Lucknow: Of Nawabs and Kebabs

There is an unfortunate propensity in the country to write off Uttar Pradesh as a state unable to deal with its ensnaring webs of red-tape and babudom. For a passionate lover of culture and cuisine, this is typecasting at its worst. The illustration of the treasure-trove of Culture, Lucknow, will hopefully do much to dispel this notion.

Complete with its international airport and well-connected railway station, Lucknow is an easily accessible place. With its distinctive aura of poetry, that reflects itself in the conduct of the cooperative locals, Lucknow proves to be a haven for tourists, even if they are not well-versed with the languages generally followed by the people (to varying extents, Hindi, English and Urdu). Known for the tradition of shayari (couplets), it is evident that the fragrance of creativity cleaves onto the air to this day. Specifically in the old part of the city, every building is complete with domes, arches or minarets, engendering in the tourist a sweet, anachronistic sense of attachment. Round every turn, kebabwallahs and chaatwallas present their ready services for connoisseurs of good food. Indeed, the fame of Tundey’s, which started off as a non-descript kabab stall in Lucknow has spread to the extent that branches have started sprouting up in New Delhi also. The Rumi Darwaza is as famous for its intricate carvings as it is for the kulfi that is served there in the wee hours of the morning. Though convenient restaurants have sprouted all over the city, the true essence of Lucknow is still found in the roadside stalls that serve the city’s authentic delicacies. Lucknow remains one of the few centres in the country famous for its mouth-melting malaai ka paan.

In a nation torn apart by communalism, Lucknow has maintained a matchless spirit of unity between its Hindu and Muslim populations. Of the tourists that flock to admire the architectural beauty of the Imambara mosques, there are as many Muslims as Hindus. The Imambara stands today as a symbol of the benevolence of Nawab Asif-ud-Daula of Lucknow, who got the monument built in the time of a famine, so that his people would have employment in the worst of times. It is interesting for those with a scientific bent of mind to note that lightning conductors were built with the mosque of Chota Imambara and complicated principles of light and geometry were used to construct the Baouli which makes it possible to detect from within the building, the proceedings near the gate.

Another historical site that must essentially be visited in Lucknow is the Residency with a special light and sound show that begins at 7.30 pm from 1st November to 14th March and 8.45 pm from 15th March to 31st October. For a reasonable Rupees 30/- it is possible to witness the realistic recounting of Avadh’s history. While it is common to come across eulogies in praise of the nationalists at all places, the show at Residency provides the British perspective and showcases the plight of the starving, trapped British women and children, caught in the midst of a revolt in an alien land.

Not to be forgotten is the various forms of embroidery which have proved to be Lucknow’s claim to fame among the who’s who of the world. Both the dainty chikan karhai and grand zardozi works are unparalleled forms.

Though the weather stays pleasant almost throughout the year, the best time to visit is between September and December or between March and May. Lucknow presents an array of historically and culturally rich aspects which are awaiting discovery and exploration. Truly, the city is a tourist’s delight.

Arushi Garg

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