Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lucknow Calling

For people who love travelling, its always a fun to go around places. Discovering new areas, knowing all the history is always fun for them. I am home sick, yet have gone around places for one reason or the other. Not as much as I would have liked but at least to a certain extent the trips have always been fun...start, middle or end...always fun!!
So, what do I have for you in this post? My encounter with 'The City of Tehzeeb'
I was rather confused on the title of this post. 'The City of Tehzeeb', 'Adab, Tehzeed and Lucknow', 'A city besides Gomti' being a few candidates but I finally settled for 'Lucknow Calling'. Let me know if you think a more apt title I should have opted for after you are done reading this post :)
Me and wife were to travel to this city dotted with remnants of its rich cultural past. The reason this time of the travel was my wife' interview. I am sure the interviewing authority had good enough a reason to call us there, as we came to know that interviews were also scheduled in Delhi. Or else I fail to understand why they wanted us to travel some 500 km rather than a mere 20-30km. No regrets :) as it turned out to quite an experience.
Interview scheduled for 10:00am on 6th morning of this month, we decided it was ok to take a train on 5th night to reach the city at around 6:45am (the train permitting). A full AC train but a couple general compartments and we were on our way at the right time from New Delhi railway station. Travelling for the first time on a train with no pantry car. Our seats being in the compartment nearly at the start of train it was difficult to get down at any of the first few stations to get a water bottle, knowing the train only stops a min at each station. Thanks to the AC we could sleep nicely for the night w/o much trouble. But that sure was a lesson learnt ;).
Tired after a day in the office, the next thing I knew was my watch striking 6am. Got up to know the train was late. Hoping every minute that we reach on time, we passed around 2.5hrs before finally reaching the much talked about place in this part of the country. Need a rickshaw to the hotel? Well you need to ask them for a room as well or else quite a few don't offer to take you if you have a pre-booking in any of the hotels. Quite strange haan..It was a 4th time lucky for me but finally got one rickshaw. That too made sure I had to pay a little extra once he knew I already had a booking. I should have clicked a pic of the station knowing I may not visit here again as we already had our returned ticket booked in the flight, but a touch concerned on the time as I was...missed the moment.
The hotel was nice, already discounted price with both 6th and 7th morning breakfast complimentary..couldn't have asked for a better deal :). BY the time we reached the room it was nearly 9am. With the warning already issued at the reception that it takes around an hour to reach the interview place, it seemed to be late already. Hurrying here and there..a few fumbles..a real quick breakfast that even the waiters serving were amazed at we were ready to move with around 45 min left to reach the scheduled place. Thanks to the rickshaw driver, the next touch down on the ground was at precisely the moment the watch on my wrist said 10. With a nice deep breath that we made in time, we proceeded to the gathering room nicely helped by the arrow marks on the walls and boards. Nice AC room after a 45 min in the sun and zooming here and there to make sure we reach on time, was a more than welcome. Sitting in the waiting room while my wife went thru some official procedures, it was like a deja vu of my PG counselling around 9yrs back. It was nice to feel it again though :)
A four hr wait to finish the things up and when we started our move back to the hotel, the rain was all it was left for our welcome. None the less, we soon found a rickshaw back to the hotel, hungry and a lot tired but happy with the first half of the day. By the time we finished our lunch relaxed for some 20 minutes, it was already close to 5pm. The next thing on our mind was to go around the city so heard of but never visited.
The spirits were dampened a bit once we were made aware at the reception that the most famous place to visit in the city closes at 5 in the evening and it was already time. Somewhat sad..we were given a tip free of cost...to visit the market. The free tips are more costly, I discovered it alright :-p.  We shopped at the most famous shop in the area, visited the Sahara mall and finally as my best half wished, went around in the city in a manual rickshaw to enjoy the  city in the night.
The day was filled with fun and the next was more of a wonderful time as we were to discover the next morning.
