Laughing through centuries

On an average, how much time do you spend to think of a title for your blog post? I hope at least a few seconds? But we Indians have a shortage of time. So we call the oldest known structure of any type in Delhi as. . . ummm. . . “Old Fort“. Well it is old, and it is a fort. So ‘Old Fort’ it is.
I wonder how this might have happened. The person in-charge asks his employees : “Hey I need a name for this structure.”
Employee 1 : “Tell us more about this structure, sir”
Boss : “A magnificent castle of sandstones, it has 18m high walls which traverse a whopping 1.5km. It was renovated by two of the strongest rulers who walked on Indian soil in the 16th century and was first built around 2500 B.C.!”
Employee 2 : Oh I see ! So it is an old fort !
Boss : YOU ARE A GENIUS ! *grabs his cheeks and kisses the forehead* ! INDEED IT IS ‘OLD FORT’  !

Let’s have a look at its entrance before going into names further.

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Main entrance of Old Fort : Bada Darwaza

“Bada Darwaza” – that translates to “Big Door”. Please my lovely readers, observe two minutes of silence for the team who was assigned the task of naming this castle. I mean, what the fuck were they thinking? Did they think they did a very cool thing? Was that for publicity? Guess we’ll never know. Let’s enter the big door to see what’s inside now.

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So while walking down this lovely road let us know about the funny people who have lived here. The fort is believed to be constructed 5000 years ago during the period of Indus Valley civilization by a few fictional characters from the story of Mahabharata (Pandavas). Wait a minute ! Fictional characters built a real fort ! I am telling you there is something spooky with this place !

This was renovated in 1545 A.D. by Sher Shah Suri, the first Afghan emperor of India (also known as Sher Khan (Tiger Lord) because he once killed a fully grown tiger with his bare hands and took WWE to a whole new level). This was probably the time when the United States had no idea that Afghanistan had oil, so the Afghanis had the liberty to boss around its neighbours who were still celebrating the discovery of Zero and thinking of themselves as geniuses.

But then, the Hindu king ‘Hemu’ (also known as Vikramaditya. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Why is the real name smaller and cuter than the nickname?) attacked Sher Shah’s son and became the king in 1556. But just after a few months, one of the greatest Mughal emperors, Akbar defeated Hemu and to create terror among Hindus, hung his torso outside this fort. WOAH Dude ! I could not bear the smell of a dead rat! You preserved a dead body outside your home? You must be having an eternally stuffed nose!

Now we reach the end of the above road and see this beautifully beautiful, perfectly perfect Qila-i Kuhna Mosque – translated as ‘Old Fort Mosque’. No, I am not making any jokes on the name now.

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The backside
The front
The front
The inside - 1
The inside – 1
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The inside – 2
The upside
The upside
The view outside
The view outside

Now I’ll show you what is the more tragic than the Hemu’s death and its show off, and at the same time more funnier that Russel Peters. Please welcome the Sher-Mandal. Built by Sher Shah Suri as the “Pleasure Resort”. That man ruled India for 5 years! Less than most democratic parliamentarians do! He built a road from Bengal to Afghanistan and numerous other structures, defeated the mighty Mughals, supported the uprising in Bengal and got time for pleasure! Men were always men. There is more to it. But have a look at it first.

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Sher – Mandal
Sher - Mandal
Sher – Mandal

Yes, both the times, the clicking of couples outside the pleasure resort was co-incidental and have no relation with anything – living or dead 😛

So the story goes like this – After the Mughals defeated the Afghans, Emperor Humayun who had earned the title of ‘Insan-i-Kamil’ (Perfect man) with his peaceful personality converted this pleasure resort to a library. One fine day, when he was having some me-time in his library, he heard the Adhan (call for the prayer) and rushed to the staircase. Next – Humayun fell down and broke his crown, there’s no Jill to come tumbling after. And a great emperor died by falling from his staircase. That’s why they say – good guys really get heaven, while bad guys get the girls.

So that’s how I had a great day today talking to these walls and listening to their stories. I hope you too had fun. Please tell me you did because you don’t want to experience what Hemu experienced. (Just kidding).
Thank you for reading my longest post. Leaving you now with some more pictures of this marvelous castle standing through the ages.
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If you liked this, you’d love to read what the lovely Millie Thom has to say about Castles in Wales as this trip was inspired by her wonderful insight into history.

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Free speech – an opinion or an insult?

tft-34-p-22-a-600x400About a month back, I read a news article that the Supreme Court of India has said that Freedom of Speech cannot be absolute. Unable to decide if it was a right decision or not, my mind raced to the Charlie Hebdo attack. A few days after the attack, a local leader who looked frustrated by the world clamouring for an unknown bird called the freedom of speech, stated on television that there is a thin line between expressing an opinion and insulting an opinion and that line has to be respected.

Unable to believe myself, I was able to find some sense in both the above statements given by the apex court which has to be obeyed and the leader who makes his ends meet by playing the communal card.

