The Lucknow Affair was the very first edition of the Art of Travel series, and like all affairs, this one too caused butterflies in the stomach. We knew we had a great destination and lots of fun activities and delicious meals planned. But would our guests enjoy it? Would they see what makes this sleepy city such a treasure trove for the curious seeker? Let’s just say, we hit the jackpot with the fellow travellers on our debut adventure.
Our guests joined us from cities in India as well as from Singapore, the South of France and London. We wanted to collect an intimate gathering of like-minded folks who love art, history and culture, not to mention good food! During our three days in Lucknow, we sat down together to a royal feast, followed a historian around a sprawling ruin, looked up in awe at the delicate splendour of Awadhi architecture and shared so many moments of sheer wonder. Travel offers so many opportunities for friendship, and we took them all.
Here’s what some of our guests had to say about their experience in Lucknow.
“It was a completely out of the world experience. I never knew Lucknow was so beautiful; after Delhi, I think it’s the city with the most amount of history in India. Since I’ve returned, I’ve been reading about Wajid Ali Shah and the Uprising of 1857—about all the little details you never learn in history class. I loved the experience of dining at Meera and Muzaffar Ali’s house. It gave us a taste of how the Nawabs might have lived. And it was a treat to watch the performance of Bada Bhaand, a storytelling tradition that is now dying. I made so many friends on this trip, and would happily travel with Sarmaya anywhere.”
“I’m very interested in archaeology, history and old monuments. So for me the most unforgettable part of this journey was our dinner at Meera and Muzaffar Ali’s home. Seeing his old haveli, meeting the couple, watching his film and the lavish dinner. It took me right back to my childhood, which was spent in my Nani’s house in old Delhi. I loved visiting La Martiniere—just knowing a school like this exists was fantastic! To hear about how they broke down a wall there and found a bath area inside was absolutely thrilling. As a child, it was my dream to find a secret passage in an old monument so I loved that story.”
“Sujata and I really enjoyed the trip because the sum of the total experience was greater than the individual parts, each of which were sumptuous fare in themselves—the diverse fellow travellers, the evening in Kotwara, the visits to La Martiniere, Bara Imambara and The Residency, viewing the great collection of old maps and photos of the city [from the Sarmaya archives], and getting a sampling of the local cuisine, handicrafts and folk arts at Sanatkada. It was all very nicely compiled.”
“I think Lucknow was a great première and I hope we will repeat that experience again. I met many nice people whom I would love to meet again, and the two days were really well organised. My preferred part was the morning concert and the Lucknow food experience on the first evening (at the film-maker’s home). For our next trip, I would love to go to Calcutta!”
“The whole weekend was great and incredibly well-organised! I found the talk by Abha Narain Lambah at the La Martiniere chapel and the walk at The Residency and Bara Imambara with Mehru Jaffer very interesting. The local street food was delicious too. I would go anywhere with Sarmaya!”
“My favourite part was the food—simply delicious. The evening at Muzaffar Ali’s was charming and his house is as I would want my own.”
“I thought the entire experience was very well curated within the short time we had in Lucknow. We got a taste of the tehzeeb and flavour of the city. It was simply amazing. I especially enjoyed the visit to the Bara Imambara with our historian-guide. She was so knowledgeable. And the evening at Meera and Muzaffar’s was very special too. A special thanks to the tireless Sarmaya team. I would love to see Sarmaya Travel organise a (slightly longer) trip to Samarkand next.”