Public Speaking

This is the story of the 13th century Konya, in the country Turkey, a place where Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and even Buddhist travelers mingled. There was a huge unrest because the multiplicity of the religions, and the divisions among each religion. The place was predominantly dominated by muslims, and they were the ones who administered the entire city.

In that city, there was one man, who gave lectures in the mosques, whose words gave peace to the general public. He was the most revered and the most admired man in the city. His name was Jelaluddin Rumi.

Jelaluddin Rumi was born in the remote town of Balkh, in what is now Afghanistan.
Rumi, at the age of thirty-seven, had become an accomplished doctor of theology, the center of his own divinity school. He was a lover of the beautiful and the good, a scholar, and artist. Although he had such a strature, a good family, and students, he had a longing to know beyond. To solve the mystery that his heart could never unfold.
And in Konya, traveling from miles away was a blessed sufi. Sufis did not have a great reputation back then. When the muslims interpreted the Quran as a book that talked to kill the enemy, the Sufis said that the greatest of enemy for every person was his nafs or the ego. Once we kill the ego, nothing remains to fight for. What remains is sheer bliss and love. But at that time, when so many of the muslim women were abducted, and so many men murdered by the enemies, this seemed like an idea that would further enhance the downfall of their people, and they would not be left with anything at all.

This sufi was Shams of Tabriz. Shams was a strong wandering dervish monk. He lived on the street with laborers and camel drivers. He did not want followers or fame; he only wanted to find one person vast enough in spirit to his companion, someone with whom he could share his love, his wisdom.

He met Rumi in Konya.
As Rumi was riding a donkey through the marketplace, surrounded by disciples, a stranger with piercing eyes stepped from a doorway and seized his bridle. The stranger challenged him:

“Who is greater, Muhammad or Bestami?”

Bestami was an infamous legendary Sufi master given to ecstatic merging with God, then crying out with mystical candor that he and the God were one!

Muhammad was the founder of their tradition, the anointed one, but his greatness resided in his stature as messenger of God, and even when he died he said that he could not know him completely. So who was greater?

Rumi gave the approved answer, “Muhammad.”

“But Bestami said, ‘I am the Glory!’ Muhammad said, ‘I cannot praise you enough!’”

As Rumi was about to reply, he realized that this was no debate. In a dusty marketplace Konya, he had come face to face with the Mystery.

A doorway to eternity flickered open and, Rumi dove through. In an instant of mystical annihilation, fire met fire, ocean met ocean, and Rumi fell into pure being. To the outside world, it is only recorded that, at Shams’ question, Rumi “tumbled from his saddle to the ground, unconscious.”
When Rumi revived, lying on the ground, he answered, “Bestami took one swallow of knowledge and thought that that was all, but for Muhammad the majesty was continually unfolding. Bestami, thus had a small cup and when that was full, he thought it was the end. Mohammed, on the other hand, had a much bigger cup, and thus his thirst for knowledge could not be satiated.”

Shams felt the depth of the answer. This was the one he had sought.

The two began a series of months-long retreats into solitude where they entered into a deep communion of words and silences called sohbet. In multiple ways Shams reminded Rumi that the glory is our inner reality. Love is the religion. The universe is the book. He made him embrace the hated sections of the society such as the prostitutes, the drunkards, the beggars, and reminded him that love was the same for every man alike. Whenever Rumi wanted to ignore his teachings, an unsaid question from Shams would always haunt him, “You revered person, how big is your cup?”
But some of Rumi’s students saw their beloved teacher being spirited away by a madman, and their intrigues forced Shams to leave Konya. Shams was forced into exile several times, but he always returned at Rumi’s request. Finally on December 5, 1247, fanatics in the community took Shams’ life. The body disappeared. Rumi wandered for months – desolate in disbelief that his companion was really gone. One day, he realized there was no longer a need to search. Shams was with him, in him. Rumi embodied the Friendship, the love.
And our quest for knowledge will always depend upon the size of our cup for knowledge.

