visit to Lucknow

Nandan and I left our Mumbai friends and flew to Lucknow. We visited Imam Bara and the residency and the haunted house as before but all this was just a backdrop for planning our next moves. At Imam Bara we paid for a tour and were charged triple the price we were supposed to pay, plus the tour guides were rude and had no information about the sites – they simply made up information. There was a strange tension at the site. The Indian Archaeological Society manages the palace complex but the ticketing and tour presentation is contracted out to some NGO. There are some IAS managers on the site who do not like this NGO as well they should not because of their incompetence. At the entrance to the complex some IAS officers asked me if I would return after the tour to give comments. After the tour they asked me to write a complaint to Lucknow’s district magistrate and make a notation for my letter to be copied to some other entities. I wrote a two page complaint and they seemed grateful for this. Imam Bara is a treasure and I hope that service there improves.

We went to the Residency and saw corruption again. The situation is that IAS prints tickets at a counter and after purchase these tickets are to be carried to the gate where a collector tears the ticket and keeps a stub. At the counter the collector sold me a ticket which had already been torn, which meant that he was keeping my admission fee and not reporting that I bought a ticket. Nandan was angry about this and we talked about taking some action, but then he said that he should not do anything because if he makes any trouble then it could happen that his tourist guide license would not be renewed.

We went to Mayawati’s Ambedkar park. All over Lucknow there are pictures of Mayawati and huge billboards listing her accomplishments. Her election is next year. At the Ambedkar park she has built statues of herself standing with Ambedkar. I asked Nandan if it was considered presumptuous to build a statue of oneself and inaugurate it oneself and he said of course it is. I asked him if he thought Mayawati knew this and he said that probably she does not. I asked him if he thought that Mayawati thought she was a good person and he said that he expected that she did. The park was entirely covered in marble and shoddy workmanship. She had purchased so much marble that none was available for other building projects and the state high court had to put a quota on this park’s marble consumption. To me the park seemed to have a bad design. It is a series of paths which intertwine. There is neither privacy nor shade nor comfortable places to sit; it seems that visitors are just supposed to walk for miles down twisting paths built in open areas, with nothing to see in particular. There are statues of elephants (her political party symbol) everywhere but they are all the same and are not artistically designed. There is also a colonnade of statues of famous Dalit leaders but these are lined against a road for cars so I think they can only be identified by people who are driving into the park. Much of the grouting on the stonework is half done and much of the concrete seems cheap also. Not everything was finished so I did not see the interior of the main building but something which struck me as especially unusual was that in this park complex there was no fairground or stage or any place designed for groups of people to meet together. There are no restrooms or places for people to get water or food or rest in the shade. There are a few trees but not many. There are electric lights everywhere but I got the impression that these were added to demonstrate the ability to display lights at night and not because the general public was welcome to visit the park at night. While we were there Nandan translated for me when he overheard some visitor saying, “This park looks like something from another country!” He was smiling because he knew my thought – there is no place on earth where something like this could be built except for India.

I met this boy on the street one morning when I was out for a walk. I generally wake up before Nandan does. He was shy and told me not to tell anyone his name, but he told me that he was under some stress for being gay. He is about 28 and lives with his family as most people do for their whole lives, but him explaining his family stress made me realize how hard it can be to make a lifestyle choice against societal and familial disapproval. I took him back to the hotel and introduced him to Nandan and I hope I can stay in touch with him.

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This is Lane Rasberry's personal blog. None of the information on this blog is private, but it is personal and I have not written it with the intent to make it of public general interest. Anyone visiting this site has my permission to use anything they find here for friendly, share-alike purposes.