Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Thanks EsVee! And a toast to blogging!!

Three years and thirty posts, and am yet to immerse myself completely into the joy of blogging. Thanks to EsVee from Dainty Delights that I get to say these words and as my blog introduction makes it amply clear, blogging for me is more of an attempt to treasure memories of places life takes us than anything else. Looking back, ten years from now, I might read an old blog post and feel happy for a certain time of my life.

Little did I know about the hidden secrets and gems of blogging till I started reading a cooking blog and then a home improvement one and then a child care one and so on.. While this is my first shot at any blog-hop, for a couple of years I have wanted to participate in some blogging challenges and learnt a good deal following innumerable gifted bloggers from across the world, who have helped make me a better person in ways unknown to them.

About me

I could describe myself as essentially a person who lives dividing time between her profession as a civil servant, her responsibilities as a mum to an eighteen month old doll , spending time with her family and friends across the country and filling her spare time with her zillion hobbies. As my better half A likes to put it, I rarely accomplish anything with precision because the endless streams of ideas and possibilities distract me before a job is completely done.

Growing up in Delhi, I pined for the hills and the forests and the rivers and the seas. For a person who traces her lineage from places like Lahore and Multan in pre-partition India and who grew up hearing grandmothers' tales of places as far as Sylhet and Rangoon, I relish sweet Zarda rice and Dal Bukhara as much as the Italian or Chinese. Moreover, being married to a guy who was born in Nigeria, traveled across the world and grew up in places as distinct as Allahabad and Noida, the concept of hometown is rather ephemeral to me. Yet Delhi remains the city of my dreams and Lucknow with its rich culture and history (and culinary tradition!) my current home.For a family which lost more than wealth and status in the aftermath of the Partition of the country,the events of history affect me deeply and needless to mention, a number of my blog posts are dedicated to the grandeur of places in an era gone by. 


My hobbies

While drawing-painting-card making-gift wrapping and other paper crafts have continued to inspire me from an early age, quizzing had been the greatest love of my life till other important priorities took over. Living in places people have not even heard of, there was no alternative to cooking and baking on one's own. While visiting A in Tripura in the early years of our marriage, I was immensely inspired by three lady officers namely Sonal, Tanushree and Saumya who made some of the best food imaginable in some of the toughest circumstances. Tanushree if you ever happen to read this, I follow your recipe of 'red sauce' till date  and will remember you for guiding me to Youtube cooking videos for clarity and technique. Five years on, I love 'Cooking up a Storm' in my kitchen whenever possible and will shortly launch my eponymous cooking blog showcasing idiot-proof recipes for a hearty homemade meal.

Apart from this I happened to pick up embroidery during my years in the city of Taj with EsVee and have continued ever since. Our latest project Tapestry of Dreams awaits completion and I hope to make a few embroidered hoops for few dear friends soon afterwards. Like most small kids do, I too love collecting stamps and coins and good notebooks. A's gift of a DSLR has drawn me to nature and bird-watching of late and I hope to learn much from the same in days to come.

Growing up in a houseful of English literature classics (which belonged to my father), I believe it runs in my blood by now and I have dedicated an entire page on my blog showcasing some of the best reads I came across.

I love indulging in simple pleasures of life like getting up late, tea and biscuits, starched cottons, dappled sunshine, endless chatting, smell of warm baked goodies and so on. Pinterest  has been a revolution for inspiration-seekers like me and I follow a lot of fellow bloggers for a variety of things.

Some of my favorite blogs are:
For the blog hop I would like to nominate Q and Anurag for their thought provoking blogs. Hope to hear from you guys soon..

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Far Pavilions.. Tales of Badshahi Bagh

Year 2009

The first assignment in any profession is often the the most difficult and challenging seemingly. Add to it the fact that one is posted in an outlying rural sub-division and has no idea of how to go about dealing with people's expectations in such a remote and inaccessible corner of the state (if not country), and one feels one is doomed to fail miserably. With these innumerable apprehensions and the pain of being away from family and friends for quite some time to come, I decided to test my luck as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Agra's Fatehabad. With a rickety jeep to take me around and a dusty country road winding through endless row of farmsteads, I embarked upon my journey to begin the first chapter of my professional life. 


