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Lucknow: The City of the Nawabs

Image: The River Gomati in Lucknow 

The river Gomati which is supposed to be the daughter of Sage Vashsista, flows through Lucknow. Modern Lucknow is very different from the time of the Nawabs.
Surabhi, the girl of my dreams, lived in this wonderful city of the Nawabs. A girl that would awe even Lord Yama (God of death). Maybe, Yama had come on earth to marry such a woman. I read about a story in which Yama fell in love with a strong woman who was beating a man, and married her. The initial days were good for him. She would protect him, and the bedroom scene was extremely pleasurable. It was until a son was born to them. After which the woman translated her love to her son and became a nagging wife. Yama would make medicines and give them to the sick who came to him. Naturally, whomever he treated would get well. His son grew up to be a fine young man, and his wife grew old. But Yama remained as he was, young and youthful. And that would be a trouble for him. His wife started nagging him more, as their neighbours told her that she looked very old as compared to her husband, enough to be his mother. The woman made hell of Yama’s life, and finally he decided to flee from her… And Yama was so much scared of her after that, that he didn’t even come to get her soul, when it was time for her death. And it is heard that the old woman is still residing somewhere in the Himalayas. The story is longer how his son managed to outwit Yama, to change the fate of the Princess of the Kingdom. The story taught something – there is nothing such as absolute fate. We can predict to some accuracy, but things need not happen exactly; God can change His decisions even at the last moment.
Well, I thought Surabhi was sort of such woman, Yama would seek for a wife. I remember having called her one night. She detested night calls. She verbally abused me to the core. I was really scared of her. But that was what attracted me to her. Surabhi’s abuses! You might call me a Macho. But honestly, I do not have any desire to be abused by anyone and neither can I tolerate verbal abuse. It was different with Surabhi. Maybe I felt an inner link with her that her usage of offensive language made me feel close to her. That sort of divine familiarity that comes from Heaven for two souls who are meant to be one. It was her beautiful eyes that attracted me. She had the light brown eyes that reflected pain and happiness at the same time. And in those eyes, I got lost. The more I saw her eyes, the more familiar and closeness I felt in her. Maybe I was watching her soul through her eyes. 
Surabhi lived in Lucknow and I was in Delhi. We talked mainly on Messenger call. It is a different story that I ought not to reveal how we got talking, but then it was like God had wanted it that way.
Surabhi was a girl that God had made in the most natural way. You wouldn’t find anything different from a normal town girl. That was her asset that held me on to her. She was the most natural girl for me, and I wanted to drown myself in her naturalness. It was just sometimes her rude behavior and abusive indecent speech which I had to bear with patience that kept me skeptical of her.
One fine day, after talking to Surabhi, I felt I had had enough separation from her! I decided to visit Lucknow. I had heard a lot about the city of the great Nawabs. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, being the last Nawab, was ousted by treachery on the grounds of mismanagement by the British in 1856. Lucknow was the centre of art and culture; the Nawab patronized dance girls known as Tawaifs and they contributed to music, dance, theatre and Urdu literary traditions.

Lucknow is famous for its Kebab (Tunday Kababi), its Chikan handmade garments and its melodious Urdu language. The language indeed is one of the best things that have remained in Lucknow for people to admire its heritage. Lucknow, is the city of hope. A hope that the lovely language Urdu doesn’t lose its relevance and disappear from the face of India. A heritage of India it is!
If you want to see the real Lucknow, it is better to visit the Old Lucknow. It has some of the remains of old times. My hotel was in Aminabad, which is about two and half km from Charbagh, where the railway station is. It was the first time I saw so many women in in Naqaab. 
Image: Aminabad market
I admired the turbulent crowd at the bazaar, yet there was peace. And if you want to visit Lucknow just for once in a life time and for a few hours, then the one place that you should go is the Bada Imambara. It was the palace of the Nawabs. From the terrace, you can see Lucknow’s best medical college – King George Medical College, named after King George V. He laid the foundation stone in 1906 (he was Prince of Wales,then). The Anglicized name has been a topic of political interest with governments acting as name changers.
Image: The Bada Imambara

Inside the Imambara is a well (called Baoli), and the famous maze – Bhool Bhulaiya. 

