It was early morning 5'o clock when I called my driver to know the status of my cab to New Delhi station. Got up early, packed my bags in just 30minutes and was off for a 2 day trip to Lucknow for official training exercise for a telecom client. After our successful development on this project, it was now time for the the real users to get trained on technology.
Lucknow bound train was on time and it was good few hours journey for me with my laptop and movies. It was around afternoon that train reached Lucknow station (2 hours delay due to stoppage at one station - some malfunctioning of Goods train engine) :( - drained me. As usual, a bunch of autowalas approached me, seeing me carry an airbag, asking me to take their auto. As others ignored them in the wake of the very idea of getting cheated, I did the same and proceeded towards counter of pre-paid autos. Surprisingly the line was meant for the autowalas who would catch their passengers and bring them to this place, stand in line and get the amount billed for whatever amount they want. Rs 10/- as bribe (euphemistically called fee) is to be given to the counter inspector to issue a ticket to the autowala who would then take the passenger to his/her destination.
I thought of giving a decent first-timer try by standing in line but all in vain as the counter inspector was looking for autowala than standing passenger in front of him. Anyway I could manage to get one simple looking autowala, preferred someone who didn't look crooked - just for mental satisfaction that he would not cheat on price - not much at least ;) Anyway I was charged Rs 20/- extra for the distance on paper. Since things were to be reimbursed, I didn't care much and offered the amount to the autowala (at least I was getting a bill).
Lucknow was much crowded than Delhi or Gurgaon - may be because of less open space and more congestion on road. After 20 minutes, found my Hotel, paid the guy and checked in to rest for a while. Since the trip was accompanied by two more friends from office (though not together in journey), it was bit assured that I would, at least, not get bored in this new area. Yes, my first trip to a place which I passed only while going in trains that qualified to be one of the 'via' stations.
Evening plan, after office visit, was to get to some market and have Tunde Kababs, which is supposedly and believably (after I had them) one of the favorites of people there - and also of tourists who visited this place. We took a rick (human) and got to a market (forgot the name), walked around 2 Kms in search of the place called Tunde Kabab (TK). As we expected on our way, street was full of hawkers, shops and hanging light boards. We had to walk inside congested one way (but used a 2 way) streets to reach our beloved food joint - the first TK that was started long back. We ran for an empty table that was free fortunately and asked for 'thought to be special' menu - but to our dismay we could not find anything that started with chicken/mutton (guess and confirmed that they served only Beef). Had to come out of that shop to ask for another TK shop that served the other variant as well, that we could eat. Another struggle for auto at night to reach that place (Aminabad) where we hogged on to those Kababs. No word to describe the pain of that long walk and also the heaven that was brought to us in shape of circular, soft, melting, delicious, lip and finger smacking, mouth watering to the core dish! - as shown in picture here :):) Had 4-5 of them with the Mughlai Parathas (crispy and little sweet) that reminded me of Alcausar's Kakori Kababs near Assam Bhavan in Delhi (hope the spelling is right) and Street Food of India in Ambiance Mall, Gurgaon (near PVR). Lucknow one is actually much better and looked fresh with its unique ambiance :)
Time to roam around in the market after that, did some shopping for some Chikan Kurtas (this is what they call the clothing material) - friends got some suits, had couple of Kulfis (Ice creams) and walked a bit with Pan (not Pan Card but with Beetle Leaf). It was already crossing 11pm and if you thought it was Delhi, it was not. Had tough time finding an auto to our place - changed two and paid more than double to finally arrive at our 'unknown-to-people' hotel, or may be we were poor on our navigational skills.
Next day, with fresh morning light we had our breakfast and reached office in time to start our first national tour on campaign training. We already had our slides checked as marketing managers from various circles (telecom circles) were expected to come there. Revised things one by one to build little confidence and entered the waters with open minds. Tried finishing everything in time to our best - all that we could. In the mean time we also managed to get one Aunty's number, who used to sell Kababs as hobby (or may be as business). We planned to visit her house and collect some frozen pieces for our return journey that was about to start in couple of hours.
Back to our rooms after collecting those 10 pieces per head for Rs 200 - packed our bags (already half packed - because they were never unpacked completely), we booked a taxi and went to Lucknow station together - one of us was not lucky to get a train - but was very lucky to get approved for home bound Delhi flight ;P. Anyway jealously aside!! Though the reputation of Indian railways had not been good, it was good that our train was on time. We boarded and found side upper and lower seats, waited for some time to settle things down before we had our eyes filled with water - not that we were leaving but because of that (very) spicy biryani we packed for dinner from platform. Given a choice - I would surely go for something non spicy, but in a closed compartment of running train ,at night, even this choice was not meant to be exercised :(
Lucknow memories still remains as it is even after 2 months. I would not be making justice to the city and its journey if I call it hectic and tiresome, would only end with that it was worth experimenting and would love to visit this place again for some more exploration - of course with family this time! :) Have some other trips lined up soon - Lucknow is not for summers I guess :)
PS: This post is not for hardcore veggies! ;)