vegetarian, there’s not much that you get. Whatever special is there, it’s in the non-veg department. For us, we pretty much found a good restaurant only at the end of our 3-day trip. We were mostly hunting for a decent place otherwise. There’s a Moti Mahal Hotel on MG road (if I’m not mistaken about location). It was awesome. It had two floors, we went to basement and that had all fast-food in it. We didn;t know they were demarcated like that but the staff and owner/manager were pretty adjusting. They helped us a lot, from arranging things from other floor, if we wanted, to arranging milk for Anay, which they didn’t keep themselves, otherwise. I think it may have been because we were a group of 6 and hence, a good order. But, whatever it was, I would praise them for the good salesmanship and services. You barely see that in Delhi-NCR anymore.
There’s a Ma-Durgma hotel which is perhaps told to you by one and all, if you ask for Veg hotel. They’ll say go there for good veg food but trust me it’s one place you would want to avoid. We went only once and we found the Paneer dishes half-cooked. I don’t know if we went to some wrong place or what but the location was same.
On the contrary, if you visit Lucknow, you must visit ‘Sharmaji Chai Wale’. As the name suggests, yes, it is only for tea and snacks. But, if you don’t eat samosa/buns + chai there in the morning, you miss the lucknow mix-of-people. It’s amazing the number of people who come to it. From college types to people in swanky cars, there are orders pouring in from everywhere, there are people flocking the place from all walks of life. The best part is, it opens early in morning so you can do a samosa-chai breakfast. Try it. Totally worth it. Just for the experience. The local-feeling. Awesome.
Oh yeah, the dialect, well, let’s just say, it’s a UP guy in the garb of a lucknow tehzeeb. So, you will find people using soft words like ‘aap’ and ‘aapki marzi hum to bas keh sakte hain’ but trying to con you in everything (the trait people connect to UP). 😀
Places – we visited the Bada Imaambaara and the Ambedkar Park by Mayawati. Because of my knee problem, I couldn’t go in to see the maze inside Bada Imambara. But, sitting there on the Masjid steps, on a Sunday evening, with so many Muslim families casually spending time, was a wonderful experience in itself. Children playing in park, watching the group of relatives together spending a casual evening, a MIL teaching her newly-wed daughter-in-law (or daughter?) on how to tie her hijaab properly, affectionately. Cousins teasing the new bride. The husband trying to get some time in the whole setup, shy yet open. Elder bhabhi helping them in their cause. 😀 It was watching how emotions and relations play out in a conservative yet loving atmosphere. No friction. All composite. All together. 🙂

Ambedkar park was beautiful just because of the open expanse of sky that it provides. You can gaze up at the clouds and the sky changing colors in the evening. It was peaceful and fun. We co-incidentally went there twice. Once at night and second time at dusk-time. It was empty at night time so gave a different experience. It was beautiful skywatch at dusk but the kind of people visiting the place marred the experience. You cannot help but realize it is UP.

Overall, nice refreshing trip.

One thing I was left wondering at the end of it all.  Why do people move from such states/places to Delhi-NCR!? I look at the infrastructure, the facilities, I see a mini-model of Delhi, just a lot cleaner, more spacious. I see people with decent money living in kothis instead of high-rise rat-holes of apartments. I see people more relaxed and enjoying their lives so much more. Is it that a mirage drives us all? From Lucknow/Ludhiana to Delhi and from Delhi – US/Australia? Is it seriously just that? I feel if you’re decently placed in your state, having the potential to do better in your state, you must strive for that. Delhi is one place where no one has roots and no one can ever develop those. The roots you can get, you have gotten from your state, don’t deprive your children from that. This comes from a child who has lived and grown up in Delhi and now tries again to make a place for her children in Delhi.

Take care
-Hope
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