woensdag 13 november 2013

Life In Lucknow: A Legacy Of Tombs And Terror

So far I've become pretty accustomed to getting around on foot and just wandering around aimlessly. For Lucknow that doesn't work too well. Unlike the places I've been before this is a fairly large city (3 million inhabitants), which means that things that are remotely interesting are strung out over bigger distances, making the aimless wandering pretty boring. Also, more people means more traffic, which doesn't make getting on foot that much safer or easier, since as a pedestrian you're pretty low on the food chain.

However, travelling by riksha isn't that simple either. There are more than enough (cycle)riksha's and they are more than willing to bring you to places (sometimes too willing), however I have yet to meet one who actually knows his way around. And that's after I got him to understand where I want to go and for what price, which constitutes a challenge in itself. What helps is a slip of paper with the name of the places and the 'address' (which at best is a streetname and a 'near place X'), which he can give to people along the way to ask for directions. You get there in the end, but just makes sure you're not in too much of a hurry.

Prices vary according to who you meet. Some start at 150 and won't go lower, not even when you walk away (which occasionally results into them following around, terribly annoying). While for the same distance others start at eighty and even drop the price to sixty rupee after your first counteroffer. Usually I give the ones who start at a fair price something extra - especially the cycle riksha's - in a feeble attempt to encourage them to charge reasonable prices.

Despite its not so overwhelming appearance and the logistical issues, the city of Lucknow has its tales to tell, some dating back to semi-ancient times, while the more recent ones are mostly related to First War of Independence (1857). Both the Bara Imambara and the Chota Imambara showcase the exquisite architectural taste of the city's former Muslim rulers and their ability to built impressive tombs to keep their names from passing into oblivion. In contrast to these majestic buildings, the battered and ruined Residence exemplifies just how bitter the fighting must have been during the 'Siege of Lucknow', a battle that killed thousands, Indians as well as 'Britishers'.

Now, for something completely different: Cockroaches. After a month in India I just saw the first two, which is a pretty decent score for a country which doesn't have the best reputation when it comes down to anything related to the words 'clean', 'hygenic' or 'spotless'. Send them down the drain. They may survive a nuclear war, but it's highly unlikely these guys survived the steady stream of hot water that hit them. 2-0.
While the other staff at the hotel are really nice, the people at the reception are not the greatest communicators. They call to tell you that "We need money. Immediately.", which is their way of asking for a deposit. It didn't make that much sense since I would be leaving the next morning anyway, but yeah sure. However, this hotel has one thing I've had nowhere else so far: they slip a newspaper under your door in the morning. Ah, the little things! I'm ready to forgive.

After experiencing of what terrorizes an Indian's hearing on a daily basis, I'm not surprised many here suffer from hearing damage. Some, in order to have a decent conversation even in a relatively calm environment have to put their phones on speaker (full sound) and subsequently hold close to the ear. Of course, shouting a reply is not optional but an absolute necessity in order have the other side understand what you're desperately trying to say. If the other person wasn't deaf yet, he'll be one step closer after this phonecall...

I never learn. When it comes to leaving on time to get somewhere on time, I simply never learn. This time I couldn't blame anyone else that with a 7:30 departure time (and actual departure 7:31), I got the train in sight no earlier than 7:26. If I hadn't been late I wouldn't have been in a rush and I might have noticed that I was running up the stairs for tracks two till seven and that track eight was not on that sign. And for good reason. Track eight it turned out, was not next to track seven, but at the far end of track one. Because that makes like total sense.

Another train leaves and I'm on it, but this is getting too close to call. In three days time I'll know whether this was enough of a warning... For now, Allahabad awaits me.

The complimentary newspaper. Absolute win.

The colonial buildings that are still standing add a little charm to the city. Now they either house stores or government agencies.

Traffic is a non-stop flow of semi-suicidal drivers & pedestrians.

The marks left behind on the Residency by the ' Siege of Lucknow' .

This memorial as still intact though. Makes sense since it was added later. 

That the Residency wasn't built by the British becomes pretty clear once you see this mosque. Also one of the few buildings that was relatively unharmed. 

Bara Imambara. Bury me there anytime. 

Chota Imambara. Nevermind the previous comment, bury me here please!

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