Free Bird

I owe inspiration for this post to Saronai.

I started this blog on the 19th of February… It happened to be the day our late grandmother (father’s mother) was born… Like all little children, I loved our grandmother. We called her Delhi pati (as opposed to my mother’s mother, whom we call Madras pati, whom, I may add, I love equally).

Pati came to live with us when we moved to Delhi, and I had the privilege of sharing a room with her. Pati had a very amazing life story. Due to the nature of our grandfather’s work, she spent a lot of time in Burma (now Myanmar). She lived through some of the most important phases of our history…

Married off at the age of 16, Pati didn’t study much… She could read and write fluently in Tamil but not much in English or Hindi… She had a special interest in politics and could recognise fragments of words from the English newspaper we subscribed to. She would point to it and ask us to explain what it was about. She would tell us stories about the War, about our Independence, about Nehru and Jinnah. I neither had an interest, nor did I understand any of it… I always thought she was being nostalgic about the past and wanted to let it out. I wish I had paid more attention, and asked more about our history. I’m sure it would have been more interesting to hear it from her perspective.

At night she used to narrate stories – some mythological, some folk and perhaps even some that she made up – to put me to sleep. She would begin the story, and before it would have reached even the middle, I would have been fast asleep… As a result, I don’t remember any of those stories…

My mother told me about Pati’s children. Her first-born died within a year, in a train. Fearing public outcry, they hid the death of the baby girl throughout the journey. Thereafter she gave birth to six children. I was told that she would have given birth to twins too… Once a thief broke into their house and threatened to kill her with a knife… Out of shock, she miscarried.

I have seen all, but one of my father’s siblings… One of my father’s brothers disappeared at a young age… He was thirty… He had gone for a picnic with his friends to a lake. She had packed a huge bag of home-made potato chips for them… But he never returned. Nor was his body ever found. Till her last breath, Pati hoped her son was safe somewhere and would return one day…

She had once suffered very serious burns and her skin had been damaged badly. She told us that the burnt area had to be grafted  with skin taken from her thighs. It would burn badly when they did that. They had no anaesthetics.

My memory of Pati is hazy now. It’s both surprising, and sad. I had always thought I would have very vivid memories of her. There is one thing that I remember very well… She always had a smile on her face. In everything that she told us, there was never any sign of bitterness or hatred… She was like a child. Her innocence still intact. Despite all that she had been through, she seemed very happy and content.

But she would often say, ‘In my next life, I will study… I will not get married… I want to be a free bird…’



I love my gypsy-like, bead bracelet. I love it so much, I’m dedicating an entire blog page and several photographs to it!

A few days back I was fiddling around with a bead necklace… err… bracelet… Its just a really long piece of thread with lots of tiny beads.

We belong together!

All the beads are unique in their own way… Some are broken, some have cracks, some which have holes in weird places, and some which have strange shapes. In short, its made up of rejected stuff a.k.a junk!

A few of us in college had gone to a local market and we found a hawker selling these, dirt cheap…

Up close and personal

One look at those beads, and it was hard to resist… I immediately wrapped it around my wrist.

I loved it!

And then it broke – what else could you expect from a piece of junk.

In search of the next bead

But then, I loved it so much! So I repaired it, adding a few other beads from another broken bracelet.

Since then, the bracelet has been my constant companion. Wherever I have gone, its been with me. I’ve lost count of the number of times its broken. And the number of times

She strings sea shells...

its been repaired. But every time it’s been repaired, a little bit has been added to it – a few forgotten beads lying in the corner of the cupboard, beads that had fallen out of old dresses, and beads that had even been ripped out of fancy wedding invitations!

Standing out of the crowd

Not all of them were old, some were new, like sea shells, bright seeds collected during one of our holidays…


There is nothing orderly, symmetrical, or perfect about the bracelet, yet, to me, it looks beautiful…

As it was being repaired for the umpteenth time, I decided to photograph the imperfect, pretty little beads. I’d borrowed my brother’scamera. I don’t know much, except that it had a special lens, which had a fixed focal length. I clicked a few times, and the result was horrible! That was enough to scare me.

Odd one out

If the camera wasn’t intimidating enough, I realised I had no clue how to go about taking the pictures. So I just switched to the auto mode and let the camera decide everything else!


All the photographs here were taken by the camera! Hope you enjoy the photographs.


