With winters kissing your cheek under the white moonlight, you are standing at a fairly busy street of Hazartganj on a Saturday evening. Watching the shops and brand outlets draped in black and white clothes and a hoard of townspeople crowding them.
LUCKNOW. Like an old Bollywood film, the town welcomes you with its name flashing in front of your eyes in a big Times New Roman font followed by Urdu as you get down at Lucknow Junction.
After paying the rickshaw guy twenty odd rupees or so without much hassle or negotiation required, you reach Hazartganj Chowk or Chouraha as they famously call it here in pure Hindi. So, standing outside Royal cafe restaurant, one of the most popular ones – you watch several people relishing a basket chat and chatting about the week that just went by. A mixture of mashed potato, curd in a basket made out of sev is enough to satiate two rumbling tummies at a time.
Food is one of the many reasons why one shall visit this town. Not more than 200 meters from Royal cafe you come across Shukla tea stall, where you can spot the chap heating creamy milk outside a small restaurant and pouring it skilfully in already laid down glasses in rows. It is then topped with a layer of tea diving into milk, as he fills the glasses almost overflowing it. A delight to one’s s eyes as well as taste buds craving for some tannin.
And it doesn’t end there, my connoisseurs! Take a ride through this city in a cycle rickshaw. Through the busy streets of Aminabad, the rickshaw driver will take you to food joints like Tundey Kabab and Dastarkhwan. And while he drives through the crowded parts of Lucknow, he will narrate to you tales of their existence in town since pre-independence era. Both the places serve a mouth watering delicacy known as Galawati Kabab. A folk tale follows the dish that, once upon a time there lived a Nawab at Lucknow who had a weak set of teeth and hence ordered his chef to cook kababs accordingly. And so in process, Galawati Kababs were borne. Pick up a piece of these kababs gently with a spoon…gently because it is so tender to be broken otherwise. So lift a piece and wrap it neatly between the crispy buttery Mughlai paratha and simply rest them on your tongue. With the blink of your eyes, kababs shall melt in, spreading the mouth watering taste of it down your throat.
Apart from food, the city is known for its love for Hindi & Urdu language. And it is overwhelming to hear people speak purest of Hindi, marinated with respect. You won’t know respect until you hear an elderly Lucknow businessman speaking to a chap dropping him home for few bucks and thanking him in most respectful way you would have ever heard of.
As you ride your bike along with white fiat cars topped with blue lights demanding you to give them way ahead, an open bridge spreads its arms wide over Gomti river – separating the town into two distinct parts. And old and new Lucknow.
Old or new, the city wears a serene mask on its face and lets you do your job at peace. A fountain laughing a mouthful of cold water will welcome you at every corner of this town.
I am yet to see a town so careful to maintain the buildings and houses in their pristine form that even cafe coffee day paints itself black and white to be a part of its clique. Big clothing brands try and stand out with their showrooms taking shelter in white flamboyant architectures, reminiscent of its royal Nawabi past.
Wondering how to reach here? Simple. The capital city of Uttar Pradesh is just an overnight train journey from New Delhi and requiring a 24hours travel from Mumbai. Airlines hover around it every day, giving you a glimpse of wide gardens showcasing a tall statue of Buddha and several elephants standing in rows. So one can take a nonstop flight from metro cities or have a connecting flight from New Delhi/Mumbai from other towns to land here.
And yes, don’t forget to add ‘G’ to every surname that you come across here. After all, mingling with the local stream lets you appreciate the place even more.
Rest; there are plenty of places and faces waiting for you to arrive here – in Nawabi style!