Unique Experiences of the First Solo Trip of My Life

Starting My Solo Trip at Charbagh Metro Station in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

When I first stepped into the City of Nawabs on 15th March 2024, the Navabiyat (nobility) in the structure of the railway station awed me. Lucknow bustled with the mannerism and friendliness of good Hindi-speaking people. The hunger pangs led me to Rattilal Ki Khasta Kachori where I relished the banana paak after having the famous khasta kachori. I wish I had bought that thepla packet from them which I kept remembering on my way back home on the train. Every nook and corner has Chikankari clothes to attract tourists to this indigenous handwork of theirs. I bought a lot from Aminabad Market. Getting nothing for my Western cloth-loving daughters, I turned to first copies (as the shopkeeper proudly said) of their five favourite books to save me when I face them back home. 

I reached Bada Imambara at 3:30 pm, being a Friday it was closed most of the morning, but I was glad they opened the second half for the tourists otherwise, I would have missed the grandness of this historical and religious place. The Guide, Rizwan Hussain aka Choti Dulhan, was an awesome public speaker who kept making comparisons between Hindu and Muslim traditions and festivals. He would keep joking about why the mosque takes ₹500 from foreign tourists and ₹50 from Indian ones, referring now and then to the group of foreign visitors as Britishers who looted away the gold, diamonds and semi-precious stones from the rich mosque built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. The Chinese hall, the Persian hall and the Indian hall stood in linearity offering completely different architecture. The Bauli built in the masjid premises is still cold, and damp offering respite from the scorching heat outside. The ancient photography system to capture the incoming threat from deep inside the Bauli through reflection in the water at the Bauli’s entrance was an eye-opener to the keen techniques of the ancient architects. The epic Bhul Bhulaiya with 1024 passages made me step more than 100 steep stairs for which I made a point to ask anyone visiting Bada Imambara to avoid coming inside it. But, the view from the top of the monument was breathtaking, not to mention the wit of the Guide and the interesting history that goes into the making of Bhul Bhulaiya.

Top view from Bhul Bhulaiya at Bada Imambara Lucknow
Top view from Bhul Bhulaiya at Bada Imambara Lucknow (Picture taken from blogger’s smartphone Galaxy-A12 on 15th March 2024)

I had to leave for Ayodhya the next day so I did not want to miss the world-famous Makhan Malai of Lucknow which gave me a bad acidity and headache for the night. Thanks to all the medicines I was carrying, I was fine by 8 am to get ready for my second destination. Ayodhya is nothing like Lucknow, the Home of Lord Ram stands in complete contrast to the City of Nawabs. On my way from Mani Parvat to Saryu Ghat, I crossed the Raiganj street where something unique caught my attention, every old structure—deserted, dilapidated or inhabited—looked like a temple. Awadh Nagari gave jobs to thousands irrespective of caste and religion while it can’t be ignored that building the Ayodhya it is today has taken away jobs and houses of many people too. Isn’t it the way life functions? Taking from one hand and giving from another, but the problem arises when the person taken from is not given back and even worse when he/she doesn’t want to change with the change. People have changed with the sudden change in tide; this is what I witnessed there.

A woman selling souvenirs in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh
A woman selling souvenirs outside her house in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh (Picture taken from blogger’s smartphone Galaxy-A12 on 17th March 2024 after getting permission from the lady, Sunita Gupta)

Seeing Ram Lala was not an easy task, but his beatific smile and loving eyes took away all the pain. After the darshan of Ram Lala, I had a sudden surge of energy and not wanting to leave the temple, the same feeling I had at the Kanak Bhawan. I sat outside the main mandir and bowed to this pure spiritual energy that all were experiencing around me and got up before being asked by the security men to leave. The two places of great reverence at Ayodhya, Ram Mandir and Hanuman Garhi, are starkly different. While Ram Mandir is fragrant with giant Agarbattis and there is no place for litter or spilling prasadam (all thanks to the big brands making their way to make money out of the faith of people), Hanuman Garhi is not maintained to rid the smell of rotting flowers and prasadam scattered on the ground making it sticky and avoidable to walk on. However, the temple priests in Ayodhya do not nag you to buy or donate anything, something I hold in high respect for this place. The souvenirs of Ram Mandir like keychains, bracelets, statues, dupattas, kurtas, T-shirts, etc. adorn the streets of Ayodhya Dham where you can buy something for as little as ₹10. There are priceless souvenirs like Maha Aarti of Saryu Mata which you can capture in your hearts and cameras. My heart captured the two diyas of wishes flowing my way through the River Saryu, I saw those two flames shining the brightest together.

Maha Aarti at River Saryu
Evening Maha Aarti at River Saryu (Picture taken from blogger’s smartphone Galaxy-A12 on 17th March 2024)

If Lucknow has navabiyat in its air then what is it that Ayodhya has? It is certainly not bhakti (devotion) because that title is taken by Brindavan for me as I am yet to visit Varanasi, then; it certainly has to be vishwas (faith). Ayodhya—the City of Faith, nothing can take away the faith Hindus have in their hearts for their revered King Ram who sacrificed his own good and the good of his family for the common people. The faith that as he once lived for the betterment of common men there would be a time when the rulers of our country (though democratically elected) would stop thinking about themselves and their parties, and start working for the greater good of the country.

My solo trip came to an end on 19th March, I reached home at 2:45 pm with experiences good and bad, a journey smooth and thorny, people going out of their way to help people who turned blind eyes to my problems when I put them forward. Guess that is part and parcel of life, so to take any trip, solo or not, is like experiencing the complete life in our long span of time on the Earth and learning valuable life lessons through retrospective reflection, something a solo trip exclusively offers, to follow henceforth.

About the blogger, author and writing coach:

Sneha Goel is a British Council–certified IELTS trainer and Scholastic India–mentored short story writer. She is a published author, poet and diarist. Her reviews, blogs, poems, stories and thoughts are appreciated by writers of international repute. Apart from writing, she is passionate about teaching English to children. She teaches English grammar, literature, creative writing, academic writing, story writing, poetry writing and Spoken English to students from class 1 up to grown-ups. To know more about her writing training and English language teaching services click here.

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