Imperfectly perfect!

Since I rely on material distributed over the internet, it is only appropriate that I do the same… The photographs here may be used for non-commercial purposes. A simple credit would be appreciated 🙂

Don’t study!!

As little kids, we’re always told by our parents to study… Well, almost always. When I was small, my parents never really had much trouble with me as far as studying was concerned. But once every year, they had to tell me NOT to study!

Navratri is celebrated every year, sometime around October… Although it is celebrated at least twice a year, the one culminating in Dusshera is celebrated with the most enthusiasm. Navratri literally means nine nights. During this festival, various forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped.

Technically speaking, puja (religious ritual) is performed on each day of the festival. But I’ll fast forward to the ninth day. On the ninth day of this festival, we worship Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and knowledge. In any field, there is always scope for learning. And knowledge can be gained in any form. So all those items from which we can gain knowledge and wisdom are collected and a dias is formed. An idol of the Goddess is placed atop this dias and a puja is conducted. In the north, a similar puja is performed on Vasant Panchami.

A special Rangoli (decorative design) is made, incense sticks are lit, special dishes are prepared and offered to the Goddess…

As little kids, we used to look forward to Navratri – a welcome break from school, special dishes, the festive atmosphere around the entire city. But we had a another reason to be excited…

On this very special ninth day of the puja, it was absolutely compulsory for us not to study! Yes that’s right! We were told not to study. Now which kid wouldn’t want that? 🙂

We wondered why, on the day the Goddess of learning is worshipped, we were told not to learn… Nevertheless, it was a very exciting thought… how nice it would be if we didn’t have to study…

But when the day actually arrived, with nothing to do – we weren’t allowed to read, or engage in any activity related to art or use musical instruments, we weren’t even allowed to work on the computer or watch tv – the day was extremely boring! To not learn, then seemed a terrible thing indeed…

It is said that the Goddess herself offers her blessings to everything that is placed in the dias, so we must not study and wait for the puja to conclude and then study. But more importantly, by not allowing us to do anything, it was a lesson in itself… Life would be incomplete, and worthless without knowledge…

On the tenth day, the puja was concluded. We were told to pick up our books soon after bath and told to read something new… It signified a fresh start… We were once again told to study with interest (pun intended)…

On this year’s Saraswati puja, my mother and I spent the whole day cleaning the house 🙂

Festival Season!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post… Thanks to some work… Hope to write about the experience soon, for now, here’s a greeting for the upcoming Festival Season

Its been a long time since I’ve paid a visit to the blog. In fact its been a long time since I’ve paid a visit to anybody over the past few months.

It’s the annual competition season and the Creative Minds Competition is around the corner. As usual everything had to be done at the very last moment and as the deadline for sending entries drew nearer, everything took a back seat.

When I say, everything, I mean everything including food and sleep! For the last week we slept a little more than a few hours and food refused to go down out throats as tension and pressure reached its peak. Looking back, I’m struggling to recall all that happened – everything seems blurry.

This project involved two people – myself and my friend Atul. In a way it was a shared dream. We took up the project more as a challenge to ourselves, to stretch ourselves, and to find out how much we could do. At first, we felt it was a small project, and the two of us would be enough. But as things started shaping up, the magnitude of our work multiplied. After initial reluctance, even we realised we needed at least one more person for the job.

Both of us knew who we wanted on the team, but as luck would have it, she was busy. We asked our mentor if there would be anyone who could do the job. Even we tried to look for that elusive third person, but in vain. Finally we decided that the two of us were enough. Everyone around us had doubts about our capability to pull off the project, perhaps even we had our fair share of doubts.

But we had to finish the project. After all, it was our idea, and now that it was out of the bag, we couldn’t let some one else pick it up. And above everything else, it was our reputation on the line. Last year, I had the misfortune of being a part of 2 projects of a similar scale. One that got completed, and one that didn’t. The one that was completed fell short of expectations (and I fervently thank my stars I didn’t play much of a part in it). The one in which I was involved more actively, couldn’t be completed. To be honest, no one could be blamed for the fiasco. The time period allotted for both the projects was simply too short.

We couldn’t afford to repeat last year’s mistakes.

Our deadline was the 30th of September, and somehow, we scraped out something. Its all over (at least officially), and it has been a very adventurous journey, filled with ups and downs, and last minute patches. I do not know when we started it (not the precise date anyway) but we had a rough storyline in the third week of June (my email puts it to 19 June).

