"It's not hot here. It's crazy."
This is what a Spanish tourist told Yann and Emilie in Lucknow. And he was right. When Antonia stepped off the plane in Lucknow she could feel scorching hot air blowing on her from the engine. Then she tried to step out of the way of this firey jetstream, and realized that this is just how the air is here. It was 47 degrees. There is only hot water running in our hotels, not cold, because the water tanks are heated by the sun. Our air conditioned hotels are a great respite, although today we measured the temperature inside our room and it was around the mid-30s. This is heaven to us.
We had one full day in Lucknow to enjoy this capital of Uttar Pradesh and see as many sights as we could manage while we were sweltering. We saw the Lucknow Residency, which are the ruins of the site of the 1857 Siege during the Uprising/First War of Independence (depending on your perspective). You can still see the bullet and cannon ball holes where the local forces tried to drive out the British supporters held hostage there for five months.
We went to the Bara Imbara, which is a massive tomb built in the 18th century. The best part was a labyrinth that led us to the top of the building for a panoramic view of the city and many of its beautiful gates and mosques. We had to remove our shoes before entering, and the heat forced us to stay on the most shaded areas, since the unshaded ones were like hot coals to our bare feet. We played a game of 'rock/paper/scissors' to determine who had to cross the wide, sunbaked expanse of the roof of the tomb for a photo op. Of course Antonia lost, so she sprinted over and back trying to keep her feet above ground as much as possible.
We also saw the highest clocktower in India, although it didn't keep time, and wandered around the old city to see huge gates and more sights. The Chota Imbara has on its grounds two models of the Taj Mahal, each bigger than a house, and inside is a large and quirky chandelier museum. We also saw the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in the city.
We loved Lucknow. It was like how we pictured India before we came; monkeys living on buildings and electrical wires, cows decorated in flowers wandering the streets, alleys lined with paneer and jalebi sellers, crazy traffic, and frequent power outages. Beautiful and insane. Maybe the weirdest part was what an oddity we were to the locals. Wherever we went, we were stared at. People would want to shake our hands and have their picture taken with us, sometimes running after us to get the chance. Although we couldn't quite understand their interest in us, they were very sweet. While we were riding downtown in a cycle-rickshaw, almost on parade, people would shout "welcome to India!" as we went by. In fact, we just had to take a break from writing to pose for pictures with the owner of this internet cafe.
Yesterday we took a bus to Jitendra's hometown, Kanpur, where everyone is very busy and excited with wedding preparations. Jitendra and his family are very generously putting us up in a fancy hotel where we have been relaxing in the AC and watching CNN and Wimbledon in between outings to meet his lovely relatives. It has been so nice to spend time with his family instead of being only backpackers. After checking into the hotel we went to the tailor to get James and Yann fitted for suits, and to order another outfit, all of which is being made especially for them. Altogether the boys will have three outfits and have been very busy shopping. Emilie and Antonia only have two outfits and everything is being arranged by Jitendra's mother, so they can relax a little more. Wedding activities will begin on Monday and last until Thursday. We got some details yesterday and all that we will say now is that it is going to be quite a party. The first instruction that we received for the final wedding day: "9 am to 4 pm - rest as much as possible." We soon discovered why. As Jitendra was listing the events, we kept anticipating a change of clothing. "Not yet," he kept saying, even though his schedule was getting past midnight. It turns out that we have a couple of changes to do in the wee hours, and the celebrations will not end until sunrise.