Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mandu- Rest in Love

From Indore we reach Mandu. Perhaps, this site is not a part of our itinerary. But we need to spend a night and part of the day before we visit the fine arts college and the famous Phadke Studio in Dhar district. And above all we need some rest. Though we feel adequate pumping of adrenaline in our veins, we think it is always good to take rest to prevent premature burning out.

Located in the Vindhya ranges, 2000 ft above from the sea level, Mandu could be reached if you travel southwards from Indore. It was the kingdom of the Parmars during the 11th century. Then the Sultanate dynasty kings captured the place and they ruled it till the advent of the Mughal Kingdom during the fifteenth century. Mandu is considered to be one of the most romantic sites in India and now its sprawling forts, ruins, palaces and other historical remnants are conserved by the archaeological survey of India.

We drive into Mandu along with the setting sun. The twilight hue covers the place immediately. Feroze jumps out of the car to click some pictures of a ruin against the fading sunlight. The contours of the ruin look bleeding as the red rays embrace it with the regular pain of parting.

As we climb the elevated fields of Mandu I get this feeling of déjà vu. I feel that I was here some years ago. Yes, I was here almost fifteen years back with a group of fellow students from Baroda. But I was not registering things then as I used to under the influence of intoxicants all the time. If I was not using any stimulants, love was the permanent intoxicant for me.

We check in Hotel Roopmati. This is a kind of resort where we find a lot of foreigners and holidaying families. The manager does not ask us for our identity cards or addresses. Without the usual formalities he checks us in. This surprises us. It is pitch dark in the room. The room boy tells us that there is a major load shedding in the area. He cannot tell us when electricity supply would be resumed.

We are tired. But we feel like working. We request the hotel manager to start the generator and we get our computers charged. Our urge to work sinks in as we look at the valley behind our room and the starry sky above our heads. We take a couple of drinks and go to sleep.

Early morning we wake up to the regular supply of electricity and to our dismay in a few minutes time the current goes off. We start working with the help of the back up charge. Feroze does photo editing, Somu moves around and do on the spot sketching and I write. We work on a mutually understood deadline. There is a blissful feeling when you enjoy your work without the pressures of external deadlines. You work on your own deadline and you know you can finish it on time, provided the power supply lasts long.

It does not last. We are optimistic and we tell each other that nothing can stop us. We decide to upload the website and blog on our journey back to Dhar district.

It is sightseeing time. We change our gears literally and put ourselves into the tourist mode. We drive uphill again.

Somu suggests that we hire the service of a tourist guide so that we need to hunt around for sites and ruins, and the stories related to it. In a junction, a few young guys approach us. They are tourist guides. We ask one of them to jump into the car. He does it promptly and tells us that he would take Rs.250 for the conducted tour. Somu bargains with him and settles for Rs.150.

Feroze understands Hindi. But he needs subtitles in between. I mean, he needs translation and slow talking. The boy says that he would give commentary in both Hindi and English. Soon we realise that his claim to English is only a few English words that he weaves into his Hindi harangue like a master linguist.

His name is Anand Amzeria and he is eighteen years old. But he looks older for his age with his tobacco stained teeth and tired looks. He is an enthusiast and he wants to tell us stories.

Amzeria takes us to Rani Roopmati Palace. Rani Roopmati was the daughter of a local chieftain. She was believed to be the gift of the river goddess, Narmada. Prince of Mandu, Bag Bahadur falls in love with the talented Roopmati and asks for her hand. She tells him that if he could provide the site of river Narmada everyday, she would marry him. Roopmati Palace is built for getting a view of river Narmada from the heights. In some seasons, thanks to climatic changes she was not able to see Narmada from this palace. So the Prince ordered to build a huge tank to store the water from Narmada. This tank is called ‘Reva Kund’.

Royal people have royal fancies, I imagine. The amount of money and human energy spent on building these palaces are amazing. I imagine Rani Roopmati sitting there, looking at Narmada, singing songs, attending the visiting musicians etc. I cannot concentrate on history anymore.

Rani Roopmati seems to be a high maintenance wife, I think.