Over the past 3 months we have learnt a lot. In many ways it was a crash course in project management, as well as time management. We realised how much effort professionals have to put in to produce quality results. As a lay person, it is easy to criticise what we see, but it is only when we try to achieve the same, we begin to appreciate what it takes to be there, and do it. At a student level, theoretically things seem simple and logical. But when it comes to doing things, especially with a deadline at hand, it is an entirely different ball game.

As I mentioned before, we managed to complete the project. But honestly, it was way below what we had expected. Perhaps we bit off more than we could chew, perhaps it was because it was our first attempt, perhaps we were one person short, maybe it was the lack of time, or perhaps a salad of everything, with a pinch of technical glitches (not according to taste)!

So after all that’s said and done, we’ve mutually decided not to share our adventure till we can safely make it public without embarrassment. Now that there is no deadline hanging over us, it is hard to tell when that time will come, but I sure hope its sooner rather than later.

For now, we’re enjoying a little break (spent the past 2 days sleeping :P)

Since the festival season has already begun, I decided to share something I made last year. It is a Diwali card I made for display. I had presented it to our mentor but Atul managed to pull out a photograph he took of it. So here it is…

Happy Navratri and Happy Diwali in advance 🙂


Something that kept me a little busy

As has been the case for a very long time, my brother offered me another set of assignments.

The first assignment was to design a visiting card, and the second, a web page for himself.

Visiting Card
The Visiting Card

As usual, I didn’t have much clue as to what to do. The visiting card had to be in single colour (due to budget constraints). I decided to use th Fibonacci Golden Spiral as well as the photographer’s rule of third’s as a backdrop, with a golden yellow colour scheme.

The printed version
The Printed Version Looked Something Like This

But the printer had other ideas and refused to print the cards (on technical grounds) :P. So my brother decided to print them at home on cream coloured card paper in black ink. So it finally ended up looking something like this (colours look a little different in print).

Screenshot of web page in the browser
Screenshot of web page in the browser.

For the webpage, I put in a slideshow of some of his best photographs (the ones that appealed to me the most) over a grungy background. I used a background provided by a very generous lady named Brenda Clarke.

Here’s a screen shot of how it appears in the web browser. It has been uploaded to the web server and can be viewed here.

That’s it for now… Cheers 🙂

PS: Please take a look at the site 😀

Somewhere beyond the sea…

For the past few days, I’ve been in Chennai, and its been quite a stay. To me, Chennai is synonymous with the sea. Perhaps it is because it is the one thing Delhi lacks. On every visit to Chennai, I eagerly look forward to go to the beach. This little post is something I wrote a very long time back. But the sentiments remain the same even to this date. The title of this post was given by my grandfather, who submitted it to a local magazine for publication. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Date: 14 July 2007 Time: 2:22 pm

Going to the beach after two years was something that I was most excited about. For two years I had not stepped out of Delhi. I was definitely suffering from nature deficit disorder. Being the kind of nature lover that I am, living in the urban jungle just did not do me any good. I had all the symptoms – stress, depression, poor attention… So when we went to Chennai, the first thing we had to do was to go to the nearest beach.

Unfortunately beaches are not what they used to be… Even before we could step on the sand, all kinds of vendors were trying to sell us something or the other. We did not take off our foot-ware for fear of any glass pieces pricking our feet. As we got closer to the water, we saw more and more plastic bags, wrappers and all kinds of garbage thrown about. People eating carelessly threw the packaging on the sand.

But the beach is huge and even though there are all kinds things and shops spread all over, nothing can hide the beauty of the sea. The sun had started setting and one could see the horizon. It was not the picture-postcard kind of sunset in which the sun bathes in the sea. We could not see the sun because of the overcast sky. It was a pleasant dark blue sky which merged with the sea in the distance. There were many tiny sea-shells all over the beach and we picked up as many as we could. The beauty of nature is simply amazing. Although the shells are the size of the nail on my little finger, they have such unique, intricate and colourful designs. There were smooth ones as well as ones with ridges. Most were flat molluscs but there were also the rarer long spirals and snail shells.

