Khooni Darwaza

Khooni Darwaza

Khooni Darwaza – the name itself has horror written all over it. Had this place not been in the middle of a road, it could easily have been an ideal place for shooting of a supernatural themed movie. There is already an original story in place for the movie.
Khooni darwaza was originally called Kabuli Darwaza and formed the boundary of Shergarh – the city which was originally built by Humayun and later taken over by Sher Shah Suri. Kabuli Darwaza became Khooni darwaza 300 years later in 1857.

When the British re-captured the city after the sepoy  uprising, Bahadur Shah Zafar – the last Mughal King went into hiding at the Humayun’s tomb along with his family. The British offered to spare his life if he surrendered. He did so. But his sons (who had led forces against the English army) kept on hiding. Some time later, when British came to know about them, they asked them to surrender too. Thinking that their lives would be spared like their father, they surrendered too. The British, meanwhile had no intentions to keep them alive. While Captain Hodson was taking them back to the city, a crowd started gathering, threatening to rescue the princes (this fact is disputed though).
Hodson then stripped the princes and shot them in cold blood at point-blank range. This happened at the Khooni Darwaza.

It is said that the spirit of the princes still haunts the place. Though they did not disturb me but the place does have the haunted look to it. It lies hidden among the trees with an old chowkidar mysteriously sitting there all by himself. While I was clicking some photos, I day dreamed about the chowkidaar slowly walking up to me and in his shaky voice telling me that he was a Mughal descendent and had royal blood in his veins.

Oh Damn. Was that a day dream or did it really happen!!!

Lake….. again…

Aaj main upaar asmaan neeche

Nothing new to say about the Lake.. Just a few lines from Pink Floyd come to mind.

Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young
In a world of magnets and miracles
Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary
The ringing of the division bell had begun
Along the long road and on down to the causeway
Do they still LIVE there by the cut
There was a ragged band that followed in our footsteps
Running before time took our dreams away
Leaving the myriad small creatures trying to tie us to the ground
To a life consumed by slow decay

The grass was greener
The light was brighter
With friends surrounded
The nights of wonder


Ishq - e - Dilli Ishq-e-Dilli

If you live in Delhi and have not seen Ishq-e-Dilli, you have missed something. Ishq-e-Dilli is a sound and light show held in the evenings at Purana Quila. Both the show and the environment is a pleasant change from the regular pathetic movies watched after spending thousands at the malls. The ruins of the southern gate of the city built by Humayun is used as the screen for the show which revisits Delhi’s history from the time of Prithiviraj chauhan (13th century). Even if you are not interested in history, the show is interesting enough to keep you engrossed for an hour with two songs thrown in too. The visual effects are worth a dekko and in the period of one hour, you will also develop a soft corner for the history.
To warm up, one can come a bit early and roam about the sixteenth century city. The guards then force everyone out at around 6. You have to buy another ticket to experience ishq-e-dilli. While the normal ticket costs Rs 5, the show comes at an additional Rs 80 and it is worth it.

Humayun climbing downThe scene where Humayun died while climbing down the steps

The day I missed my camera

Fields at Chhindwara

It was a trip to the so called roots of India, the bottom of the pyramid – the villages of Madhya Pradesh. It was work related but I did carry my camera along hoping to get some good shots – something different from the monuments which have been in focus for some time now.
But that was not to be. The days I tugged the camera along to work, there were no real opportunities for clicks. And the one day when everything came together for a perfect photo op, I did not have the equipment.

Perfect it really was. Evening time, cloudy skies with sun playing hide and seek and acres of picture perfect yellow wheat fields. The work carried on long into the night and the area did not enjoy the benefits of electricity making the starry night sky look simply beautiful and a dream for any kind of night photography. But sadly, this time there were only the eyes and mobile’s camera to capture these lovely sights.

Wheat fields

Sukhna Lake

Chandigarh is a modern city, built 10 years after independence. Unlike Delhi, there is no real history associated with it. But Sukhna Lake is a place which is associated with my own life’s history. It has been a go-to spot since childhood with the peak of Sukhna attachment coming during the 4 years of college when we were there every other day.
There have been a lot of changes at lake. First a small amusement park came up with joy rides for children. Now, it is almost finished. A windmill was installed. The entrance was beautified. Then there was a tower on an island within the lake which was had become iconic and a symbol for the lake. Today too, if you google for Sukhna lake, you will see that tower in almost all the pictures. One fine day, on visit to Chandigarh something felt different. The tower was absent. It had burned down.