Amzeria keeps telling us the stories. The whims and fancies of the kings, the invasions, the legendary escapes, the unparalleled sacrifices, unique love stories, fears, fantasies, intrigues, conspiracies and celebrations. In between he keeps reminding Feroze to take pictures from certain angles, which Amzeria believes would give fantastic results. Thousands of people have taken pictures from these angles and it cannot be wrong- that is the belief of Amzeria. Somu tells him that Feroze is a professional photographer and he knows his angles.

“He has a sense of angle. But has no sense of light,” Feroze comments after clicking a few pictures from the angles suggested by the guide boy.

Then we go to Jahaz Mahal. It is made in the shape of a ship. That is why it is called Jahaz Mahal. This palace is built by King Giazuddin of the fourteenth century to accommodate his eight favourite wives. The guide tells us that apart from these eight wives, Giazuddin had 16008 courtesans and often this palace doubled up as a harem.

“He had Krishna complex,” Somu comments. Giazuddin wanted to compete with Lord Krishna who was said to have 16008 women in his life.

Feroze is thoughtful. He takes out his mobile phone and starts punching the buttons. Then he shouts, “Forty three years.”

I look at him. He smiles and then explains. “If the king visits one woman per night, he needs forty three years to visit all these women.”

“Many might have died virgin,” I say.

For a moment we three become silent and thoughtful. We think about the fate of those young girls in the harem.

“This is a f****ing whore house. Let’s go from here,” I tell my friends, partly joking and partly serious. Enough of history.

Anand Amzeria’s stories seem to have no end. He tells us about the music competition between Rani Roopmati and the legendary singer, Tansen sang a song that attracted a bee into a flower and he sang till the flower closed its petals and made the bee a captive. Then Roopmati sang a song till the petals were opened and released the bee.

Sexual innuendoes. Desires covered in aesthetics. Covert invitations to love.

Tansen sang Rag Deepak. Lights came to life with it. Roopmati sang Rag Meghmalhar. Rains rushed down.

Carnal love embroidered in velvety words. I love this. I feel a burning pain in my bloody brain.

Anand Amzeria recites a few poems for us. One of the poems is about ‘rocks’. If rocks are not there, there are no monuments, if there are no monuments, there is no love, if there is no love, there cannot be Taj Mahal. It is something like that.

Silly me. I could not think nothing but the Hindi film song, ‘Aao sikhaun Ande ka funda’. If there is no egg, there won’t be any chicken. If there is no chicken, there is no marriage, there is no marriage, there is no love. Period stuff.

Down there in the plain, there is a Juma Masjid. I want to go there. Amzeria takes us there. Feroze tells me about the architectural parts commonly seen in a mosque. But Amzeria would like to tell us that it was a Hindu structure and it was converted into a mosque by the invaders. I don’t want to buy that argument. Nor do I want his services to be continued.

“Another Babri Masjid in making?” Feroze asks jokingly.

But it is not a joke. Out there, in front of the masjid there is a sing board which says, “Shri Ram Temple”. An arrow in it points to a village alley behind the banyan tree. That is our culture. We need polemics to survive.

“iske-peeche-se-photu-nikal-sakte-hai,” Amzeria tells Feroze, pointing at a white tomb.

Feroze looks at me for explanation.

“Iske….Peeche…..se…..photo….nikal….sakte…..hai….” I tell Feroze in Hindi, but in a slower pace.

“Ok…” says Feroze. He understands slow speed Hindi. In between he hums Hindi songs.

We leave the old city of love behind. It would be looking great in rainy days as it has a lot of valleys and undulating landscapes.

While driving towards Dhar road I remember the song of Harry Bellafonte. “I am sad to say but I am on my way, won’t be back for many a day.”

But my heart is not down, my head is not turning around. Because I have to meet little girl in Delhi town.

1 comment:

Nandan Jha said...

Interesting :-), 'high maintenance' stands apart from all the jokes, it looked like the most 'high class' one among other.

I have been searching for a blog of a road-trip from Delhi to Mandu, so hit into this.

Thanks for such a wonderful writing and sharing it, thoroughly enjoyed.

Best Wishes,