Everyone in my family for generations has had some kind of shell collection to boast about. There are so many shells the size of a human fist. What really amazes me is that my grandmothers and my mother hand-picked these from the beach! There are also shells which my father brought for us from the Andaman Islands which are the size of human heads. There are even clam shells that measure one metre across. My father saw these kinds of shells being used as bathtubs! Today, due to increasing human population on the shore, not many big shells are found on the beach. But there are many small ones washed up on the shore. Though there are many stores selling big shells on the streets of Chennai, there is nothing like the joy of picking shells from the beach.

Soon we were very near the water and the warm, soft and slippery sand became firmer due to the water content. There were tiny crabs crawling all over the place. It appeared as if there was a boundary line separating the dry sand from the water. This ‘boundary line’ was made by garbage strewn around. Beyond this divider of dump, the sea was clean and clear. Every time the waves came crashing on the shore, they would take away any dirt thrown by uncivil humans.

We left our foot ware further away and stepped into the approaching water with our bare feet. It seemed as if the sea was welcoming us by washing our feet. In the distance we could see huge waves – waves that were perhaps 2 metres high. But by the time the water reached us, the level was just high enough to reach our ankles. This was because as new waves came towards us, the receding waves pushed the incoming waves and reduced their force. The clash was as if there were two armies running towards each other to fight and although the approaching waves won the battle, their numbers were significantly reduced. We went further into the sea till the water level reached our knees.

When the waves came, they brought along with them many molluscs. But these were not like the empty halves of shells we found on the dry part of the beach. These were closed with live creatures in them. From what I have heard, these creatures can only survive underwater. Against their will the water brings them ashore. When the waves receded, the water took them away into the sea. Every once in while, I could see these mysterious creatures peep out of their homes in the shallow water and duck back inside. More than once did I see them ‘walking’ on the sand under a thin film of water. I might have even felt one on my foot which was buried under the sand. There were also small holes in the wet
sand which were created when the water receded. These were, I suppose, for the unknown creatures underneath so that they could breathe.

There is something friendly and scary about the sea. On the shore, the cold water came in a friendly manner and washed our legs-pretty much in the manner a dog would welcome its owner. Sea water has many different salts which are good for the skin. I have personally seen cracked heels get healed completely after just a few hours of exposure to the sea water. As the waves came crashing down at us, the sheer force of the water felt like a massage. But the force with which the water receded was greater than the force with which it approached us. Every time the water receded, we could feel it trying to pull us towards it as if saying ‘come, play with me, like those other people who are having fun swimming in me’.

The scarier side of the sea is its unpredictability. Every now and then, a huge wave would come and drench us even more. Sometimes while receding, the waves would change their course and instead of receding in the same way that they came, they would take a kind of U-turn. As a result, these receding waves would bump into the incoming waves at an angle. This caused a huge splash and sprayed water all over us.

We spent almost two hours at the beach in this manner. The sky became darker and darker and before we knew it, the evening changed into night. We could see a faint light in the distance. It could have been a lighthouse, or a ship sailing – no one could tell. The moon was out and we could see its light through the clouds. Cloudy skies are always beautiful during the daytime. But cloudy nights are sometimes spooky. For a little while, the moon came out of its blanket, which gave the clouds a silvery colour. But it was not at all scary. In fact, it looked magical. It may seem very ordinary to most people, and me too, on most nights. But this sight, on that day, seemed extra special. Perhaps it was the sea that
had passed on its charm to the sky.

Back in the car, our legs all covered in sand and beginning to itch, I could not but help recall the song, “Somewhere… beyond the sea…”

Going Retro!

A little something I created with a help of a few friends 🙂 (read people who are willing to give a way stuff for free over the internet)

About a month back, I got another assignment from my brother (as usual, he’s the one giving me work :D). He was working on his office magazine and there was a section called ‘newbies’. So he shot a few photographs of each of the newbies in funky poses and told me to give it a retro kind of look.

Retro Intro Page
Retro Intro Page

I searched over the internet and downloaded a few brushes (short cut I hear?) and used them to create a 70’s type of background. Not sure if it really looks like the 70’s. Here’s a sample page with space for an introduction/short history of the person featured.

The brush-set I used is called Grunge Vectors by Circle of Fire. Deviant Art is a really great resource for all things artistic. The amazing quality of work that people give away for free is really really unbelievable.

The photograph I’ve used for this particular sample has been taken by someone who goes by the Flickr username of Alagos, and who was willing to put his photographs under the creative commons licence. So here’s credit to the photographer who took this very cute photograph (I couldn’t use original photographs of the newbies for lack of permission).

