Friday, 24 August 2012

Lucknow


At the train station a man in a suit walked by and said "Good morning Sir" and walked away. This moment must be recorded, as this was the first good morning that we've received without anything being sold to us. I'm already used to being ignored. Most of the time men don't talk to me, which is good in a way, but not when "I" try to order something in the restaurant for ex. I would raise my hand to call a waiter, and the waiter would come and ask Andy what I want. What the hell? I was pissed off and didn't leave any tip. How are you doing sir? Would you like a room sir? How do you like your food sir? Sir, sir, sir ... maybe I should change my name to "sir".
On the train in our compartment was the most annoying child ever ... but again, I don't blame the child, I blame the parents. First of all I don't know where the dad was, but just a mom was not enough to handle her. She just yelled and yelled, and was given everything to shut her up. She'll grow to be very obese, cause I've never seen a kid eat so many sweets and snacks. Then she peed right on the floor, when the toilet was only 3 meters away. The train after a while becomes a moving garbage dumpster with everything being thrown on the floor and out of the window. Some kids took the job of cleaning it and getting a little money in return. He was arguing with her, that now he has to clean that mess, he finally did, and when he asked money for it, she yelled at him to go away. I was in shock! She spent so much money buying that devil daughter of hers everything she laid her eyes on, and she couldn't give him 5 rps to clean the mess that her daughter created. Then she peed again, and I couldn't let it slide this time. I told to the mother in louder than usual voice. What are you doing? The toilet is right there! You're the mother, where is the discipline?? She just looked down and said nothing. Her discipline was to buy the child sweets when she started yelling, and when she was yelling too much, she just smacked her head or her back, pretty hard. We put newspaper on the puddle, and I must say that my 1 months old cat never did anything like that in my home, without any discipline! There should definitely be some child control, or a test if parents should be allowed to have any children at all.
Andy was bare feet and the devil child stepped all over him with her peed on legs. They finally left, but the compartment was disgustingly dirty. Next set of devil kids reappeared, but these ones were homeless unwashed troll looking things with more holes in cloths than actual fabric, and they came to us (especially us), grabbed us by the hand or legs and shook us with tremendous force demanding money. I didn't even shoo them away because I couldn't touch their dirty hands thinking of what disease I could catch by doing that. Other than the kids, there were many homeless people on the train, and inspectors didn't even ask them for a ticket. It depends on the inspector. Sometimes they throw them off the train at the next station, sometimes, they are more kind hearted. Maybe it depends on how much bribe money they got this day.
Indians move very slow, but not on train stations. When I got out of the train at one of the stations and ordered omelet in the bread, it was done and packed within half a minute. They're so fast that I'm not even scared of leaving the train anymore. Or you just shove the money in the counter, say what you want and tell them to hurry up because I'm on the train, and I'm getting served immediately. The sellers outside the train must be in a great shape, because when they sell the stuff outside the windows, they usually run after the train to give you what you ordered or to give you change (very honest!).
We went on this train for 24 hours, and I had to have a normal dinner, I was tired of snacking, and needed proper food. The food was as always the same, rice and 3 types of dhal (lentil curry). I sat next to the window for dinner, and things were splashing at me from it. My entire arm was yellow, I hope from dhal.
Another hot day and another shower less night, and I'm covered in small sweat pimples all over my body, face, neck, cleavage... I NEED A SHOWER!
Arrived at Lucknow, another randomly picked destination. I don't think I could've done 36 hours on the train, or maybe I could, but I definitely don't want to. It took us 1.5 hours to find a hotel. This city is not touristic, and tourist hotels recommended in LP were full of some students writing an exam. One tout was following us and following us, we told him to go away, but he kept walking behind us. We don't need his help, because with his help, we could pay 50% more for the hotel due to his commission for "bringing" us there. We yelled at him, but he didn't listen, or he would go, only to magically reappear again 5 minutes later from some deserted alley. After a while Andy got tired of him, or of a sleepless night and him, or he just wanted to play around, he stopped and motioned him to go. JAAOOO !!! The guy was laughing jaoo, jaoo, look at this funny tourist! Andy have had enough, opened his 1 liter water bottle and splashed it all on him. I was laughing from the distance as the tout was dancing around the water not to get splashed, not a funny tourist anymore, a crazy tourist! But he didn't follow us anymore :)
