Tuesday, May 06, 2008

बदलते वक़्त का इक सिलसिला सा लगता है कि जब भी देखो उसे दूसरा सा लगता है ~ मंज़र भोपाली

During this trip to Bhopal, a Bhopal Carnival was on. Cultural programs, food festivals, and heritage shows were held at several venues across the lake city. Bhopal Haat on the lines of the delightful Dilli Haat is an ambitious and well-intentioned initiative but it was thanda-thanda.

The handloom and handicrafts exhibition at Gauhar Mahal was enticing as always. But I guess it’s more for its historical, architectural and romantic ambiance than for the shopping that I’m drawn there. When the evening lights come on and the lake in front shines like an endless sheet of glass, reflecting the lights of the city, the green-glassed windows from the turrets of Gauhar Mahal lend the evening a mystical aura.

The other delightful experience was the late-night mushaira held at the Iqbal Maidan surrounded by as much history as any place can hold  – remains of three palaces – Shaukat Mahal, Zeenat Mahal and Sheesh Mahal and two beautiful masjids - Moti Masjid and Heera Masjid. The poetry echoing from the lighted facades created a surreal experience.

This is where the mushairas are held.  Photo courtesy: Gulrez Raza Khan

Now for the heartaches.

The Kamla Park so seeped in my personal memories had grass and weeds growing out of the statue's head. It was unforgivable.

The beautiful new road along the Bada Talaab is incorrigibly called VIP Road! I hoped and prayed all these years that a namkaran would happen but the name has stuck. It is like a slap on the face of the Bhopali ethos. Imagine getting out of the magnificent Gauhar Mahal with the grandiose Bada Taalab in front and then on to the VIP road !! ?? The options are lovely - Gauhar Mahal Road, even Begum’s Necklace or Begum's paajeb, kangan, bajuband... anything.

Then, Hamidia (College) became MLB (College) and MLB became Hamidia much like the Karva Chauth kahaniRani bani dasi aur dasi bani rani. As if it was that simple! To rip-off an entire living, breathing milieu – identity, aura, history and thrust it on to another bleeding trunk with no concern of whether it will live – take root?

The loss is more MLB’s than Hamidia’s, I feel. Generations of girls would remember the dipped in, tree-covered haven right in the heart of Ginnori; a world of their own next to the Chota Talaab. Imagine the girls’ hostel across the lake and the girls coming to college by boats. It was a way of life. Now I hear many girls from conservative families will not go to college. End.

I asked many passionate Bhopalis how they could let this happen? Why was there no public movement, protest, representation? It seems it happened overnight. The reason given was Hindu girls run off with Muslim boys, it being predominantly a Muslim area. God!

दे और दिल उनको जो न दे मुझको ज़बाँ और


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Aam - Behad Khaas!

Wonder why people HAVE to eat mangoes on trains! How long can a train journey be? 30-35 hours? We wait 9 months for the mango to arrive and take over - first the serendipitous sighting of the lemon-colored, melon-sized Safeda or Badam – great for the breakfast mango shake; very slowly the thicker-skinned, darker but better-loved cousins Langda and Dashehri that are saved for after dinner and which soon appear after lunch too…. Then the days become mango-filled. ‘Aam kha lo' – the offer/directive at every hungry un-snacktime. The crispy, crunchy raw kairi presents itself in the form of tangy aam ka panna, pungent pudine ki chutney, syrupy gudamba and the glorious aam ka achar to last the whole year.

But still? What’s with people who cannot forego the pleasure of eating mangoes during train journeys!!

Admit that unless neatly peeled and diced – eating a mango is MESSY. Dinesh never forgets to remind us that angrez used to eat mangoes in the bathroom. And here they are making the whole train compartment a bathroom!

The kid sucking the last dregs of an almost transparent skin has the sticky orange liquid running down his elbows. Inevitable. He looks around and finding everyone’s focus on the fruit in their own hands alone, runs his tongue – from the elbow to the palm – one neat job (one less for the mother if and when she cares). I’m glad its over and no sudden movement of the train can throw him onto me – mush and all. But immediately mummy dearest notices his khaali-haath, clean and empty and supplies him another sun-colored slice filled with holy nectar.

He looks at me through his mango-brightened eyes and I quickly decide to go buy mangoes on the way home from the station.

Remember Mirza Ghalib? Only donkeys do not eat mangoes! :) A lesser known kissa is when asked to comment on the mangoes he was eating, Ghalib pronounced, 'Aam meethey hon aur bahot hon'.


PS: My jaw dropped when Valcal served us aam-ras in Bombay. She did that to the Alphansos!