Friday, August 21, 2009

No Excuse

If you have an afternoon to kill in Lucknow, I suggest you go to Sikandar Bagh. You could, of course, loaf around in Hazratganj, but it is better to leave that till evening, when it is cool enough for loafing. Anyway, it is just after lunchtime, and since this is Lucknow we are talking about, you are probably in that trance-like state which comes from eating biryani and kulfi. You could also try sneaking into the nearby Botanical Gardens, but since the gardens are only open for two hours at dawn, the guard will, not unreasonably, turn you out. So you will wind up in Sikandar Bagh, which is what I suggested in the first place.

Sikandar Bagh is not much of a tourist spot – a walled garden built by Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab, for his favourite queen, it now retains only its impressive gateway, a Lilliputian mosque, and part of the original wall. But there are squirrels, trees, and a sprawling, well-kept lawn. On Ashok Marg, the vehicles make insignificant traffic noises, but inside the walled garden, birds are chirping, and the wind rustles the leaves.

Carry with you a copy of Setting Free the Bears by John Irving. Open it as you sit on the grass and recline against a tree-trunk. Somewhere around the part where Siegfried Javotnik, poet of the humdrum, brings his friend a bowl of floating forsythia petals, you will doze off and dream cool, damp dreams of kulfi garnished with forsythia petals. When you wake up, the shadows will have lengthened. There will be fallen leaves on your shoulders, and you will know why most of Priyanka’s photographs of Lucknow are of people sleeping.

As I write this post, I have Lonely Planet open in front of me. It says:

Lucknow’s lingering British influence extends to a penchant for bars, so there’s no excuse for an early night.

It is just past nine, and though my day has mostly been spent sleeping in a walled garden and consuming large quantities of biryani, I am already drowsy. In an hour’s time, I shall be asleep.

No excuse for an early night, they said. But oh omniscient writers of Lonely Planet, there are excuses. Because this is Lucknow, we’ve seen it all before, and we’ve just eaten way too much biryani.


Priyanka said...

Did you find yourself thinking of alliterative descriptions? Lazy Lucknow Langurous Lucknow Luxurious Lucknow? It started like a buzz and went on for sometime, causing some people at the residency museum to think I was staring creepily at them.

Sroyon said...

I thought of Languorous Lucknow, but not the others. In fact, I toyed with the idea of having alliterative post titles. Languorous in Lucknow, Hungry in Hyderabad, Mayhem in Mumbai, etc.