I hate walking with bags, and I left Andy to search for the hotel. All of them said that they're full. I got enough of that, and told the owner that I know that they're not full, and that they just don't want to accept tourists! Why not?? He smiled at me and said that they need a special form for foreigners to give to the tourist police so if anything will happen, they would have a better time tracking us down. I asked them which hotel accepts tourists, was sent to a few, and finally found one, but the room was only big enough to hold a bed, and the walls were grey-ish. Even for one night that wouldn't do! When I came back to Andy the price of the hotel we was sitting beside was dropping and dropping until it dropped from 1100 to 600. We took it. I have no idea why in non touristy places the hotel prices are so high. The hotel was new, but the room wasn't clean. I asked them at least 3 times. 3 times I received a "yes yes" answer, but nothing has happened. Well, it's ok I guess. I already slept on sheets that looked like they haven't been washed for a month, but these sheets looked ok, except that the floor was covered in mud tracks.
I washed my travelling cloths (pants and a shirt), and after 3 refills, the water was still brown, and that's only after 1 trip! I feel yucky wearing travel cloths, but there is no other choice. If I'll wear any other cloths, they'll be just as dirty after 1 trip. Looking at my grey-brownish shirt I was missing the bright blue colour it once had. I slept for 2 hours before we went sight-seeing. As usual, Lonely Planet distances are wrong, and instead of 20 minutes, we were walking for an hour. Andy thought that I must have gotten lost because it took too long, but how can you get lost on a straight road? The temperature hit 50, and that was the only time we spent outside. The whole day we were jumping from cafe coffee day to a horror house which we randomly stumbled upon, an AC restaurant and waited for the sun to go down and for the temperature to drop ... even till 40! This is a very nice city, the center is super modern, fountains actually work, they have a black logo design going on, statues are not falling down, designer stores ... all 9 yards. Andy wanted to go to an electronics store, and I told him to shop till he drops, because it was nicely cooled. While he looked around, I sat on the couch watching Britney Spears videos. He found a camera case which had a shoulder strap on and wanted to buy it, but not just buy it, to bargain buy it. I swear it was the first time in India when I was embarrassed, it's one thing bargaining at the market, but completely another to bargain in a large electronics super store. He was surprised. No discount? Then what can I get (for free)? The sales person took the case and told him, "If you pay this price sir, you will get what's in the box" :) hehehe :))
We went to a shop of local sweets, they're all usually the same, milk based with sugar, molded into balls or squares with silver on top (real silver! but banged into a very thin sheet). I don't like these, but occasionally you come across a really nice shop, where I can't stop eating them. And it's usually different kinds of nuts with dried fruits mixed together in very pretty shapes. The salesman was feeding me more sweets than I actually wanted to buy. You have to try this and this, and I was just trying to say no ... unsuccessfully ... oh well, there isn't such a thing as too many sweets :)
Next was Bata shoes. My flip flops got ripped, and sports sandals are too dirty even for the most modern washing machine, not to mention that it was already tearing in some places, and I had to super glue it. I couldn't believe the prices, and after some walking back and forth in front of the mirror, I bought flip flops for $1.40, and sport sandals for $14! They are super comfortable and no "getting used to them" was necessary. I wish Bata shoes had these prices in Canada.
In the evening in the hotel we watched a movie "terminal" ... it's so rare that we watch movies, that even though we had to wake up at 6 am, we watched it till midnight.
We took a historic city tour. The 2 local guides picked us up at 6:45 in the morning, but before the tour we had to argue with hotel management to leave the luggage in the hotel which they didn't want to do. I told them that ALL hotels allow you to store the luggage after check out time, but they just wouldn't barge. Ok, I thought, the power of money works all the time, and I told them that we'll give them 10 rps per piece, which of course they agreed to right away.
The guides took us on their bikes to the historic city center.
First place was a church which provided escape for the town's people during floods since it's the only natural hill in the town, and later served as a public hanging place.
