Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chand Baoli. A Great Heritage Site. NOW IN SHAMBLES!

The power of social media is being felt in many ways. Facebook, Twitter and other such platforms have been used to topple governments and create revolutions in last few years. At a smaller level, it has demonstrated the potential of being a cauldron of interesting and awe inspiring information from all over the world.

Personally, I have benefited from the use of Facebook and Twitter and have discovered information about archeological sites of great cultural importance from all over the world. As a case in point and related to the immediate matter that I wish to share in this blog, let me mention that being an author of several books, I have had the pleasure of connecting with people from all over the world. People who have read my books (the first of which was published in 1998) and have discovered me on Facebook and added me as a friend, have been a source of some feedback and praise apropos these books. 

One such person is Jim Hernandez. Jim is a professor at the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Monclova in Mexico. In his spare time, Jim likes to share information about interesting places from all over the world. About a month or so ago, he posted a picture about Chand Baoli, a stepwell  situated in a village near Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. I was naturally interested in the information he had posted since it was about a place which appeared to be not so far away from here. Also, the picture of this stewell, on his Facebook post was very intriguing. I read about Chand Baoli and decided to pay a visit to the site as soon as possible. 

Yesterday (17th May, 2014), I and Sangeeta visited Chand Baoli. We fell in love with that place on first sight. It is that good! Let me share some pictures and let the pictures do the talking!

A plaque at the entrance of Chand Baoli. ASI (Archeological Survey of India) has very dutifully installed this plaque but beyond that, the place is in shambles.

A grand structure! In it's heydays, it must have been magical. You can see a tall barricade down about 7 steps of the stepwell. But there is also a smaller one right at the top as seen in this picture. This one at the top is a joke and anyone can just climb over it. More about it later.

Another view.

The stepwell has steps on three sides and the fourth side has rooms with huge balconies (seen here on the right), currently in bad state but in their prime must have been pleasure rooms for the king and his queen/s. On a hot afternoon, a great place for siesta and/or you know what... ;)

The place had few visitors. That it was 2 pm and hot was probably one reason. Apart from us, there was a group of 4 youngsters.

At the entrance we found three people  on chairs and one of them immediately got up and started to be our local guide and had to be dissuaded. The place at the entrance was full of sacks of pigeon feed. On the left was a woman in charge of an impromptu temple who was very keen on anointing us with vermillion and make some money in the process.  We got rid of her too and walked down a very large walkway around the stepwell. The walkway was between an outer periphery of portico and the main structure of the stepwell. The portico is full of broken pieces of well carved stone pieces which must have been part of the original structure before it was vandalized during the middle ages. 

Given that the stepwell is now protected by an outer barricade of a 2-feet (yes, quite a joke) high metal structure, we did not initially attempt to go down the steps. But while returning, the whole exercise of traveling from Delhi to Jaipur on a four hour train journey and then a taxi ride for 2 hours to reach this place (and a corresponding return trip) felt like a big waste if we could not even climb a few flights of steps down the stepwell. This initial internal murmur of a grouse suddenly grew into an uncontrollable rage and I turned back at the gate and started to question the two gentlemen (the third guide type had in the meantime found a foreigner and was busy showing him around) who claimed to be employees of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). I demanded to see their identification and chided them that they are treating common citizen of this country with such disdain and should a politician of any political color was to visit the site, they would carry him on their back down the steps to the water level! This was enough to shame them and they said if we wanted to go down the stepwell to the larger 8-feet high barricade, we could but that would be at our own risk and so on!

Oh what pleasure! We ran back and down we went and that was enough clue for the two couples to follow us!

Here is a picture of us at the lower level of the barricade.

NOW from this level, the real sorry state of the structure and the water below hits you like a rude shock. It appears that they have never ever bothered to clean the water body!

With much sadness we climbed up and got out with a crying heart at the state of affairs of a place that can actually be turned around into a great spot of history which can generate a lot of jobs for the local population and a great example of fine engineering skills and artistic heritage of a bygone era for the visitors!

BUT WHO WILL LISTEN? ASI? Are you deaf, dumb and stupid? Prove to the world that you are not! We dare you!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Curious Case of missing Hush Puppies

I love shoes. Although I am not even a remote reflection of Imelda Marcos, I love the few pairs of shoes that I have at any given point of time. It takes me quite a while to like a pair of shoes but when I do, I would buy them even if I dont need it at the time. I also take good care of my shoes. Polishing my leather shoes is my speciality and I elevate the act to an art form and I think I can polish better than any professional shoe shine. I also keep a good tab at shoe shine guys. If you happen to be in or around Connaught Place in New Delhi and if your shoes need some wax care, do drop in at this shoe shine guy near the radial Bata store. He is the best!