I would suggest you to see the Bhool Bhulaiya at least once. It is said to have a secret tunnel that leads to Kolkata and to Delhi. Maybe it is a myth or reality; no one knows, because there are only gruesome stories about explorers going missing forever and losing their life. Someone went on to make a joke out of it that one British Explorer went in and came out after a month. Don’t know what happened to him, but it was rumoured that after making a telephone call to say he was in Australia, he disappeared again!
There is a beautiful bridge across the river Gomati. If you have time, you should definitely stand on this bridge in the evening and see the water flowing. You will feel being one with nature. And it would be all the better if your better half is with you. You can hold his/her hand, and feel the joy of oneness completely.  Close to the bridge is the Ambedkar Memorial Park built in the Gomati Nagar, and has lot of statue elephants. One of the former government had elephant as their election party symbol; so these elephants were created out of respect for that.
Image: Ambedkar Memorial Park
 It was supposed time to be a time of agitation in Lucknow. Apple executive Vivek Tiwari, was shot dead by the UP (Uttar Pradesh) police. There were rumours that he hadn’t stopped his car and the police had shot him dead. Someone said, he was replicating the dancing car scene (if you remember 3 idiots movie), with his secretary or whoever the woman was, and so he was frightened when the cops showed up, and so he didn’t stop his car. Someone else said, the present government had ordered the police to encounter all the suspect criminals with special stress to a particular community criminals. And that way, this encounter proved to be biting one’s own tail. In a way, whatever the reason, Lucknow seemed for the outsiders to be in a state of panic. And there could have been riot, but somehow the situation was under control.
And at that point when, an outsider would think twice before visiting the city, I was there. And a friend was telling me on the phone call, how dangerous Lucknow was. But I just smiled, and kept mum about my being in the city.  These mobile phones have at least one thing good; they do not reveal about the location of a person.
Image: Sunset at Ambedkar Memorial Park
I met Surabhi in Ambedkar Park. She did come to meet me. We watched the sunset together. One of the best things that you can do at the Park is watch the sunset. And that is what exactly I did with Surabhi. It was she who held my hand, and we watched the sunset in silence. And I would steal a glance at her beautiful countenance. I wished she would look at me. I so much longed to look inside her beautiful eyes, and see her soul. She wouldn’t. But after the sunset, she did look at me and therein I lost myself. I had wanted those beautiful eyes to drown me, and they did.
We walked from the park and climbed the steps to watch the river Gomati flow. It was getting dark, but the lights shone and made everything look wonderful like a fairy tale. We walked hand in hand, on the narrow pavement of the bridge. Sometimes she was behind me, and sometimes I was. But I didn’t let go off her soft hand. I could feel the love and softness in them for me. When we were on the middle of the bridge, she stopped and held me close to her. The place was romantic. She looked at me, and I could feel her warm breath. That’s where I kissed her for the first time. Actually it was she who kissed me. There was both passion and affection in her kiss. Something I would cherish my entire life- my first kiss. And yes, I don’t know how long the moment lasted. For in that moment, I didn’t exist, time had ceased to exist. The world had turned blank and I felt myself united with her soul.
“I love you, Surabhi”, I said, after she broke the kiss.
“I love you too,” she whispered, in my ears, “Dr. Strange!”
I knew I had found my love. My search had come to an end.
“You will be with me tonight?” I asked her.
“I will be with you forever.” She said.
“Is this a promise?” I asked.
“This is a promise.” She murmured softly, kissing my earlobes.
For a moment we said nothing, just staring at each other.
“You will come to my room?” I asked her.
She smiled. “Let’s go, by walk.”
Uttar Pradesh is terrible place for lovers. It is a social offence to hold a girl’s hand. Well, even spouses are supposed to keep a distance in public places. Public display of Affection is a taboo. The fear of UP police which had gained notoriety for encounter specialization made me nervous. And there is a hilarious news, that once the UP police couldn’t catch the criminals, because their guns were not working. So they shouted, “Thai thai” mimicking gunshots to frighten the criminals. UP government and the police are famous for all the wrong reasons. The present CM is notorious for Nomic Hypherphasia – (forgive me for my neologism!). In Medical College, we learnt there were people whose parietal lobe would get damaged and they would suffer from anomic aphasia. It is the most common type of aphasia, where the patient can’t remember names. But this CM has the disease of changing names. In the name of change, he has changed the name!
After an hour’s walk we reached my hotel. It was a double-bed room. However only married couples could be allowed entry. I decided to take my chance. I hoped, she would sneak in when there was no one in the reception counter, or we could go as strangers and hope the receptionist didn’t notice.
We did make it out and were together in my room. We were very passionate with each other, as if it was the last day of our existence. She fell on me like a hungry wolf. She pushed me on the bed and was on top. We kissed passionately.
 “Make love to me,” she said.
