Vantage point

Sunday, June 30, 2002

Flowers of all hue fill the meadows
Birds of all types chirping too
But none of that happening around me..
Sweat and grime in my clothes..thoo thoo

Today the Insti took us to see Lucknow. I never knew the city had so much to offer a tourist. Though the oppressive North Indian Summer was at its best sapping the fluids from our body and making life miserable, we did have a good day overall, probably the last day of leisure for a long time.

First we went to the 'Bada Imambara', the most famous monument in Lko. It was built to be a replica of some Imam's place in Iran and is considered one of the finest architectural structures in India. It is most famous for its bhoolbhulaiya, i.e, Labyrinth. The guide who showed us around started off in painfully wrong English and kept dropping grammatical nuggets, till someone put an end to his misery (and ours) by telling him to speak in Hindi and spare the Imperial language the vivisection he was putting it through. He said things like "When the britishman (sic) wented inside bhulbhulaiyya, they became lost and then habitually (???) became died". Anyway, once we got him speaking in the rashtrabhasha, he told us about the opulence of the place. the hall was huge and there were balconies at the top from where nawabi ladies used to watch the court proceedings. He took us on a tour of the labyrinth which was a maze of many small tunnels(sweat and more sweat) interconnected randomly and the Britishers had had a tough time capturing the place. At one point, on the roof, we saw a hole in the ground. It was a straight and narrow drop to the ground floor. It was veryy innocuously placed and anyone who fell into it might have broken a few limbs en route to a sure death. I felt the authorities should have placed a warning sign near it. Anyway, several tunnels traversed and several bottles of chilled water downed, the guide led us out of the labyrinth. There were other parts of the imambara which were very beautiful, but were ill maintained. The intricate oil lamps for instance were so dusty, they must not have been cleaned for a year. The plaster had come off at certain points , and overall, the place, which must have been quite an imposing structure in the 19th century, seemed to be getting a raw deal at the hand of the Archaelogical Survey of India.

We then visited a Picture Gallery which had portraits of several nawabs of Avadh (the province that Lko was the capital of), most famous among them being Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who has been immortalised in Satyajit Ray's "Shatranj ke Khiladi"
as the decadent king who kept playing chess even as the Britishers attacked his kingdom, just because he didn't want to leave the game unfinished. The portrait conveys the impression that Amjad Khan, the actor who played the role in the movie, was, if anything, a little slimmer than required. The guide said that Wajid Ali Shah had 365 wives!!! I wonder what he did on 29th February (wink wink).

Next stop was 'The Residency' where the britishers used to stay. There was a siege of this place during the 1857 Uprising and a lot of britishers died during this siege, either due to bullets or canonballs, or due to dyssentry and other such diseases caused due to stale food during the siege. The whole place was in ruins and there were several graves of the britishers who died. All the tombstones were well carved, and some had wodnerful epitaphs written on them. one , belonging to a 22 year old woman said "Those who seek me with all their heart shall find me where they least expect". Now when there is tall grass all around you and cold graves in the hot summer, such sentences cause uneasiness.

Next we went to La Martiniere College, which was a huge and majestic palace that operates as a school, started in 1840.

A lunch at Gemini Continental, a 3 star or 4 star hotel, and back at the isnti in the AC labs. By the way, who decides these stars? Is there like a separate body to monitor hotel standards that awards them stars?

Classes start tomorrow.