That’s what neglecting a heritage structures is. At least it is according to me. Our country has some absolutely beautiful historical structure and to me neglecting any of them is unacceptable. But when it is the Taj Mahal we are talking about, neglecting it, goes well beyond just being acceptable.
The Sunday paper of HT carried an article on the terrible condition of India’s contribution to the Seven Wonders of the World.
The walls have cracks. Marble slabs have fallen off in several places, including from the main dome.
The intricate and beautiful inlay work is getting erased. Weeds are sprouting from behind the bricks.
It’s not just that people have noticed the deteriorating condition of the Taj, personnel from the Archaeological Survey of India that maintains the monument have admitted to the neglect and deterioration.
“There has been damage in many places,” said Munazzar Ali, assistant conservator, ASI. He maintained that keeping a huge, 350-year-old monument in perfect condition was an extremely challenging task, more so with the paucity of funds allotted for the upkeep. “Conservation is a continuous process at the Taj,” said Ali.
Source: Copy of original article found at Yahoo India news. I have just realized that HT has an epaper but it requires you to log on to read. Thank you very much. I have enough usernames and passwords to remember without adding another to the long list. Is it just me or does this upset everyone? Do you find it Ok that as a nation we care very little about the past that built our present?
I was taught as a child to appreciate history and its varied enduring evidences. I was taken to museums and heritage sites whenever possible. Each visit was preceded by strict instructions on keeping my hands to myself, my eyes riveted on what was in front and my ears open. When I learn to read I was asked to read the plaque at the entrance of monuments, the ones no one else seemed to be interested in. My parents (more my mom than my dad. Dad’s the science and tech person and mom the history and arts kind) explained parts I didn’t follow and added their two pence to it. Before I could read, my mom would either read out to me or would give me the gist. This was the standard practice- standing instructions about how to behave followed by snippets of information about what we were seeing as we went along and gentle correction in behaviour if the need be. Of course with age the places we went to, the time we spent there and the discussions that followed changed, but the basic rules of decorum remained unchanged. I don’t know how other children viewed these excursions, but I enjoyed them and the gyan that came along with them. I found what I saw and heard fascinating and because it was something that interested me, it was fun. But I did wonder often about how no one else’s parent’s asked them to talk softly, to not touch anything on display or to carry toffee wrappers all the way back home in the absence of a dustbin. Now, however, I don’t care about why the other kids weren’t taught these things- I am just very glad I was. Others may consider these aspects of human behaviour and attitude insignificant, but to me they are important. I think they way you treat people and things gives an indication of the kind of person you are. The manner in which we behave depends heavily on the kind of parenting we received. Whether we like it or not, most of us end up turning out quite like our parents. If your parents considered it alright to throw away a used plastic tea cup while strolling through the compound of Qutab Minar, in all likelihood you would grow up to do the same. Or the exact reverse, as the case may be. It would be like second nature to you. Why you wouldn’t realize it to be wrong on observing the handful of others who didn’t indulge in such behaviour, I don’t know.
Coming back to the Taj Mahal. We lived in Delhi for well over 20 years but oddly never managed to arrange a visit to Agra. It was after moving to Mumbai that we made a trip all the way to the city. (That’s what’s going to happen to Goa. We will have to move back to Delhi and then travel to Goa.) The visit was well worth the time and effort. Have you seen the Taj? For me there is only one world to describe the moment- breathtaking. When you visit the Taj, you don’t spot the monument immediately. You need to pass through a large red sandstone entrance first and just as you cross the threshold, you have in front of you this beautiful, white, incredibly symmetric structure. It takes you a second or two to realize you are standing still, gaping. It’s a marvel how this structure was conceived and built. And it’s a tragedy we seem to care so little about it today. I visited it some 6 years back and the lack of maintenance was visible then too.
Pictures taken during Agra trip. Non digi,scanned and therefore not the clearest.
I could spot places where people had inscribed their name on the walls (not of the main structure though), wrappers and packing material thrown around carelessly, children running around unattended. I even found a bunch of hooligans peeping into the inner chamber where Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan were laid to rest letting out shrill shouts to examine the echo of the tomb. Such inappropriate, disrespectful behaviour on public display was shocking. You can imagine when we treat internationally renowned structures like the Taj in this manner, what we do with our lesser known ones. The Karla Caves visited recently were a disappointment as was Hawa Mahal and many others that I have seen over the years. Why we don’t wish to preserve what we have, I cannot understand. They are not just beautiful structures to look at, they are a marvel because of the era in which they were built and the history they carry. It upsets me to find these fabulous structures in a state of neglect. Some of the responsibility for this I lay at the door of the government agencies who do a shoddy job of maintenance and restoration but the rest I assign to the public. If only each one of us would care a little more about our heritage… I am may be willing to make the effort to do exactly that, but what do I do with the millions of others who couldn’t care less?