And that was where I lost my cherished virginity. She was rough and vocal in her expression. I loved her salacious indecent words as we made love. They made me all the hungrier and crave for her.
Would I let her go from me? No, I would live with her, by my side. Love her all my life. It was before dawn that she said she had to go, before the sun was up, or there would be a big problem.
We had been making love all night. I wished she stayed and slept with me for the day – but then she had her home and parents.
“Walk me to the bridge,” she said. “I want to be there once more with you.”
She looked tenderly at me. I thought of humoring her. We again walked, though I wanted to take a cab. She was adamant on walking. I was scared. But she said she loved the darkness. And sensing my fear, she said, “Don’t worry, I am with you.” I didn’t want to be a coward in front of my love. So, we walked together in the cold night air. We arrived at the bridge. In a few minutes, the sun would arise. She held my hand. And I don’t know, why, she looked into my eyes with tears. “I always loved you Dr. Strange.”
“Now don’t call me by such names,” I said.  “I am always yours, as much as I have loved you.”
“Will you love me, even if I am no more?” she asked.
“Don’t speak nonsense! You will always be there for me. I have always loved you. It is raging like a fire inside me.”
“Yes, I will be always there for you!”
And before I could understand anything, she jumped off the bridge into the flowing waters of the Gomati. For a moment, I was taken aback. I wondered what had happened. And realizing that she had jumped, I too lunged into the river. I was a good swimmer, but I wore specs. And as I hit the river, I was almost blind. There was water all over my eyes. My spectacles were gone. I shouted, “Surabhi”. And I could hear my own voice ringing in my ears. Being short-sighted, I couldn’t see what was happening around me. I shouted, and finally swam with the current towards the bank. I shivered as I came out.
Making my way to my hotel was one of the most difficult thing for me. It was like a blind man groping his way. I had to ask several strangers who came near enough me, the way to my hotel. I had to avoid the speeding vehicles. I understood the pain of the blind – the acquired blind.
The first thing I had to do was to get a pair of spectacles, and next I had to file a report in the police station. I don’t know, what I should say. A case of suicide or accident. Suicide would be dangerous. Why should she jump by herself? When she loved me and had been happy with me! It must have been an accident or maybe I had dreamt everything up.
It was around 11:00 am in the morning that I got a pair of specs, and made my way to the police station. But then, I realized reporting a case would do me more harm than good. UP police was notorious for corruption and encounter. They wouldn’t register a case, and would put all the blame on me for murdering her. They would bring caste and religion in between, and explaining her presence in my room would put all the suspicions on me.
I was in a great dilemma. I finally decided to go to her house. Maybe her dad would kill me. But he wouldn’t want to lose his honour. Love blinds fear, and we become risk seeking. So, I went to the address she had given me. It was not difficult to find her home.
People had gathered in large number. There I found the family in mourning. There was a funeral procession. My worst fear was confirmed. Somebody must have found her corpse, and reported to her parents. I asked someone what had happened. Though I knew what they would say.
“Panditji’s daughter is dead. Poor soul, she was such a young girl. Didn’t even see the world!”
I burst into tears. “When did they find her body?”
The stranger looked surprised. “What, find her body? She was ill, they brought her from hospital yesterday.”
“When did she die?” I was equally surprised.
“Yesterday, evening. Just before the sunset.”
“What had happened to her?”
“The doctors said she had meningitis.”
I thought I had come to the wrong address. But then as I enquired further, I saw her picture. I confirmed her name and address twice with random strangers to avoid least suspicion. Yes, it was definitely her with a garland around her picture. I didn’t know what had happened. She was dead, but she had been with me, unless I had been seeing things.
I kept musing about the events yesterday. She had been with me, and she had come to my hotel. She loved the dark. The person at the reception didn’t seem to notice there was someone with me. And when she had jumped off the bridge, it was before the sunrise and nobody had heard or seen the incident. I shuddered.
Later when I was exploring the Bhool Bhulaiya at Bada Imambara, I could see her in the passages. And I could hear her whisper in my ears, when I turned around a bend. I knew she was with me all the time.
I went to the river Gomati again in the evening. There on the sandy banks of the river, I made a big heart and wrote her name inside it with my initials…
 “Surabhi _ Dr. St.”
Every time I think of you, I feel you
I feel you in the gust of wind that blows on my face
I see your face smiling in the morning dew
I know you to be my Heaven’s grace!
I see your face rolling down in the river
Winking at me as the waves plays hills and vales.
I know you are with me forever,
Humming to me tragic love tales.
I mourn for you, all my existing life
I am dead within though alive in body;
Could anyone understand my loss and grief?
Could anyone feel the broken soul within me?
Surabhi my love, do not forsake me-
Your, “I don’t live”, is worse than death.
How I wish with you forever I could be,
Adorn your soul like a wreath.

Lucknow: The City of the Nawabs Reviewed by Polymath on 12:10 am Rating: 5


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