Reviews

So I am often in a fix when people at parties are eating chips, nachos, and so many other seemingly tasty things and all I have is salad. The other day, when I got a sponsored notification from Evolve on Instagram regarding their healthy snacks, I was hooked with skepticism since I am too bored of eating bad tasting food in the name of health food. But since I have had so many bad things, I thought to myself, why not try one more thing.

I ended up ordering a long list of snacks because I thought that atleast something would be nice, and it would help all other readers who are getting sponsored notifications like me.

So generally what to buy or what not to buy depends on the likes and dislikes of each person, but I’ll give you my opinion as someone who needs things to eat other than the regular food, something like tea time snacks, travel snacks or midnight snacks.

What I liked:

  1. Coconut Crisp Vanilla: This is just a dreamland dessert! It is organic, perfectly sweet (neither too little nor in excess), and crunchy. I finished this one packet, the day after it came as I couldn’t resist not eating it. A MUST BUY.
  2. Foxnuts: All flavours are good but I especially liked the crax and the tomato flavour. The cheese flavour is very average but the rest are guilt free nutritious chips that can absolutely be used for midnight snacking or with  tea/coffee.

What I did NOT like:

  1. Wheat Puffs: These are horrible. Never buy these. They are very difficult to chew and even if you do it’s not worth the taste/ the time/the money. Just Don’t buy these.
  2. Vegetable Chips: The concept seems very idealistic, but this along with other vegetable chips are not very palatable. They have tried using a lot of flavoring but what fails them is the fact that these are very very hard. I wouldn’t buy them again but yes, it’s worth a shot if you too are fascinated by their offerings like okra chips, cauliflower chips, beetroot chips, etc.

So go ahead and buy the foxnuts and the coconut vanilla because they are really good and more importantly taste good!

Travel

I was always fascinated by this city since I had a couple of friends from this place. So, the moment I got a chance to be here, I went!!

The weather in April is terrible. The city is more like an oven, so I tried traveling early mornings to parks and other sightseeing places, had enough water and used #uber throughout.

The first day, I had a lot of office work, so I didn’t travel during the day. For dinner, me and my parents went to Clarks Awadh to attend a wedding. The hotel, I’d say is pretty average. Until now, Clarks Shimla is the most beautiful Clarks property I have seen. So don’t cover this if you are here for a short duration.

Lucknow is not a huge city. You could go from Point A to Point B in max 30mins. And it is a paradise for non veg lovers. I am a vegetarian usually and consume fish sometimes, but whenever I travel, I eat whatever is suggested to understand better the city’s culture and it’s relation with food.

So, in Lucknow, your To-do List should look something like this:

1) Tunday Kebab @ Aminabad. If you happen to be here, and don’t eat Tunday Kebab, I won’t consider your trip to this exotic city complete. They are spicy like most of other things in Lucknow, but are very very tender and have a meaty flavor.

2) Basket Chat @ Royal Cafe. This is the combination of all the chat you’ve ever had. This one chat is a cocktail of chat papdi, gol gappa, the edible sabudana basket, the tikki, the dahi bhalla, and so on. You could have it for brunch in case you are eating alone, or could share it with a couple of more people as I did.

3) Idris ki Biryani @ Chowk. This is one of the most proclaimed biryani of Lucknow. Although I couldn’t eat it, but I have heard that the place is very humble but the biryani is simply amazing.

4) Sharma Tea @ Lalbagh. I went here twice for the tea and bun maska/samosa. I am the last person in my house to give in to any of these maida/deep friend snacks but my FOMO always makes me indulge in everything while I am traveling. The buns are pretty soft and come with unsweetened cream in the center. The samosa too is very crisp and the filling is somewhat juicy unlike other samosa that you encounter.

5) Majlisi Kebab @ Naushijaan, Hazratganj: This is a very spicy gravy like consistency of kebab that can be tried with rumali roti, onions and some soft drink. Although I don’t take cold drinks, but if you do, I have sense that it’ll make a good combination. This place too gets a lot of celebrity visitors.