We started the 7th morning a bit early as our flight was also scheduled the same day at around 3pm in the afternoon. We were already told that it will take around 2 or so hrs to visit some famous places in the city. All set and after a much refreshing shower and a very nice breakfast we were all set for the next destination for the day...the all famous Imambara!
The history of this place is long and I am afraid wont be covered in this post :( but what a place and what history. It took us around 5-7 min to walk down from the main gate to the big hall that holds its place in the history. As we were told later, the place was built fully in between 1773 and 1784. 11 yrs in total and the architecture tells the story. The architect was an Iranian and all he demanded at the end of his work was to be buried in this place. So as it is the Nawab and the Architect both lay in peace in the main hall of the building.
The whole of this building is around 340 odd feet long. Divided in to 3 halls, named after the type of work they hold. So the first one is called Chinese hall, the second Persian hall and the third Indian hall.
Chinese hall
You see the Chinese hall pic on the left, the windows that peep out are part of Bhul bhulaiya. Strange as it seemed to us, the windows appear to be in a circle to each other from here but once we were in bhul bhulaiya itself, they seemed arranged on a wall that was absolutely straight. Not sure if that is how they planned the architecture or it turned out to be the way it is. Whichever way, standing there for a moment we seemed lost in the beauty of a 220+ yrs old building.. mesmerized by the thought process of a single man who lay just 10 steps from where we stood.
Persian hall 
 If Chinese hall was able to take our breath, there lay another example of how good people were with their design skills way back then. We entered the Persian hall. This 1600 ft long hall is the biggest hall in all of Asia without any iron support. Built like a kitchen tray, the hall holds a religious place. Said to have been lit by candles in the era that the Nawab lived here, the hall has a strange calmness to it. Its kind of scary as well that this length of the hall doesn't have any support of iron and still is as strong as you may know any building around. There are around 10-12 eatable ingredients that constitute the wall, pulses, sheera for example. That's what our guide for the day told us. Hard to believe?
It is in this hall that the Nawab and the Architect still lay in peace. As you may see in the left pic. The emeralds and precious stones that existed in different forms in this room, now take there place somewhere in UK. Look closely and you may see Nawab' crown in the foreground of this pic. This is a replica, the original as you may assume (correctly) was taken to UK by British ppl during that time :(
Indian hall
The third hall, Indian Hall, is of a form of a melon. Again, from inside it looks like round with the windows peeping out and from inside, its as straight as possible.
The bhul bhulaiya that holds these windows is interestingly built within the walls. So from the ground you see walls and as you try to go up the floor floor building, without realizing you are actually travelling within the walls till you reach the absolute top. A wonderful experience.
If you plan on visiting, do take a guide or else bhul bhulaiya is a place you cannot get out of :)
We looked around a couple of places in this hall and one in the bouli later, special thing in these that someone from inside could peep thru the whole area outside but from outside no one can have a look. Seems was used by the army stationed just in case enemy attacked.
The guide took us to the top thru the mesmerizing place called bhul bhulaiya and then asked us to guide him down. We tried for 5-7 min and failed. Such is the surprise at every turn within the walls that you really can't get thru. The guide however, seemed as familiar as the people who would have built this sculpture.
Our guide, Mr Hasan
Thanks largely to our guide for the day for all the lovely time and super information that we got. Our guide, who also happens to be the driver of the Chairman of the Trust that maintains this building, is working here since past 12 yrs. No doubt over his knowledge once we knew this :-P
After some 2-2.5hrs we finally bid goodbye to the lovely place to be back at the hotel to have a nice lunch and begin our journey to Lucknow airport to catch our flight back home. The airport from the outside looks more like a fort that an airport :)
Lucknow Airport
This being my wife' first flight, it was a special one. Enjoy the view from the plane window once we were airborne :)

Little bit of Sun :)

The wing seemed a slider :)

And here is a video as we left the ground :)

As always, here is the QR to this post :) 


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