The irony of the situation however remains the awe it evoked whenever my parents would mention Fatehabad. To the minds of common people and millions of tourists across the world, Fatehabad meant the eponymous Fatehabad Road which houses some of the best and the most luxurious hotels in this part of the world. How were I to explain that beyond that 10 km of urban fringe, a completely different world awaits to tell a story only a minuscule fraction of people come to know of.

I still remember that Tuesday of 18th August, 2009. While the journey seemed to be a trial of sorts with the clouds of dust billowing in from the sides and the risks of driving on a country road where numerous modes of transport ply according to their own timetable the only thing I remembered was when the driver swerved the vehicle on a small arterial road outside the tiny township of Fatehabad and massive walls of a fort-like structure greeted us from a distance. 

I was super-excited to know about the existence of a historical fort in my sub-division. Only that the next moment, as the jeep entered through the magnificent front-gate of the fort was I made to realize that this very walled campus serves as the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM). And it not just serves as the office of revenue establishment (of which SDM is a part), but also that of Police, Judiciary, hundreds of advocates and to top it all, houses a Community Health Center too! With my city-bred sensibilities and then little knowledge of the parameters which govern the protection and preservation of our heritage as per law, I expressed my outrage and disgust at the gross neglect and misuse to which the wonderful structure was being subjected to.

Over the course of next few weeks, I had to dig deeper into the history of a place left forgotten in the middle of nowhere. Soon I learnt that it was here in May 1658 that Aurangzeb defeated his brother Dara Shikoh in the battle of Samugarh and usurped power from the Mughal Emperor Shahjehan.

In his book 'The Peacock Throne: The Drama of Mogul India', Waldemar Hansen writes:
"For India, Samugarh was perhaps the most decisive military engagement that had ever been fought and lost. Far from settling a petty family dispute over a crown, the disaster presaged three hundred years of vital events: British conquest, the ultimate division of Pakistan and India, Hindu Moslem feuds, and endless bloodshed. Medieval Mughal splendor had ended; the so-called age of Akbar, with its liberal coalition of Moslem and Hindu, its fused nationalism in politics and art, was gone forever. Aurangzeb would see to that".

             Battle of Samugarh, 1658

Even as we strived in our own little ways to preserve the structure and prevent further damage by increased activity inside the premises, when we downloaded a Google Earth satellite image to lend credence to our case, I was mesmerized by the perfect square of green which looked like an oasis in an area which is otherwise largely dry. Back then too, availability of water was a huge concern and was taken care of by the four wells which exist till date outside the four corners of the walled campus. There was also a beautiful pond with chhatris at a short distance from the fort and if not for the ever-expanding encroachments, it might be still existent. Even the residence where the Tehsildaar resided at a distance from the campus, was of Mughal vintage and had served as the stables of Maratha Daulat Rao Scindia for a couple of decades in the early 19th century.

As a new entrant into service, I wrote an agitated email to to the senior members of the service seeking guidance about the possible avenues of conservation of the historical structure. Back then while a lot of members extended advice, INTACH and ASI expressed their helplessness in view of an almost non-existent tourist potential. While I got transferred in April 2010, I continued to harbor a hope for the revival of the place and made it a point to share the same with whoever might care to listen.


Fast forward to the year 2014

Its been five years since I left the place and anybody ever mentioned Fatehabad again. Somewhere deep down inside, I too had reconciled with the current state of neglect of our heritage in most parts of the country. My stint in Bundelkhand had already bled my heart to the extent that I would shiver to visit a forgotten monument ever. Yet, on a completely unrelated visit to the office of my the then boss in Agra, on this fine morning of 4 September, 2014 here in Lucknow, he hands me a document enlisting the details of historical monuments in Uttar Pradesh, INTACH has decided to conserve in near future. My heart skips a beat to find a mention of Badshahi Bagh, Fatehabad in the list and while it seemed to have been erased from mind and memory, I once again glimpsed the familiar pavilions of Badshahi Bagh. While my contribution to the chain of events might be non-existent altogether, the fact that somebody had decided to take notice of a magnificent ruin in the vast hinterlands of the city of Taj is heartening enough and felt like a personal achievement of sorts. While I believe in a magic which makes things move in this universe, was it just a coincidence that the news was shared with me by the same person who was just as churned up as I was back then in Agra in 2010?

 "But why, you ask me, should this tale be told
To men grown old, or who are growing old?
It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate."

-Morituri Salutamus