6) Turkish Ice-cream @ Naushijaan, Hazratganj. This is a tawa ice cream, that are made on iced tawa, then folded like paper into rolls, and are quite nice.

7) Chicken Masala & Chicken Kaali Mirch @ Dastarkhwan, Lalbagh. These are the most celebrated dishes of this joint. Some movies like Daawat-e-Ishq have been shot in this restaurant. I didn’t like the Chicken Kaali Mirch much because it was oily, but it was tender and could be appreciated by someone who doesn’t appreciate spicy food. There is a good seating area in Lalbagh, which isn’t there in Hazratganj, so the Hazratganj outlet is more like a take away/evening street food type of a joint, so plan accordingly.

8) Prakash Kulfi @ Aminabad. I didn’t try this, but if you are a vegetarian, have time and are fond of kulfi/lassi, this should be on your list.

9) Shopping @ Janpath. a) Chikankari suits: The designs of the suits are amazing at Janpath. In case you take any rickshaw/ auto, the driver will take you to Sewa Chikan/Aman Chikan, that give commission to the rickshaw drivers. But unlike those, the quality and styles of the ones at janpath are much better.
b) Ittar @ Sugandco. Lucknow is famous for these natural oil based highly concentrated perfumes. So, if you want to buy some, this is the best shop.

10) Oudhyana, Taj Vivanta: There is street food on one hand, and five stars at the other. But to get the essence of everything, one must dine at least once in these hotels, to get a sip of the aristocratic living in this part of the country. The hotel was minimalistic but pretty. I had the lamb biryani and khush rang paneer along with the crispy onion kulcha, and everything was good but I wouldn’t say great. The ambience was a lottt better than Clarks. If you ask me for one recommendation to eat here, it would be biryani because it had a very pleasant aroma of saffron and the meat was pretty tender.

11) Bara Imambara & Chhota Imambara. Imambara is the place of worship for muslims, and since this city has a lot of culture flowing in from the muslim nawabs, you should visit this part of the city. You’d see old buildings, that are not even maintained properly but that give you goosebumps when you actually start feeling the kind of things that happened there, and that still happen there. Whenever the riots happen among the shias and the sunnis, they happen, on that very road. My advise would be to travel really early in the morning so that you get to see these places and understand the culture at leisure. Timings are 6AM to 5PM, and the fee is Rs. 50. If you don’t have much time, you can skip the bhool bhulaiya in Bara Imambara but cover the rest.

12)Rumi Gate. So, I am a huge fan of Rumi, and thought that this place must have some connect with Rumi – the poet, but to my dismay, this didn’t have any. The nawab had 365 wives, out of whom one of the wife’s name was Rumi, and thus this is on the name of one of his wives. But it is still very encchanting, and you could see this well before you enter Bara Imambara.

13) British Residency. This is pretty close to the imambara, so plan on doing this as well early in the morning. You need to walk a lot here so go in comfortable shoes. I didn’t cover this because I had a paucity of time.

These are my suggestions and my take over the City of Nawabs, Lucknow. If you are expecting a very modern city, it isn’t. If you are expecting, a great crowd on the roads, there isn’t. But if you are looking for a secular country, people good at heart, culture at it’s best, and great food then Lucknow could be the city that you can plan next to visit!

Poetry

I wish I could tell you how you changed me

I wish you were worthy of knowing it

The glass wall which shields me now

Also keeps me devoid of trust.

Words seem shallow

As if they hold no value

And love is just another word

That artfully slaughters kindness.

I still wonder

Whether I am happy that you left

Or whether I am okay that you lied

I had learnt many lessons

Then why you?

I was, but, vulnerable by choice

But to not just to you.

To give this world a chance.

To patronise my thoughts 

And instead believe

That people were kind.

No, I hold nothing against you!

But only if you weren’t a liar

I could at least respect you

Like others who left.

But I don’t.

I can’t.

For you stirred all those quiet waters within me

With no intentions of rowing through

With no care for the me

Or for the goodness

That you didn’t know you were blessed with.

And I, the forever naive, longed for you.

Not because I longed for love

But because I longed for hope.

~Namita Satija