Last weekend I travelled to Lucknow….a city famous for its extravagant Nawabs, its cultured populace and its old world charm. Now, contrary to what you may expect, this was not an ordinary vacation with sight seeing as the primary objective. A dear friend’s wedding prompted a bunch of us to converge on this quaint city. As we alighted at Lucknow’s Amausi airport, a nip in the air reminded us that we were no longer in warm South India. Inching through the traffic ridden roads of Lucknow on our way to the hotel, we caught our first glimpses of the maze like flyovers lacing the city and the numerous parks dotting it. There was a lingering whiff of politics in the air courtesy the upcoming State elections. Cordoned off statues of the current CM encased in coffin-like wooden boxes and elephant figurines wrapped in cellophane bore testimony to the notoriety of politics in this part of the country.
An exhilarating reunion with friends ensued upon reaching the hotel. A couple of hours later, decked in our finery, we were all set to attend the ‘nikaah‘ ceremony. After driving past almost a dozen wedding pandals, a green ticker informed us that we had finally arrived at the desired site. Festooned in pretty pink and powder blue, the venue looked as if it was picked right out of a fairytale. Strings of tiny crystal lights hung from the white tarpaulin overhead enveloping the surroundings in a warm golden glow. Guests in bright attires made for a kaleidoscope of colours which added to the festivity of the evening. Polite bearers carrying trays laden with butter soft kebabs flitted amongst the guests ensuring there was a constant supply of food.
In one half of the venue the bride sat, petite and graceful, as a swarm of photographers engulfed her trying to capture every emotion that flickered in her almond eyes. She looked radiant in a deep red outfit embroidered with gold thread. It would be an oversight on my part and a pity if I do not mention what a fine looking groom my friend made in his off white sherwani and pink ‘saafa‘. The two looked perfect together and I overheard many a guests echoing the same sentiment. As the evening progressed, we witnessed the ‘nikaah‘ being read, the groom taking his oaths and accepting his bride.
It would be an understatement if I said that food was in abundance. A large tray of kebabs, handis brimming with chicken and mutton biryaani, breads of varied types and melt-in-the-mouth rabri beckoned us. By now, we had realized that our attires were no where close to keeping us warm and fearing death by hypothermia we made our way to the coal sigris which were conveniently placed all around to keep the guests warm. A long day was now drawing to an end and I was looking forward to creeping under a warm blanket with the heater warming my cold toes.
Day two brought with it the exciting opportunity of exploring a new city. We bundled into three autorickshaws and made our way to Aminabad which is the heart of old Lucknow. Aminabad stood like a little piece of history in a city which seems to be modernizing at a rapid pace. The remnants of havelis from a bygone era are still occupied by old timers. As I stood there, a flock of pigeons took flight over children indulging in flying kites as the muezzin called for prayer. This was all the more fascinating for me as I rarely get a chance to feast my eyes on such sights in ever rushing cities like Bangalore.
It was no surprise when in our female dominated group, shopping won the war of priorities over sight seeing. In the crowded bylanes of Aminabad and Kaiserabad, I realised that there was nothing that one could not find here. From hearing aid manufacturers to opticians, from jewellers selling artificial jewellery to merchants selling sequins and gota, each one had a small niche to himself. Chikan kurtas were what we had come looking for and needless to say we found them in profusion. The store keeper manning the shop we entered could have sold an air conditioner to an Eskimo. He was such a smooth talker that in just over an hour he managed to make a massive sale to our unsuspecting group. All the haggling and seeing and deciding had rendered us fatigued and hungry. The famous Tunday kebab outlet was a natural choice for lunch.
A brief cycle rickshaw ride brought us back to the hotel where we once again bedecked ourselves for the Reception. The gaiety from the previous evening had continued and the venue was buzzing with life. The colours around me fascinated me. The bride’s brilliant blue lehenga, a friend’s rust orange sari, the bright green grass dipped in dew and the hues of the flowers used for decoration are some of the colours which are etched in my memory and in all probability will stay there forever. The food was yet again immensely appealing to the palate. I finally tasted the original ‘Shahi Tukda’ (bread soaked in sugar syrup and glazed with cream) which I had been craving for since years and this made my day. Each time a friend gets married, it feels like the end of an era. This feeling was even more pronounced as we all sat together one last time reliving memories and laughing till our stomachs hurt.
There is so much in the city of Lucknow which I could not explore. I intend to someday come back and scout the city with a fine toothed comb for all the hidden treasures that hide in the nukkads and galis. Till that happens, the memories of the tastes, sounds and sights of this beautiful city will serve as reminders of a lovely weekend spent here.
Preeti Sharma is an MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies and dabbles with creative writing. As she stepped into the hectic and mundane routine of corporate life, her writing became her stress buster. Her insatiable wanderlust and need for change prompt her to travel as much as possible.