They told us about corruption, and why it's good and bad. As you all know by now that India is very prone to power cuts. I was annoyed at it first, then I got used to it. But apparently it's because of corruption, it's meant to be this way so that everybody will buy generators, and what a coincidence is it, that generator needs 22 hours to charge, and miraculously there is a 2 hour power cut almost every day in Lucknow. Also, before the drinking water from the tap was very safe, so they decided to pollute it in order to sell water filters. But corruption is also good, because it provides everybody a free public toilet (anywhere on the street).
We came to a monument which has an interesting story. At the time of food shortage the king offered people food, but people refused to accept his offer for free, and decided to build the king a house. The problem was that all the castes built it together, but they can't really be together, that's unacceptable, so the lower caste built the building during morning hours and the upper caste came in the afternoon and destroyed anything that they didn't like, and so one building took 11 years to build.
And since I'm talking about castes, I'll include another section about untouchables which I just read in a book: "... in her girlhood, when untouchables were expected to crawl backwards with a broom, sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins would not defile themselves by accidentally stepping into untouchable footprint. They were not allowed to walk on public roads, not allowed to cover their upper bodies, not allowed to carry umbrellas. They had to put their hands over their mouths when they spoke, to divert their polluted breath away from those whom they addressed".
Very interesting and short article by national geographic about untouchables: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0602_030602_untouchables.html
We then arrived at a 600 year old market and to a free natural public hospital. We asked what herbs we should take if we have food poisoning, and they gave us some greenish powder which you should chew and follow it up with water. Andy tried to give them money, but they would accept it.
We then came to a house which Mahatma Gandhi visited often to plan his peaceful revolution, but actually we met quite a few people who dislike Gandhi ... although I'm not sure why, they said that he's not what the public and media made him to be.
They told us about times when police was polite and not corrupted, even when they came to a house to arrest someone who was at that time sleeping, the police would be outside waiting for the person to wake up before arresting him.
Then we went to the best place in India for bread, this one was called Kulcha, and when they saw us, they also didn't let us pay, and gave all of us a free Kulcha, which was very very good, kind of like a layered pita thing. We then bought an 800 year old coin for $2 from Muhamud Bin Tughlaq period. Then went to a chai shop which supposed to have the best chai because the water and milk are just boiled when you order it, and wasn't boiled and reboiled 100s of times ... I don't know ... it was ok :) We always have a constant problem ordering tea Western style. It's almost impossible, and you know how much I dislike this word. Andy drinks black tea with no sugar and just a spoon of milk. Every time we order tea with no sugar and a little bit of milk, it pretty much comes with A LOT of milk, and most of the time A LOT of sugar. "Little" is a relative word, and how can you describe "little" milk, if for them it doesn't make any sense and they drink their tea with just milk, not even water?? We started ordering milk on the side ... just a little bit of milk, but of course were served a whole glass of it. They don't get "a little bit"! Most of the time it was successful though, and we managed to get tea without sugar and the whole glass of boiled milk on the side. We used the opportunity to ask the local guides about a solution ... what should we do, how do we order it right?! They were laughing saying that locals don't understand it because if they bring you tea with no sugar and no milk, then what are you paying for, just some water??? So they wrote us a note in Hindu with step 1: Money is NOT a problem! :) 2: Only 1 teaspoon of milk, and no sugar. When we used this note, the waiter laughed, but the tea came with no sugar but still at least half a cup of milk :S   :)
Then we saw a fabric where they make wedding costumes for men. And they transformed Andy from a peasant to a king by dressing him in an elegant white costume and a sultan's hat.
This area is just interesting because most of the stores are hundreds of years old with the businesses being passed on from generation to generation. There is even a 600 year old Kebab place! We didn't go to that place because apparently it has some health safety concerns, but we went to another one which is supposed to have the best Kebabs ever. These are special Kebobs. When one of the sultans got old and lost his teeth, he ordered to make him kebabs which he could still eat, and they developed “melt in your mouth” kebabs which for me was just a blended version of a steak, except that it had so many spices, I couldn't eat it at all :(