Lately, the Hush Puppies brand looks like good value for money. These are comfortable and reliable shoes. In India, these are marketed by Bata. Relatively, these are expensive shoes. Recently, Bata got this Hush Puppies Waterproof that, at Rs 4200/- is the most expensive leather shoes at Bata. I got a pair in early 2007. It was a brown lace-less pair. It was nice and comfortable and I wanted another pair in black color. However, the high cost of these shoes meant this brand wasnt available in all the Bata stores in Delhi. Added to that, the fact that I wear a size 6, which is not a very popular size, took me some effort to locate a newly opened store in Pitam Pura which still had a black, Hush Puppies waterproof, lace-less, size 6 shoe. I rushed to the store like a crazy person and bought it before anyone could even blink!

I was happy. I dont think I wore any other shoe, other than these 2 pairs, till about the middle of 2008, when a tragedy struck. My dear friend and school mate, Sanjay Sagar's father passed away. As is expected from close friends and family, I went to the 13th day ceremony which was being held in temple near his home. Now, you are supposed to take off your footwear outside the temple, and on such occasions, the organizers usually appoint someone to take care of the footwear lest it is stolen. However, after the ceremony, I was aghast that not only me, but several other folks had lost their shoes/sandals. I lost the brown Hush Puppies waterproof pair :(

The another tragedy struck in September 2008, when my dear friend Lalit K. Chaudhary was killed. And again I lost the black Hush Puppies Waterproof during the 13th day ceremony. Enough! I was already sad at the loss of my friend and this was too much.

Anyway, nothing could be done and I started looking to replace the lost pair. I found this brown pair in early 2009.

To replace the black pair I had lost, I started looking for one in middle of 2009. However, surprisingly, not a single Bata store anywhere in Delhi had a size 6, black, lace-less, Hush Puppies Waterproof! To add insult, even the stores in nearby Gurgaon had this in stock. Their lame excuse was that this particular style has been withdrawn. How could Bata do this?? Back to the flagship store in Connaught Place and the manager there was more helpful. He personally called each one of the stores in Delhi and asked for this size and style and the response was still, 'No we dont have it'. Finally I had to compromise and buy a Hush Puppies, size 6, black with laces. I decided that I would tie the laces loose enough and treat them like lace-less shoes.

Things went well, till my recent bursh with hospitalization and sure enough, the black Hush Puppies were stolen by the hospital staff!

Whats with these shoes and me? Prior to 2008, I had never lost a pair of shoe. Ever. And within 2 years, I have lost 3 pairs!! I am now through with the Hush Puppies Waterproof brand and I vow never to buy these shoes since we dont seem to get along well at all.

Bye bye Hush Puppies Waterproof. I wont waste my money on ya any more.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Early All Fools Day in India?

Today is 30th January 2009. A good 2 months still to go for the All fools day. But here in India, we seem to want to observe/celebrate it this early. We want it today!


Well, what else can one say after reading this news item in the papers this morning, about a $10 computer being pushed by the babus (AKA clerks) in the Human Resource Ministry of the Government of India:

Govt set to make computers available @ Rs 500

Hold your breath. This computer will soon hit the schools, colleges in another six months..

Read the news item and decide for yourself if I overshot?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

On Death and Organ Donation

I just came back from the residence of Dr. Swaminathan, a popular physics teacher at St. Stephens College, New Delhi. I had gone there to condole the death of Dr. Swaminathan, who expired a few days ago. My wife was his student in her undergraduate days.

I witnessed a phenominal thing at his residence. Dr. Swaminathan's wife showed us a cetificate of appreciation from the professor in-charge of the Organ Retrieval Banking Organisation (ORBO) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Dr. Swaminathan had donated his organs and his body to ORBO. Even in his death, Dr. Swaminathan has left behind a legacy. Sir, I bow before you for this Supreme Gift to the needy.

Which brings me back to a topic I have often discussed with close friends and family, regarding my wish to donate my organs to the needy and the left over body for use in a medical college anatomy lab. I have always teased my wife, that I would prefer my body to be donated to the Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi (a women's medical college), for obvious reasons and she always retorts back that I am a hopeless pervert :).

Recently, I was talking to someone about the state of privatisation of professional education in India. He mentioned that the norms for setting up an engineering college are fairly lax and that explains the over 1200 private engineering institutes in this country. On the contrary, the number of medical colleges is not that large. Is it that the Medical Council of India (the regulatory body for approving medical colleges in India) has more stringent norms? Perhaps. But a more plausible reason is the utter lack of cadavers, which is absolutely essential to a medical college. So, a private medical college would pay anything to get a cadaver?

After my visit to Dr. Swaminathan's house I have modified my wish. As before, my organs be donated to the needy through ORBO. But my body to be auctioned (I dont know if its legal to auction one's own dead body) to the highest bidder from all the private (or government) medical colleges in India for use as a cadaver in their college. The money from the auction to be used for a suitable charitable cause.


Dhananjay Gadre