Thursday 30 June 2016

Global Day Of Discovery with Renaissance Hotel at Kakori

Hey everyone, I am so so excited to write this post for y'all, majorly because its been really really long since I shared a travel experience with you, and also because you'd been waiting eagerly to read about this special trip since I'd been sharing glimpses from it past one week, maintaining the curiosity. Well, the wait ends, and I'm finally here to share my experience to my first trip to Kakori, which is just 14 kms away from my own city, Lucknow. 

Renaissance Hotels, the global lifestyle brand known for helping travellers to experience business unusual on the road, hosted its 5th Annual Global Day of Discovery on June 16 at nearly 170 hotels around the world; and the their hotel team in Lucknow, India, chose to take some of their special guests on a visit to a neighbouring city-village called Kakori, which is famous for its succulent kebabs and delicious mangoes, and the revolutionary Kakori train loot incident

With Global Day of Discovery, Renaissance celebrates what it does every day to help its guests uncover the soul of the neighborhood and experience the people, sights, sounds, tastes and art of the local culture that makes each city unique. It was my privilege to have been invited to attend this short trip along with the amazing team of Renaissance Lucknow Hotel and some other guests from the town! 

The trip started from the gathering at Renaissance Lucknow, and from there we boarded a bus that took us to the Martyr Memorial in Kakori, and then to the Kakori Railway Station. The guide, Mr. Arun introduced us to the history of the station which was made famous in 1925 when revolutionary freedom fighters of the Hindustan Republican Association stormed a British train named 8 Down Train, coming from Shahjahanpur and looted its treasury, on August 9. The Kakori Conspiracy, as it came to be called, was executed by revolutionaries Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Chandrashekhar Azad and Keshab Chakavarty, among others, who were later hanged till death by the British government in 1927, leaving aside Chandrashekhar Azad who killed himself with guns on both sides of his forehead in 1931; but these heroes became immortal in the Indian history, and hence the memorial was constructed that we went to, by the name Kakori Shaheed Mandir!

Mr. Arun (the guide)

Picture taken at the Kakori Railway Station, 
accompanied by some other guests and Renaissance team member : Fatima Abbas (extreme right)

I'm sure all of you read my previous post in association with Renaissance Hotel, where I wrote about the amazing Kakori Food Festival I attended at Sepia. Its no secret that Renaissance has the best hospitality and serves everyone right, across the globe. So, while we figured out the story behind the Kakori Memorial and the Railway Station, the Renaissance team prepared some yummy breakfast for us that included fresh rice paper rolls and chilled Gatorade to soothe ourselves. Kudos team!

Our third stop was the most awaited one, a Mango Orchard. Well, who doesn't love mangoes, and being a citizen of Uttar Pradesh (the largest state to produce mangoes in the country), I have loved the king of fruits, since forever. Plucking raw/riped mangoes straight from the trees is one of my favorite jobs in the summer months, and that's what I did first after stepping out from the bus, that was parked right under a lavish mango tree! *sigh*

While I moved ahead at the programme venue inside the orchard, Mr. Rizwan and his team of organisers welcomed all guests with a rose flower garland and chilled rose drink. It was one of the coolest traditional welcomes I've ever experienced!

Mr. Rizwan, the presenter at the Day Of Discovery event at the orchard, introduced us to the owner of the mango orchard, Mr. Hussain Alvi and his associate Mr. Hasan Alvi. He also took us around the orchard, showing us the various tourist attractions they had arranged for us to witness at the venue. Starting from the snake charmer, which I'd seen after almost 7 years but still as scared as then, I just posed for a click near the snakes. As we commenced, there was an authentic paan stall laid out for us to experience the rolling of the paan (beetle leaf) as Indians love to eat that! Mr. Praveen from team Renaissance tried his hand on the job and nearly beat the expert, and it was fun indeed.

We also explored the true work of one of the luxurious Indian embroideries, called 'zardozi'. Earlier, the threads used in the work of zardozi were made of gold and silver and for embroidery, emeralds and ruby were used. It was thus a great opportunity for us to have been able to interact with the zardozi and chikankaari artisans, and see them create some exquisite hand work LIVE. Also, some beautiful embroidery samples were laid down for us to choose from and buy if we wanted, so I got a blue embroidered dupatta for myself. 

PS : Renaissance never forgets to treat their guests with yummy food, hence we were served some finger-licking Aloo Kachaloo while we enjoyed the above mentioned crowd-pleasers!

