After seven long years, I went to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, a state in Northern India, along with my parents and some of my relatives from Kolkata. It is a city, located along the banks of the Rapti River and is near the India-Nepal border, wherein two of my uncles and one of my aunts live. It is the birthplace of the Gita press – India’s oldest and largest printing press, and it has the longest railway platform in the world.
We were a clan of twenty altogether enjoying a family reunion at my uncle’s residence. A historically rich city was not too far from Gorakhpur. So I had already planned for a jaunt to Lucknow and hurriedly bought the train tickets en route to Gorakhpur.
We reached Lucknow on the morning of December 28, 2017. It is the capital of Uttar Pradesh and was historically known as the Awadh region. It wasn’t a difficult city to explore. The main attractions are Bara Imambara, Chota Imambara, and Roomi Darwaza. Like Esplanade in Kolkata, Hazratganj in Lucknow is a cradle to plenty of restaurants, shopping complexes, theaters, and offices. We had Lucknowi chai and a bread malai sandwich for breakfast. The memory of the appetizing aroma of the chai and the taste of the moist sandwich will stay for a long time to come.
Lucknow is located along the banks of the Gomti river. It has a rich past – Lucknow is synonymous with the City of Nawabs because it was once the home to the Nawabs during the Mughal Era when Mughal emperors appointed Nawabs to administer the province, which was earlier controlled by Delhi Sultanate. But when the British came to India, they conquered the Nawabs and ruled the city.
At a time when cacophonous music rules speakers throughout India, I was happy to listen to classical music at the Lucknow railway station. Hindustani classical music which originated in the Northern parts of India still has a good influence there. Lucknow is famous for poetry and Shayari too. Traditional embroidery style, Chikan or Chikankari, has its roots in Lucknow. Mughal Raj played a great role in the cultural and architectural development of the city and hence is also known as – the City of Tehzeeb (the Urdu word Tehzeeb means culture).
I have heard that narrow alleys in Lucknow leading to food stalls serve tastier kebabs than glossy restaurants. A variety of kebab preparations, Lucknowi biryani, and the delectable paan make Lucknow a foodie’s paradise. The native cuisine is known as Awadhi cuisine which has been mainly influenced by the Mughals.
The 107-acre Ambedkar Memorial Park was constructed by Mayawati, Former CM of UP. The cost of construction is estimated at ₹7000 crores. Ironically, the greenness in the park seems like just a drop in the ocean when compared to the substantial number of stone sculptures of elephants that adorn the park.
When I was a kid my father told me about the intricate network of tunnels situated on top of the Bara Imambara in which one can easily get lost and since then the labyrinth or Bhool Bhulaiya has amazed me. It has a single entrance/exit and over 480 doorways that can bewilder a person after a few failed attempts to exit the labyrinth. Our guide showed us a sealed tunnel leading to Delhi, Agra, and Faizabad.
We ended our journey sipping roadside tea and saw Vidhan Sabha Bhawan on the way toward the station in the evening. And, the next morning we were back in Gorakhpur; bitter cold winds drilling my bones once again. It was much warmer in Lucknow than in Gorakhpur.