I’ve also used a lot of the spatter brushes (same as the ones I used for the Holi card) for the background.

That’s it for now 🙂

The anonymous bus conductor!

The world can be very harsh, but if we look close enough, there are little little positives for us to feel good about.

Of late, things have been rather gloomy. The print media seems to be enjoying a golden spell of bad news. Every single page had nothing but depressing stories. Scandal, corruption, crime, dirty politics, natural disasters… the list is endless. As far as news channels are concerned, quite frankly, I’ve lost hope on them and stopped watching TV altogether.

Seeing all this gloom only has a compounding negative effect on our lives. How our life is, and how happy we are, is plainly a matter of perception. If we choose to look at only the negative aspect of things, then that is all we will end up seeing. We act as magnets. The more we think about bad events, the more we end up pulling bad things towards ourselves.

A few days back, I too suffered an attack of negativity, and everything around me seemed very very evil. There seemed to be no good left on this planet.

But life has very subtle ways of bringing us back on track. And when I say subtle, I mean very subtle.

One day, while I was travelling aboard a local bus, the conductor got up an announced to all the passengers that they would have to get off the bus. He said that the bus had to go and pick up some students and that they were late. As it often happens with the DTC buses that ply on Delhi’s roads, routes are cut short, or altered, or bus stops are skipped at the will of the driver and conductor.

So as usual, there were a lot of angry passengers shouting at the driver and conductor for leaving them stranded.

The conductor instructed everyone to get off and said he would make arrangements for us to travel in another bus that would be approaching shortly. And soon enough a bus did arrive. But it didn’t stop at the bus stop (nothing unusual). The driver got pretty frustrated because they were pretty late (or so they claimed).

As the other bus sped away, the conductor paused for a few seconds, and all of a sudden instructed everyone to get into the bus immediately. ‘If we’re late, we’re late! It’s just too bad!’ And so the bus resumed its journey, albeit with quite a sense of urgency and the conductor told the passengers that he would drop them off and then pick up the students.

He could have easily left us at the bus stop, and it would not have affected him in any way. On the contrary, going so late to pick up those students would surely land him in big trouble. And none of the passengers would ever bother about him for his troubles. But he still completed the route for the benefit of the passengers.

I know it is a very very trivial incident, but somehow, it made me feel good. I felt relieved that all is not so evil in the world 🙂

The tooth and nothing but the tooth!

It’s been a while since I wrote a post. In order to fill in the gap, I’m again posting some stuff I wrote a long time back. This one, according to the local file, was supposedly written on “20 June 2007 Wednesday” at “3:40 pm”. Hope I’ll have something fresh to post soon.

For many days… I think for many years now, I have repeatedly had this dream about my tooth. The dream involved a shaky tooth (one of the front teeth). The tooth was shaking so badly that it was hanging by a vein (or something of that sort). And invariably I was always eating during these dreams!

I was struggling to eat – trying every possible way to avoid chewing with that tooth. Sometimes I was chewing softly, at other times I was trying to eat from one side and I could feel the tooth shaking and threatening to fall. The kind of feeling which I used to get as a little kid.

Then like the classic Hindi movie, the climax occured! I got tired of waiting for the tooth to fall and I chewed harder – almost as if with a vengeance! Like the only good guy in the movie, I fought with all the pain. I chewed the food and the tooth took an eternity to fall! And then the moment came… I felt a hard stone like thing in my mouth. The sweet blood flowing from the vacant space in my mouth. That’s how my dreams hed been ending.

As I said earlier, I have been getting similar dreams for many years now. At first, I thought that it only put into expression my fears that my teeth will end up being like my parents – really bad (with all due respect to them). That one day, my teeth will shake and fall down – one by one…

I had reason to believe that 4 of my teeth would be pulled out because almost 2 years back, we went to the dentist and I was told that I would be put on a waiting list for the operation. My teeth would be pulled out and I would have to wear braces. I still do not know why it was called ‘waiting list’.

Yesterday I went to the dentist… my worst fear was that 4 teeth would have to be pulled out because there was not enough space in my mouth for all of my teeth. One wisdom tooth was already on its way out. And in the morning I had the same dream about my tooth.

On the way, I examined the papers from my previous visit. It said that I had some kind of non aligned teeth and some expert advice was required.