L-R : Mr. Hasan Alvi, Mr. Hussain Alvi, Mr. Rizwan

Work of Zardozi

Work of Chikankaari

Me, with DOS Praveen Sharma (team Renaissance)

L-R : Mr. Raza, Me, Mr. Hussain Alvi, DC Sandeep Pande (team Renaissance)

While interacting with the owner of the mango orchard and resident of Kakori, Mr. Hussain Alvi, we discovered that Kakori is the main abode of two branches of the Kakorvi Shaikh community, namely Alavi and Abbasi, since the 15th century. The Alavi (often spelt as Alvi) branch claim their lineage to Ali, the fourth caliph and prophet Mohammed's cousin and his son-in-law. However, this branch claim their lineage to Ali through his son Muhammad bin Hanafiyah, with his wife Khaula-Al-Hanifiyah. The Alavi of Kakori also referred as Moulvi Zadigan (Moulvis) or Makhdoom Zadigan (Makhdooms) depending whether they are descendant of Mulla Abu Bakr Jami Alavi, who settled in Kakori in 1460 or descendant of Qari Amir Saifuddin Alavi, who settled in Kakori in 1552.

Mr. Hussain Alvi is also said to have the detailed historical knowledge of the oldest and the best kept havelis (mansion) in the town of Kakori, owning one of them himself. Thus, we being the curious tourists requested him to show us the town, and he being the gentleman as he is, took us around at the village hot spots and his haveli ofcourse. We visited two of the grand mansions (now turned into maqbaras), as old as 200 years, and I literally calculated my great grand parents' age, after hearing that to feel the vibes. We also saw a 150 year old wooden paalki (palanquin), that belonged to queen Sona Bai, and it appeared pretty decent still (you can see that for yourself in the pictures below).

Finally, we visited Mr. Alvi's haveli and it had the authentic Awadhi feel, that I've felt in most of the Muslim houses in and around Lucknow. His family greeted us warmly and offered us water while showing us the house around. One of Mr. Alvi's daughter brought her handmade doll and showed us how creatively she stitched it all by herself. Well, that's where we realized how enormously the Lucknowi culture has penetrated into Kakori generations and beyond. 

Haveli turned into Maqbara, belonged once to DF Karaka

Belonged to Sufi Saint - Shah Kazim

Sona Bai's palanquin

Pictured at Mr. Alvi's haveli 

Upon returning from the Kakori Darshan (as we could call it), back to the orchard, we were served the best of Awadhi cuisine, prepared personally by and under the supervision of Chef Mohsin Qureshi, the Chef De Cuisine at Renaissance Lucknow, along with Chef Aatiq and Chef Tribhuvan. The luscious buffet that was laid out, included both vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes, consisting of Kathal Biryani (made from freshly plucked jackfruit from the orchard), Spicy Yellow Daal, Aloo Sabzi, Baigan Sabzi, and to my surprise some 'vegetarian' Kakori Kebabs. I'd waited all my life to taste the most delectable kebabs, and found the most mouth-watering ones in the city that's famous for kebabs, in its vegetarian version! 

While the vegetarian menu was mind blowing already with side dishes like dahi baras, papad, green chutney (that was being rubbed freshly on a sill batta in front of us), the non vegetarian menu comprised of the Lamb Biryani and Roomali Rotis with the ultimately delicious Seekh Kebabs, as said to be the softest kebabs in the whole wide world. Yeah, finger-licking good! 

The origin of these Kakori Seekh Kebabs is said to be from early 1880s, where the mince for the kebab was obtained from 'Raan ki Machhli' (tendon of the leg of mutton) and rawaz (animal fat) was replaced by khoya, black pepper by white pepper and a brand new mix of powdered spices to the perfect blend and prepare the kebabs with melt-in-mouth tendency for a 'toothless' Nawab (who couldn't chew). Undoubtedly, the popularity of these kebabs has grown far and wide and thanks to the prevalence of Awadhi cuisine, these kebabs, once an exclusive preserve of royalty is available in restaurants all over the world now!

Apart from the succulent kebabs, we also indulged into the freshly cut Dussheri Mangoes and the indigenous mango drink called Aam Panna, while we enjoyed the traditional Sufi Ghazals by the localites of Kakori, who have happened to contribute their music into movies like Umrao Jaan, Anwar, among others. It was not only a great musical eve but also an exceptional mango picking event that we discovered.

As I mentioned earlier, mango picking in the mango season has been my favorite job since forever. Below in the pictures you can as well see my love for it! The organisers made sure we went back with a handful of juicy fruits and as a token of gratitude, all the guests were given the best plucks from the orchard, and we came back with tons of mystical stories and delightful memories!


I hope you liked reading this post, and if you did, do tell me in the comments below because I love to read your feedbacks, since it feels I'm always connected to your thoughts! Likewise, Mr. Sandeep seemed to be connected to mine, as he is the man behind my association with the Renaissance group of hotels. If it were not this director of culinary at Renaissance Lucknow, I wouldn't have got the confidence of sharing my experiences with you as an Exclusive Ambassador for the brand. PS : he's the most chilled out man I've ever met and is enthusiasm and practicality always motivates me to deliver my best!

(please ignore my tanned face, I just knew I'll be bringing back home marks from a sunny day too, but worth it :p)

Photographed by : Karan Sawnani