Gates Unlocked

The Good People Of Kotla


Long long ago, when I didn’t have a blog page, I just recorded the random thoughts that came to my mind in separate files on the computer. I wrote this little journal entry on the 22nd day of the month of May in the year 2010. It is in relation to the video about the monuments around Kotla Mubarakpur.

I was working on a short film about the little known monuments around kotla mubarakpur. The narration had been finalised and all that was required was to go for the photo shoot.One of the monuments that was to be covered was that of the Tomb of Mubarak Shah.

I had done a little research about how to get there. And all that I could find were a few photographs, and the location on the satellite image of the area. I could not find any information about the occupant of the tomb, except his name.

A week ago, I had gone hunting for the monument with a friend of mine. I feared going there all alone, knowing that it was a medieval village, and there were very narrow gullies. We asked for directions from some locals, and after a long time, finally managed to locate it. An elderly gentlemen, who gave us the precise direction to the tomb, asked us rather suspiciously why we wanted to go there. We just replied that we wanted to see it. It was rather awkward.

When we reached the tomb, we found it fenced up and locked. We were expecting it. Entry to the tomb was sealed. The village buildings were barely a few feet from the monument. The monument cut a rather sorry picture. It belonged to one of the rulers of Delhi during the fifteenth century. And it was languishing in the middle of some obscure village, with even the locals not bothered about it.

Today, I had to go there again, with my brother, for the actual shoot. We left early in the morning, in order to avoid the scorching summer sun. I felt rather lazy and was beginning to regret the idea.

But we had set out, and the work had to be done. I traced back my steps and to my relief, we managed to reach the monument without asking any one for directions. A horrible stench and open drains greeted us. My brother pulled out his camera and began taking some shots at a very close range.

Anyone with a rather fancy camera is bound to attract attention. And some shop keepers were leaning out of their windows. After a while, a few men surrounded my brother and began questioning him. He answered them in his usual calm and friendly manner. We had come there to see the monument, and were clicking photographs for personal reasons.

His answers seemed to be sufficient for them to relax around him. For, a few seconds later, a middle aged gentleman passed by and told me that it was the tomb of Mubarak Shah and said that we could enter it through the gate on the other side. We reached the gate and I climbed up the ramp in front of the locked gate. I looked at my brother and told him we could enter it. He joined me, and then we realised that it was locked.

Gates Unlocked
Gates Unlocked (Photo by R. Karthik)

By this time, a lot of eyes were fixed on us. And just as we were turning back, a youth walked up carrying a set of keys. He opened the lock on the outer fence and entered the tomb. An observer shouted light-heartedly, “yeh yahaan ka maalik hai!” (He is the owner of this building).

He asked us to take off our shoes and we entered the tomb’s premises. It was then we realised, that we were probably the only outsiders to have set foot in this tomb. A very special privilege indeed. The caretaker then allowed us to enter the main burial area.

When we entered, we were awestruck. There were six tombs inside the tomb – not just one. They were covered with half burnt incense sticks and sweets. There was a broken street lamp fitted on to one of the walls lighting up the interiors. The inscriptions on the walls were well preserved and it was rather peaceful being inside. We took as many photographs as we could and exited the gate, thanking the care taker for his generosity.

As we were leaving, a local called out to the caretaker. “Upar bhi le jaao inhe” (take them upstairs as well).

My brother asked the caretaker, if there was a way to go upstairs as well. We had been around the circumference of the tomb and not noticed any staircase.

Once again the care taker unlocked the gate and ushered us inside. He told us not to take off our shoes and we followed him to another gate. It led to a hidden staircase to the roof. The stone staircase was steep, dark, narrow, and smelling of rotting flesh. With difficulty, we climbed up and reached the terrace. The main gumbad was surrounded by many chattris. I stood there chatting with one of the locals, sharing whatever little knowledge I had about the monument as well as the surrounding tombs, while my brother went around the terrace.

Once we had exited the premises, we spoke to some more locals who were still very suspicious. They told us how officials from ASI would just come there, give some false promises, and leave. The locals had taken it upon themselves to protect the monument.

It was amazing how, just a week ago, I had formed a rather negative opinion about the tomb – how it was lying completely neglected. And today, I had a completely different perspective. Some hospitable locals had granted us access to the monument that few could get. They had taken care of the monument that no one had bothered about.

We left the village and the stench behind us, still unable to believe our luck.

Back home, I edited my script for the film. To the concluding lines, I added, “Though these monuments are over 500 years old, there are no wide-eyed tourists gazing in awe at their magnificence. They might have suffered the ignorance of officials, but they have stood the test of time and survived with a little help from the locals of this enigmatic city called Delhi”

The video that I had been working on, had a roller-coaster of a journey and after almost a whole year, I am relieved to say that I’ve finally managed to complete it! The video has been uploaded to youtube:

Photograph by R. Karthik

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kasturika

Stories, places, hobbies, musings, maybe the odd poem... Hopefully, all these seemingly random pieces will fit together one day to reveal the grand mosaic that the cosmic universe has planned for me.

2 thoughts on “The Good People Of Kotla”

  1. During my 4 years in Delhi, I saw (from the outside) several old structures struggling to survive under the pressure of the growing populace, and its increasing apathy. It is good to know that the good people of Kotla have done all that they can do to keep Mubarak Shah’s tomb in as “workable” a condition as they can.

    Thank you for this interesting narration, and the video.

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