But all these changes have happened only at the entrance. Once you move beyond this commercialised space into the real lake – everything is same. It has been the same for years. The ‘suicide tower’, the big banyan tree, a high lookout platform, the classical music playing in the background, the sweet smell of flowers, cool shade of trees, calm waters, lots of green and unforgettable memories.

All coming together to make the Sukhna Lake one of my favorite places !




Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

No Getting Lost here


Since childhood, I was under the impression that at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, there is a maze of confusing alleys where often people get lost. The name – Jantar Mantar also had a sound of mystery and magic to it. I had always wanted to come here to test my sense of direction. Finally when I went there, I couldn’t find anything that one could get lost in.

Jantar Mantar is a the 18th century version of a space laboratory. Even if one wants to understand that how the strange-looking structures, it is a bit tough without a guide. These observatories with barely visible scales and markings played the role of clocks 1700’s. They help in calculating time of the day, co-ordinates of heavenly bodies, movement of sun, moon and planets etc.

It is generally recommended that you visit this place early morning or late evening – time when you can make some sense of the shadows which helped in the calculations. I went there at 9 but could not really grasp the logic of it all.
May be its the same for everyone else as people here were more interested in getting clicked among these ‘strange’ structures or relax in the lush green lawns.

Badi Ghadi

Beating Retreat

lighted up..

After the hectic preparations and an immaculate parade, the soldiers who have come from various regiments around the country need to celebrate the success of the picture perfect republic day.

And these celebrations take place in a traditional way – called the Beating Retreat.  The North and South block along with the Rashtrapati Bhavan are beautifully illuminated.  Thepresident comes, unfurls the flag and there is a band and another march past by the three pillars of India’s defense – Air force, Navy and Army.

Jai Hind

Talking of pillars, there is an interesting story behind the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is said that Edward Lutyens, the chief architect had wanted the palace to sit majestically, all by itself on top of the Raisina Hill. But he was forced to have the two buildings – North and South block alongside it. So he placed a 145 foot Jaipur column in front of the palace which in a way spoils the whole view.

Rashtrapati BhavanThe 145 foot Jaipur Column – Spoils the view?

Finding the Center of India

Our hopes of having juicy , cheap Oranges in the Orange city – Nagpur had already dashed when the locals told us that the crop this year was not very good. “So what else to see here”, I thought out aloud.

“Nagpur is the centre-most place of India”, Ankit updated me. “And there is a point which is geographical center of our nation”.

The explorer in me was excited. Something new, something worthy to see. So on the last evening there, with help of some directions over phone from Sanchit we left to find the center of India. We asked the taxi driver to take us to “Center point”.

“Center Point hotel?”, he asked.

“No. The center point of India”.

“No Idea”

Some more on-phone enquiry led us to Sadar Bazaar area in front of a huge Blackberry showroom where three roads diverged (Later we actually took the one less travelled). The guard of the showroom was asked the same question about “Center point of India”. No answers again!
Finally the showroom manager guided us and let us know that it is called “Zero Mile”. With a new name and renewed hope of witnessing a historical moment of our lives, we started walking. Finally on emerging on to a major road, we were informed that the next traffic crossing is the Zero Mile.
Eagerly, we reached there but the only thing magnificent there was the huge RBI building. The hopes were coming down and the body was tiring but then we saw a huge pan masala hoarding, one of many in Nagpur at that time which said, “Shauq bade cheez hai“. Motivated, more inquiries were made and we walked to the next crossing.

There I saw it.

Standing discreetly, discarded and forgotten, in a dark corner of a busy intersection was the pillar which is the geographic center of India. A nearby building formed one of its boundary wall and various political and advertising banners surrounded it. From no angle it looked like an important monument of India. Ankit actually didn’t believe that this was it. Finally a shopkeeper nearby confirmed it. We jumped the small boundary wall into the compound, all the while trying to find our way using the Mobile’s light and then had our two minutes of fame of standing right at the center of India. The pillar had its usual “A loves B” with arrow pierced heart signifying the ‘Love’. At the bottom of the pillar, distances of some cities were marked. Hyderabad was the only known one. We couldn’t click any photographs and came back for a quick visit the next day when the light was still in favor.

