Monuments and those who visit them

Monuments have always attracted us humans. Their grandeur, their beauty, the fancy designs and ornate carvings, pleasing and impressing their visitors if not taking their breath away.

They are the finest beacons of imagination, and perseverence, and also yes the commemoration of someone or something great.

Yes, monuments are the best ‘history teachers’.

They represent the beautiful side of human imagination, and the profound knowledge mankind has gathered over millenia.

But is it only their artistic beauty or historical value that attracts millions of visitors every year to such places??

Not the only reasons, I suppose…..

I am an Indian, and India is a such a diverse and vibrant country that there is a place of historical and archaeological significance every few kilometers. Such places of cultural, artistic, spiritual and archaelogical remembrance are colossal in terms of contribution to the tourism industry in the country. Seeing scores of people any fine day in such places, even in a barren season, or an off day and even in a day with unruly weather, simply amazes me.

There are history students and archaelogical aficionados, there are enthusiastic foreign tourists gung ho about the cultures and civilizations alien to them.

There are lovers searching for pockets to get some intimacy, surprisingly ending up in such places. Whether they get intimate without anyone noticing them totally depends upon their respective talents and their passion, of course!

There are families, some small, some have rather organizational setups.

 We all know Indian families.
The elderly members of the family ambling with the look of a kid containing his excitement fizzing from within, and diligently looking and observing.
The slogging and sulking teenagers, the small ones and toddlers scurrying around, any random place beckons like a playground to them.

Earlier, there used to be one camera, one photo. And that too came out on a special occasion. But now, fast forward twenty or thirty years, nearly everyone owns a smartphone, everyone is the ‘camera guy’, there is a plethora of photos, of even the most insignificant of things, and oh dear! The selfies, glaring examples of narcissism should I say??
using up the whole memory space of the phone. One small trip, and you have a hundred photos, so frivolous, so insignificant.

A couple of days ago I happened to visit Qutb Minar, in Delhi, for the first time. And I have been in Delhi for about seven years.
This goes on to tell that I am far from being a traveller or a venturous guy. Ah… My friends know better!!

I don’t know, I somehow find crowded public places some sort of a masquerade, a smothering ambience somewhat. Well, that is another matter. But, yeah, being an introvert doesn’t mean you should totally snap all of the ties with the world. Anyway, where was I ?? Yes… Qutb Minar, the ever so ornate and grand edifice. So much is its cultural significance that it is one of the handful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

It was a nice, warm day, and there were many visitors. The cars snailing through to parking area, cramming for any parking space left.
A couple of hulking tourist buses stood, stoic, blocking half the road. Like sentinels they stood, no way through  boy!!

The ticket was a meagre 10 rupees for Indian citizens, a trifling amount for such invaluable monuments. It has always been so, right?? Such real precious, invaluable things, or people, they are not given their fair, due credit and respect, its only later that we lament and realize their true worth.

We lined up in the entrance queue, trickling towards the entrance. There was a queue running parallel to ours, uniformly clad government school children, bubbling and fizzing with excitement.
A wave of nostalgia hit me. Those times….
Real raw happiness, no pretense, no excuses, no tensions.

We entered the campus, known as Qutb complex, and frankly, after about 5 minutes of foraying, I was a little taken aback, because first of all there was no piece of paper, or banana peel, or any weird thing littered around in the campus by us Indians, because “Hey! We’re in India, and we don’t care!!”, or we do care now. Pleasant surprise.
How much of that NOT littering around is due to the clean India drive, the Swach Bharat Abhiyan, that can’t be told.

And secondly, with a chuckle, I add, there was not a single one of those famous ‘Bablu loves Pinky’ declarations engraved upon the walls and benches, nor any of.the graffiti that usually is ‘bestowed’ upon our monuments’ walls
Maybe because of that UNESCO World heritage site tag,….


  Stoic, like a lighthouse in a sea of green

It was a warm, sunny day, with a surprisingly mild, and soothing breeze, exactly how a winter afternoon should be. The Qutb complex was a haven of a green heaven, lined up with centuries old trees, and a lush green cover, a rare sight in Delhi really. 

There were foreign tourists, of course!! most of them scampering around, with excitement and amusement, clicking their DSLRs at virtually everything. The minar, the ruins, people, especially of those school kids, jostling and bickering, desperate to get their photos clicked by the ‘foreigners’, ‘Angrez’ as we Indians commonly say.

Some foreign tourists, though were not as keen, or rather were more patient, as they took their time, in ‘observing’, new place, new art, new culture, new people.


  Sorry old man, wasn’t clicking you!!

To look at the minar, THE Qutb minar, up close, was a different feeling together. This twelfth century marvel looked every bit as miraculous as it would have when Iltutmish, the Sultanate ruler, would have finished its construction under his helm.

Intricate carvings, designs, urdu scriptures carved out of the same stones which were used to build it. The physics and immaculate craftsmanship and engineering applied so long ago is still awe inspiring.

The urdu inscriptions adorning the edifice..

The urdu inscriptions adorning the edifice….

The Alai Darwaza, the only remaining Darwaza, its hall, so beautiful from the inside.

The famous Iron Pillar, a reminiscence of the culturally and scientifically proficient Maurya Empire, housed in the same place as this famous Islamic architecture, capturing the very spirit of unity, inclusion, harmony and ‘tolerance’, the very spirit of our country.

The crests and troughs, of an uneven yet smooth green field, and adjacent to that the ruins, half made, or half broken walls I should say, perfect for kids. Running, tumbling, rolling down those small dunes, climbing, clambering, jumping from those walls, they didn’t care.
We care so much, about our look, our clothes, our gait, our hair, about others looking at us, about others, not looking at us, about how we speak, what we speak, with whom are we.
So self- concerned. Admit it. I do.

We barely look around. No first lets look presentable. Lets veil our real selves first, THEN lets look around, then lets observe, then lets work, then lets enjoy….
While I was there in the Qutb complex, in spite of all the beautiful artistry, and wonderful ambience, I was a bit grum, I was not being myself. I was ambling, I wanted to run, I was quiet, I wanted to shout, I just walked past the green, topsy turvy field, I wanted to make a dash, to tumble, I just mechanically flashed my camera at every beautiful picturesque thing, I wanted to capture it forever in my heart.

And then I look at those kids, they were happy, they did what they wanted to do, they ran, they jumped, they laughed, they enjoyed. They didn’t give a damn about the world. Thats how it should be. Life…. is beautiful, life…. is simple.

We as children possess innate happiness and positivity. But, what happens to us when we reach adulthood??
Does growing up mean going back??

All of us, in this world, chase stability, tranquility, BUT most importantly, we are all in pursuit of ‘happyness’ (as Will Smith would have liked it).
We chase happiness in the wrong place.
Its not in wearing the latest fad, not in beautiful sceneries, not in the tourist spots, not in the delicacies, not in the video games, not in the movies, not in sex… whoa!! That might be an exception…..

Its in our heart. Inside. Nothing will please us if we are not happy inside. And when we are, we can ‘create’ happiness. Delicacies, clothes etcetra etcetra are merely tools, they are not the requisites.

And there I am, stopped in my tracks, lost in the recesses of my thoughts, in an another world altogether. Suddenly I come to life, my parents are a few steps ahead, calling me, wondering what’s wrong, as always. I am a tough kid. Hehe!!

And with a strange smile, and with a shrug, I shake my head. Wondering why always in such unusual places I put my thinking cap on….