We walked into the dentist’s clinic. The dentist happened to be a specialist – an orthodontist (the specialist was the one whose advice was required). The orthodontist’s face was covered with the mask that surgeons wear. Only his eyes were visible. I sat, or shall I say, I lay down on the inclined chair. A bright light shone at my face and I could not keep my eyes open. He started examining my teeth. After I described the problem about my teeth and he had fiddled around with his instruments enough, he turned to my father.

Why exactly did I have to get 4 teeth pulled out? Why was my first sign of wisdom grating my cheek? As usual, I kept quiet. And one by one the doc (i.e. orthodontist) explained my problems.

The doc said that I had very crooked teeth which, to be aligned, had to be put on braces. For the braces, space had to be created. As it is my mouth was small (it is now official, because the doc expressly said so) and now that I was becoming wise, I could almost feel my teeth vanishing away to make room for the braces and teeth. The doc then explained the technicalities, which is as follows.

To put braces, the doc required 6 mm of space. Each tooth occupies about 10 mm, so pulling out four teeth would result in an excess of 34 mm. The braces had to be put not only to align the teeth but to also cover the extra space created so that it would not look ugly. This process of aligning the teeth would take two years during which time I would be required to visit him every fifteen days. Very calmly, he said, pulling out the teeth is very easy… in just two sittings… but it is the next phase which required a lot of effort.

The very thought of my precious teeth being pulled out frightened me so much that I felt that they were already gone! I put one hand on my mouth and felt my teeth to do a reality check, and then kept feeling them through my lips. It was as if my teeth were being robbed and in a desperate attempt to save them, I was hanging on to them.

It seemed like the doc could read my mind and continued to answer my next question. He said, “Then you may ask why pull out 4 teeth and not just one?”. Our teeth are more or less symmetrical. So if one tooth were to be pulled out, then the jaw will tilt to one side. To prevent that, the corresponding tooth on the other side of the jaw would have to be pulled out. Now it so happens that not only is our jaw symmetrical horizontally, but also symmetrical vertically. So the corresponding teeth would have to be pulled out from the opposite jaw.

Then came the really shocking bit… I still had a milk tooth!!! So in my case, first that tooth would have to be pulled out – making it five teeth gone! It took me a while to realise what had just been said. The doc pointed to the sole survivor of the species called milk tooth. It was only later on, after returning from the clinic that everything began to fall in place.

So now it seemed certain… my teeth would go away – my signature vampire-like teeth would be destroyed. My worst fear was coming true. As I was writing the obituary of my teeth, the doc began chatting about how most of the people who had got such a surgery done were unhappy about their teeth. Most people wanted that beautiful perfect set of teeth (which all the glamorous people in the world have) and would mainly get such a surgery done for cosmetic purposes. And then I came in the discussion – I think it was something like she may not like-her crooked teeth… Hold on! Who said I was unhappy with my teeth? On the contrary I was happy with my unique teeth. I had to step in and defend myself!

I made a faint sound and the doc turned towards me with a questioning look. I said with an embarrassing smile that I was happy with my teeth. The rest of the conversation involved all three of us.

The doc then began to briefly explain that pulling out the teeth was not a problem but it was the subsequent two years which would require commitment and that it should not be taken lightly. Only after discussing with the whole family should the procedure begin.

It was then that I began to see a tiny almost microscopic ray of light. Is the doc giving us an option to avoid the operation? Was it not supposed to be like I had to get my teeth pulled out and there was no question of opposing the doc’s advice? After a little more discussion I tried to clarify whether the surgery was going to be a purely cosmetic procedure. The doc said that the overbite was only a mild to moderate problem which did not require such a procedure. He said that in his area of specialization, all such procedures tend to be cosmetic procedures only. The overbite was not so severe that it needed the surgery.

Whoa! So what about that tooth that was on its way out? After enquiring my age, he said that the phase within which wisdom teeth come starts at 18 years of age and can extend till the age of 25 years. These teeth almost invariably cause problems when they come out. He said that they would automatically shift down over a period of time. So no problems? Apparently.

While in the car, I remembered the dream I had had in the morning. All this while I had thought it was a manifestation of my worst fears (which it most probably was). But now I felt (this may seem very weird) it could have been my sub-conscience warning me about my milk tooth. Could I have predicted the turn of events? May be I had started developing a new sense… my sixth sense.


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