- Where the Locals Go
Anisha’s Lucknow, India
Namaste, city-lovers! Today’s city comes to us from the opposite side of the world in the Uttar Pradesh state of India. Anisha Sharma says that Lucknow–the “Paris of the East”–is her city. Read below to find out why!
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Lucknow is My City
The first place I take an out-of-town visitor is Bhool Bhulaiya, built by Nawab Asif Ud Daulah to employ the people of Lucknow when a famine had struck. People preferred to work than qualify for royal charity.
When I crave a nature walk I always go to the National Botanical Research Institute, an 1857 memorial and garden.
To escape city traffic, I head to the Residency, a British stronghold from the 1857 war.
If I want to browse books I go to the East End Mall, and check out the Landmark Book Store.
If you come to my city, get your picture taken with Birju Maharaj (if he is in town), the Kathak (classical dance) guru.
If you have to order one thing off the menu from Chaudhary Sweet House it has to be Chola-Bhatura.
Thingz Boutique is my one-stop shop for great Chikan embroidered dresses, saris, and kurta pyjamas.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to Bhootnath Market for inexpensive deals.
Photo ops in my city include the Imambaras, La Martiniere College, the Residency and the best vantage points are the rooftop of Bhool Bhulaiya (Bara Imambara), the cemetery at the Residency, and the sunset across the Gomti River.
The most random thing about my city is the chaste language (Urdu) used by the common man.
My city has the most cultured, chivalrous, romantic, and poetic men.
My city has the most petite, elegant, educated, and aesthetically inclined women.
In my city, an active day outdoors involves a visit to the Lucknow Zoological Garden, the National Botanical Garden, La Martiniere College, Kukrail (alligator sanctuary), or Lohia Park.
My city’s best museum is State Museum at the zoo. It features sculpture from the Kushan School and statues of Buddha discovered at Mathura. It also contains great marble statues of British royalty from the pre-independence era (before 1947).
My favorite jogging/walking route is the walking plaza within the Lucknow Cantonment.
For a night of dancing, go to Nashwa. Or, for live classical Indian music and theatre, check out Rai Umanath Bali Auditorium, Ganna Sansthan Auditorium, or Valmiki Rangshala.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read The Times of India.
You can tell a lot about my city by the way the taxi drivers greet you. Lucknow is known for its respectful and poetic language.
You can tell someone is from my city when they open their mouth to speak–a language of poetry, tongue-in-cheek wit, and respect.
In the spring, you should come to Lucknow to celebrate the festival of Holi, an ancient celebration ushering in spring, commemorating elements of Hindu mythology, and a time of general merrymaking and a disregarding of social norms during which people take to the streets and toss colored powders and water on each other. No one will toss the many-hued colors on you without your permission (pictured, above).
In summer, savor a drink of thandhai or lassi at the Chowk market.
In fall, come to Lucknow during the rainy season and enjoy the festival of Teej during which married women get together and tattoo their palms with henna, wear green clothes, sing rain songs pertaining to the gods, and celebrate conjugal love.
In winter, celebrate Makar Sankranti with bonfires and sesame goodies.
A hidden gem in my city is the Picture Gallery that has life-size portraits of all the Nawab rulers of Lucknow.
For a great breakfast joint try Nihari-kulche at Akbari Gate in Old Lucknow.
Don’t miss the Dussehra festival in Lucknow, a spectacle of fireworks commemorating man’s victory over evil within, symbolizing the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Just outside my city, you can visit Naimisharanya, a place where yogis live.
The best way to see my city is by staying as a paying guest with a local.
If my city were a pet it would be a song bird.
If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live in the mango orchards of Malihabad, on the outskirts of Lucknow.
The best book about my city is Lucknow: The Fire of Grace by Amresh Misra.
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Aapko dekh kar dekhta reh gaya, kya kahun aur kehne ko kya reh gaya…” meaning, “I am spellbound by just looking at you! I cannot speak, I am so enthralled by you.” What more can I say?!
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss Amrapali Water Fun Park.
The 1857 first war of independence could only happen in my city.
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it was known as the Paris of the East under the Nawabs (rulers), who patronised music, dance, painting, and Awadhi cuisine. Also, Kathak dance, the classical North Indian form of dance is known for its Lucknow gharana, headed by present guru Birju Maharaj.
Photos: Bada Imam Bada mosque, Shubh Singh (top) and Holi festival, Murali Alagar (bottom)