Friday, January 6, 2012

Au Revoir Lucknow :-)

Lucknow has never been a place of residence for me. But strangely it has always been a part of me. Most of my lost-and-found bonds in life have a bit of Lucknow in them. It hass been always there for me. Has been kind to me. Generous to me. Being in Lucknow has been like being in a mother's protective care.

Have travelled the winding route from Allahabad to Lucknow countless times with family in our station wagon-ish car. But this time it was different. For the first time I was travelling in a bus. Allahabad to Lucknow. And it was also different because this time it was a trip for the family. The sole purpose being connecting with the family in Lucknow. Just that much. No business and work strings pulling me apart. So I was at peace although the bus was running far too much behind my schedule. My younger son and I were supposed to join cousins and their children for lunch at a place near Hazratgunj.

The evening was dusty and grey as the bus reached its destination at Alam Bagh Depot after what seemed to me like having spent an entire lifetime in that bus!
From the bus depot to my cousin's place, I would have preferred a leisurely ride in the cycle rikshaw, but it was already well past lunch time. I knew how disappointed my hosts must be, hence we took an auto rickshaw to speed up a bit on a winter evening that darkens even before it really sets in.

The house was as warm and inviting as it always had been. It was like my own. Nothing was apparently amiss. Yet I knew everything was not the same. One of the most affectionate person of the household, the adorable caretaker, that wonderful guardian who could play all the roles from being a gracious host to being a concerned elder had left us forever, leaving an emptiness that could not be filled even by a crowd of thousands.

A hot hurried shower refreshed our bodies tired with sitting for over four hours in almost the same position. Cozy cups of tea were followed by a lavish "lunch" which brought back the aroma of a cuisine that belonged to the days of those long lost expansive kitchens which once buzzed with activity in my parents' ancestral Kothis. The fragrance of hand-ground masalas and the clay choolahs, the distinctive smell of rotis being cooked on the heavy iron tava kept inverted on fire, and corriander leaves and green chillies being ground with a few garlic cloves into an appetizing chutney....memories of the days that are now found only in the pages of Family History.

In the coversation that went hand-in-hand with the meal , we travelled the path to our most loved places of those enchanting yesteryears...the courtyards, the corridors, the "beri" and "amrood" trees, the huge rooms within rooms...we shared our present with the past, we brought to life in our conversation the people who had once-upon-a-time lived in those enchanting dwellings and had been a part of our growing up.

Between my cousins, their families, me and my family there was so much to know and say. I was with the people who had supportively shared my family's downturns and were now mellowly joyful to see us mercifully blessed by The Almighy God.

Crouched in the warmth of colourful soft Jaipuri razais, away from the cold and frigid world outside, I could have lived my life in that dream-like togetherness. But soon it was time for dinner. Delicious once again. The unforgettable shakarkandi-ki-kheer and strawberry souffle merit a fond and special mention.

Then a drive through deserted foggy avenues of the City to reach Lucknow Railway Station some time before midnight for our train to Delhi.
The night was lit with silvery street lamps, glowing through the fog like mysterious far-away stars. But bright enough to show the way through darkness.

That night as I boarded the train I was loaded with a bountiful treasure of happy moments to cherish all my life.
The goodbyes that night were expectant au revoirs...till we meet again  Lucknow .... !

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