Theen Rastha Bhulane Ka aur Ek Raastha Baahar Ka…

It started as an official trip for a consumer insighting project to Lucknow… and the rest is history! Literally history…

This is a story about about 4 colleagues, very sleepy, and not very excited about meeting hair oil consumers in Uttar Pradesh. It was that time of the year… restructuring expected within the department and three of the four of us were pretty clueless about where we would be the following week, careerwise. The last one was getting hitched and was mind, body and soul already in San Fransisco. Work was the last thing on our minds.

After a bumpy flight, with a steward who shook everyone awake minimum three times to check if they wanted a cold towel, lemonade, breakfast,we were actually looking forward to work. Disembarking from the flight, we managed to meet a Bhojpuri actor, recent national celebrity thanks to this TV show called Big Boss, carrying a Dainik Jagran newspaper in his hand and sporting this fake accent from Texas. His lound ‘Gawd Blessss’ to the steward managed to wake us up.

The weather in Lucknow was perfect… coming from Bombay, I think anyplace up North would be significantly pleasant. We decided to finish the consumer interviews by lunch time so that we would have sufficient time for some fabulous Lucknowi Biriyani, some sightseeing and some shopping. We had no clue what we were going to sight see. A quick stop at the tourist counter in the airport before heading out to work, we knew that ‘Bada Imambara’, as its called, is the monument we had to visit.

With something like that to look forward to at the end of the day, every little boring detail and irritation that we faced at work was quickly forgotten. Before we knew it, we were standing at the gates of Imambara with consumer insighting tucked away safely into the boot of the car.

Bara Imambara was a large complex built by Asaf-ud-daulah, Nawab of Lucknow, in 1784.Bara means big, and the term Imambara refers to the residence of the Imam, a religious leader in Islam. The complex also includes the large Asfi mosque, the bhulbhulayah (the labyrinth), and bowli, a summer palace with running water. The entire place was designed by an architect called Kifatulah, who is also buried along with Asaf-ud-daulah in the main hall of the Imambara.

We toured the entire Imambara with the help of a guide, who explained things to us in flawless Hindi. I decided to play photographer as Shudh Hindi was as good as Latin to me.

The Imambara consists of one main hall which contains the tomb of the Nawab and two circular halls with dome ceilings on either side. The decoration on the ceiling in the main hall is meant to resemble a tray. The 2 domes on either side are meant to resemble a China plate and a watermelon, thus giving the halls its respective names – China hall and Indian hall. The
large hall in the centre is called the Persian hall. Even with dome like structures on either side,he Imambara had a flat roof. The terrace was actually built at a level above the domes.

The design of the place was perfect in terms of letting light enter the place through geometrically aligned windows. From certain spots in the Imambara, one can see all the way upto the Road becuase of the architectural alignment. The walls are desined in such a way that they let sound pass all the way to the other end even if you are whispering. It was an overall wonder. Sometimes, I wonder why we dont market these wonders in India the way people abroad do. Having visited some places in Europe which looked like nothing but a pile of stones, I felt deeply irritated that we were doing nothing to market this place.

Climbing to the top took us to the labyrinth (bhulbhulayah). The labyrinth is three dimensional and has 489 identical doorways. There are three levels to the labyrinth. At every intersection, there are 3 doorways which can take you in the wrong direction and one which takes you to the exit. Theen rastha bhulane ka aur ek baahar ka. Our tour guide took us to the far end and asked us to find our way out. It took us a good 45 minutes and we were still stuck in the labyrinth. Our guide wold pop out of the passageways every now and then and gleefully point out that we were headed the wrong way. After numerous attempts, we were just one turn away from the exit. So near, yet to far.

What an experience. Well… with our appraisals around the corner, we couldnt help but laugh about this entire maze situation we were in. Comparing our careers to this labyrinth, it looked like there would be 3 career options at the max given to us at the place where we worked and the most logical option, the fourth one would be to exit. Lucknow sure came at a fantastic timing.
Tour of the bhulbhulayah, one cold Fanta and a hazy photograph with our tour guide, we left Lucknow with determination that we would find our way out of our Career bhulbhulayah and not succumb to the three options given to us !

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