Somewhere in between these two incidents, a funny thing happened in Indian entertainment industry. A ‘roast’ video was released by an Indian channel on YouTube. This was a genre very new to the Indian audience and though the inexperience of the makers was visible, the effort was praised by the masses for doing something new. However, the funny thing was that the “comic video made to make people laugh” was banned and taken down from the internet. The reason given by the authorities was that it had hateful, sexist, racist and obscene content. I emphasize here that I saw the complete video and yes it had abusive words but if X jokes about Y in front of Y and Y laughs it off, how can Z have a problem with that? This was the time when I realized that being a little creative can turn out to be disastrous in the world’s largest democracy.

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I learnt to live with this fact and was at peace with the system when 2 notorious speeches by 2 notorious religious leaders came to my notice. In one of them, a leader of the minority challenged the Prime Minister to keep the police away for 15 minutes and then see how the minority shows that they are the real men. He continued by saying that the majority has given to this nation nothing but obscenity, refering to the caves of Ajanta and Ellora and erotic sculptures of Khajuraho.

The second video was the reply to this speech by the leader of a rival group who while addressing scores of people, found everything amusing and recalled the results of previous instances when the police was removed communal riots when thousands of innocent people from the minority were slaughtered.

Well, both of these videos are available on YouTube and all other websites and their views increase everyday and so is the hatred among the illiterate. I have a question from the unbiased government, the justice provider Supreme Court and all other guardians of peace and culture. I want to know where they are. How a comic video spread so many big negative words but hate speeches by influential people are totally acceptable? I also want to ask that gentleman who pointed out the difference between an insult and an opinion if he ever reads the newspaper. Each issue is filled with cartoons mocking our politicians. In which category does he put those cartoons? Or those speeches in the Parliament when opposition leaders call the former Prime Minister a ‘thief’. Are those “opinions” because his belief is not the one being talked about? Who is the one to decide if it is an insult or an opinion?

In a country where a teenager is arrested because of a Facebook update expressing remorse after the death of a politician because the roads would be jammed for his funeral, and a student body of IIT Madras (one of the finest institutes of the country) gets banned for publishing an article criticizing the Prime Minister; I have to think how is democracy different from dictatorship.

Is absoluteness of freedom of speech necessary for its survival or it is safe even with limits? This is the question whose answer I really need to know from everyone reading this post. Tell me what do you think.

This came in response to the Quote Challenge given by the wonderful blogger Kritika whose poetry and photography say much more than I could say here.

All in one

This was in December last year, during vacations and amidst lot of free time. It was Christmas day and I have no idea why, but I wandered off to the busy streets of old Delhi (also known as Delhi – 6) because that is one place which has the potential to surprise you each time you visit there. The only reason being that it has so much to show you that you just can’t get all of it, ever ! I hope you too realize this as we go further with this post.

The first stop was a small Church because one, it was Christmas (smart you are) and two, it was the closest stop to my home. Thanks to my very less knowledge of Christianity, I was somewhat disappointed as I couldn’t hear any Christmas Carols on 25th December’s morning :/ But still, the place was crowded and deserved a few pictures. So here are a couple of them.

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On moving further I yet again realized why I haven’t made much frequent trips to this area. It is because you have to crawl your way through this.

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But as they say in theatre, there always is a comic relief. I understand that this is a place to get screws and is run by some Tayal. But “Screw India” ? That is really cheap marketing 😛

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And then you realize how evil it would be to ask an engineering student to apply Kirchoff’s Law here 😉

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Anyways, I moved forward and came across this man, who bragged about this garbage here was a brand new vehicle a few hours ago. It gets stolen, brought here, torn into bits and pieces, and all the profit that can be made will be made in the next few minutes. Just fabulous !

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So enough of all this randomness. Remember it is still Christmas. So let us go and see some religious places? What about Jama Masjid? The largest mosque in India? Again, remember God is one. Now before entering the grand old mosque where more than 25,000 devotees can pray at a time, this is required:

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Now that you have done that, let us see the mesmerizing place :

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But see what was visible from there? Yes, that’s the Indian Tricolor on the mighty Red Fort.

251220131807So let’s go there and see the palace of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who stayed here after moving his capital from Agra to Delhi.251220131830251220131831

As the sunset approached, it was again time to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. This time, it was the oldest Church of India, St. James Church. Yes, there is more to old Delhi than just old houses and old people. You can see how many times the word ‘oldest’ has been used in this post.

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And finally, after visiting the worship places of Christians and Muslims, this Hindu went to that of Sikhs. This is the Sheeshganj Gurudwara, built in 1783, at the site were Guru Teg Bahadur was brutally martyred. The environment for Christmas (Bada Din) were enchanting but sadly I couldn’t click pictures as it was, umm, not allowed.

So that was all about old Delhi – all that I could manage to see in one day. Signing off for now. Will be back soon.