Interestingly, the Zero Mile Stone/Pillar was in news in 2008 when it was renovated and dedicated to the citizens of Nagpur (whatever that means). Times of India took the responsibility of maintaining it for five years. May be the definition of maintenance encompassed only cutting the grass in the small compound. MOIL (ya the same which gave 50% returns in IPO yesterday) had undertaken the maintenance responsibility initially but was barred by the Municipal Corporation as it put up a banner showing distance of different cities from that point. May be that banner was much better than the present banners  showcasing ugly politicians and in all probability put up by the MC.

(On a side note, ToI’s  photo gallery of the dedication ceremony doesn’t have a single photograph of the pillar with which the present condition can be compared. Photos of only people who attended the ceremony). A ToI article explaining the state of neglect before it took over.

Sevagram – Gandhi’s abode

I am not a big Gandhi fan. But there is little doubt that he was a great marketer. Reaching out and communicating to a huge nation – primarily with word of mouth and without the benefits of modern day mediums is an achievement. Plus the fact that he was able to build a brand called Gandhi by remaining consistent in his communication.

So it was interesting visit to Sevagram – a village around 80 kms from Nagpur (8 km from Wardha). This was where Gandhi built his ashram in 1936. It is preserved in the same way it was built – a series of mud huts like you expect to be in a 1930’s village.  The huts also act as a mini museum having some of the artifacts like Gandhi’s stick, bowl, folding spinning wheel and even an idol of three monkeys.

Purane style ki huts

The Mud Huts at the Ashram

The fun in visiting such places with strong history is the freedom of imagination it brings along. One of the ‘kutiya‘  – Adi Niwas was the place where the first meeting for ‘Quit India Meeting’ was held. Standing on that place you wonder what kind of discussions would have taken place. There used to be power of words instead of power point presentations. Minute details were captured without minutes of meeting. Simple mud floors with ‘chatai’ (Mat) rather than ornate board rooms with a multitude of gadgets.

Adi Niwas

The Adi Niwas

Sevagram also had an outlet for selling Khadi clothes. But it was disappointing to see the loud and gaudy designs for Shirts – something that can’t be worn in a party, rest alone in office. I believe that Khadi can be promoted and built into a powerful truly ‘Indian’ brand. But go to sector 17 in Chandigarh and you can see heavy rush on allen solleys and arrows as the neighbouring massive showroom of Khadi Gram udyog stands orphaned.

While there, a sight caught my attention. Man in khadi dress, running behind a dog, stick in hand, trying to shoo him away from the ashram campus. I wondered if it was violence or non-violence. May be just a stupid thought.

The prayer ground

The Prayer Ground

Itna Sannata Kyun Hai Bhai

A peculiar thing I see in a metro is that everyone is very quite inside. And strangely it has no co-relation with the number of people inside. It is more prominent in case of the underground one. I first observed this in the New York metro or Subway as they call it. We four people – excited to be outside the boundaries of the nation for the first time, were the only ones chatting, clicking photos etc. Apart from us, everyone fell in the category of either eyes on books, eyes closed or eyes gazing randomly at a point with mind somewhere far away. Many of them also had a customary iPod earphone in place. Simply saying, no one was interested in creating much noise there.

I had thought at that time that this cannot be possible in a place like India. Of course till then, I only had the experience of a Mumbai local as a reference point. A few months later I happened to take a metro ride in Kolkata and experienced a similar quietness among the travelers. And now in Delhi, no matter how crowded the train is, a human sound disturbs you only at stations – that too if crowded. Else its only the wheezing sound of the high-speed train moving perilously close to the tunnel walls. People are busy talking to their minds than to some one else. Even when some one tries to break the status-quo, he finds himself against a huge barrier created by the sound of silence. Almost all, even the adamant ones fail to pass the hurdle and soon fall silent feeling odd.

One major reason for lack of voices in an underground metro is the lack of mobile signals. It seems that no connectivity lends a welcome break for people and may be gives them an opportunity for them to reflect inside for sometime. May be that is why the silence is carried on despite the metro moving into the elevated zone. Soon, the destination – the real world beckons. The signals are back and the mobiles go where they belong – on the ears. The metro meanwhile carries on quietly carrying some more silent people close to their self.