When we stopped at one temple, I asked the guides why are there so many gods, and why the cows are sacred - trying to get a different answer. He told me very defensively that Indian believe only in 1 god! , and all the other gods are just a manifestation of that one god. From the 1 and only god, there is the holy trinity of Brahman the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer, and from these gods and their manifestations, 33 million of other gods come into existence, and you can choose to worship any god you want, in fact you can worship a different god every day if you wish, but by worshipping any god, you in reality just worship the 1 god. And about the cows, I told him how could Shiva get all around India on a cow, he wouldn't have made it out of Lucknow in a year it's so slow! Well thank god it's a flying cow ... but the guide told me that Shiva did a favour to people, because he took all the burden of people on himself. And what's the use of a cow?? So he saved people by making it his transport. This is way too funny for me. Shiva thought that there is no use of a cow, and now 1.2 billion people worship it as a sacred animal cause it's Shiva's transport :)
I also asked him about the reason why Indians constantly make stories up, and he said it's for better understanding. Say for example I bring my son in here, and there is this generator in there. I think it's dangerous as it can shock my son, so if I'll see him go in that direction, I can't explain him yet about electricity and the danger of it, so I'll just tell him that there is a snake living behind that generator, and it will scare my son away, and then my son could tell it to his friends, and friends to friends, and soon enough nobody will approach this generator!!
So I call them liars, but they call themselves fairytale makers.
We then went to a chicken factory (the cloth kind), where we saw chicken making in process, which is very famous in Lucknow, but all this embroidery seems very old fashioned to me, and very disappointedly, I don't appreciate all the delicate work that goes into creating these cloths, in fact, I don't think it looks good at all, and I would pay more money to have no chicken on my shirt! :)
The tour has ended, they showed us around for 4 hours for only 50 rps, but we found the tour so interesting, and them so nice and friendly and informative that we gave them a 500 rp tip.
On the way to the train station it was so busy on the street that although it was only a 10 minute walk, I lost Andy somewhere on the way. I wasn't too worried, but Andy had the ticket, and I only knew the destination, not a platform number, not a train number, not a seat number. I had 10 mins before the train leaves, and luckily I found an English speaking tourist info, into which I barged in, and asked for help NOW!!! They checked their files and found my name, I was relaxed walking to the train when I saw Andy running towards me, grabbing my luggage, running in front of me with it, and screaming that the wagon is all the way at the end and the train is leaving in 1 minute! Not according to my watch, or the station's watch, it was still 5 minutes till the departure time. So while he was running with my luggage, I was slowly walking behind him (with no luggage) till I reached my wagon :)
We had a compartment with a couple and 3 children. Not the children again, and not through the night!! But unlike the devil child on the way to Lucknow, these 3 were such angles. Even though they were all under 8, they looked after each other, playing with each other, the elder ones were feeding the smaller ones, giving them hugs, entertaining them. It was a pleasure to look at them, and I even told the father of what a wonderful family he has. Their mother was not feeling so good and was in a lot of pain, and I couldn't see it under her sari, but she was pregnant, and the contractions started at the train. Soon enough we had the whole family (which seemed like the whole wagon) in our compartment, and all the train personal was there too. They stopped the train and the nearest station, and arranged an ambulance and a hospital for her.
11pm sleeping time, alarm set for 3am.


https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/Lucknow

4 comments:

  1. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.
    Bodhgaya Tour

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  2. Yanchik ja chitaju tvoi blogi , i think u are an amazing writer , u should put all your travels and make it a book !!! Don't miss your calling !!
    Xxx

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  3. Yana

    another great post..
    thanks so much

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  4. А я купила flip flop на Багамах за 25 долларов + tax!!

    А вот эти бездомные и грязные дети, которые в поезде к вам приставали, они к какой касте принадлежат? Они из неприкасаемых?

    Мама

    ReplyDelete