A monumental mistake

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.taj taj-compound





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?

17 thoughts on “A monumental mistake

  1. Even i felt sad reading the news last day..I haven’t seen it yet..I would want to put efforts as that Taj shines with the same intense shine,as the intense love out of which it is born..But what can i do ?I don’t know,but i would really like it so that i will not feel guilty tomorrow ,for having watched the show of Taj falling down silently..I appreciate your thoughts..Hardly people care for monuments these days…

  2. If only ppl cared, we’d be a diff country! I HATE the indifference, and nowadays it seems like nothing can affect ppl except when it concerns your family (sometimes not even that!)
    Grim state of affairs indeed 😐
    We can do the little things that are possible, and hope for more ppl who think the same join in 🙂

  3. Yea at many places it is us who are responsible… recently on a visit to the Kutub… i had an empty chips packet in hand… we make it a point to not litter… but there would be just no dustbin in sight… I finally carried it and dumped at the hotel… not all will do that… i do think the authorities should be pro-active as well …

  4. :(((

    Indeed the sad part…
    Many few realises how much these monuments are valuable to us… I mean they are the real asset…

    Hahahahha…loved ur part about goa…
    atleast u still saw agra and taj mahal I m yet to go 😦

  5. Do you know that defacing a heritage monument is a criminal offence? We must exercise that information to threaten those with a dire action who deface these monuments. Well, at least those who we catch red-handed.

  6. mampi said:
    Do you know that defacing a heritage monument is a criminal offence?

    She is right. but unfortunately … it’s similar to how beating up innocent people is also a criminal offence.


    Laws are not made in India to be followed. I wish that were to change soon. a poignant post. is that someone u know in one of the pics? with a lil girl? 🙂

  7. Mandu, the saddest thing is we expect govt. official to maintain it well but I see many carving their names with an eternal love sign on our precious heritage. They litter and do everything they could. Only if all of us followed strict rules and officials maintained our heritage so well. Hope future generation is not forced to see a Black Taj Mahal.

  8. @nimmy-try making a visit.. while the monument still stands!!

    @crafty- so true…we wud really be a diff country all together..

    @dhiren-thats true.. but have u ever wondered wat happens to all the dustbins that are put out there?where do they disappear after sometime?

    @chakoli- go go go!! make that visit…fast…

    @pixie-thanks for the kind words of appreciation.

    @manpreete- really? i dint know that…next time i catch someone i will hunt for the closest non-corrupt policeman and hand him/her over to the cop.

    @roopie-pt well taken… i dont know anyone in that pic.. do u?

    @solilio-its actually very simple.. its a matter of discipline… its not that hard to keep things in order…all of the western world is doing it na?

  9. This is so true! India has such beautiful buildings but the public has no respect for it. We too had gone to Agra and were saddened to see the red walls of the Agra Fort all painted with dying declarations of love!

  10. I totally agree. Not just the Taj Mahal, but India has so many architectutral marvels that are facing dilapidation. You should see how tourist spots of any nature are maintained in the US. Even the least thrilling place would be cared for like it is paradise…

    Both the Govt and the common man should take responsibility, like u said.

    BTW, I haven’t seen the Taj Mahal yet! That is embarassing! I hope I get a chance to see it soon.

  11. We have neither a feel for history nor do we care for our heritage. There is only idiotic hullagulla about so-called Indian culture.
    I wish we could collectively pull up a whole lot of metaphorical socks:(

  12. aaahh!! bangla bandh!! the inevitable part of a calcuttan’s life!!! even heavy rains are a cause of Bandh!!! i wonder what would have happened to cal if there had been a 26/7 in that city..full month break!!! but frnakly speaking…do visit the city once…natives enjoy the city like hell…even if you have a meagre 100 rupee note you could very well enjoy the day eating out, travelling and shopping..provided u have the bargaining skills..talking of old names of cities i believe the old names give a historical aura of the grand yesteryears when these cities came up…actually that way we should call Pune as Poona!!! 🙂

  13. @jira- ya.. thats something we cud learn from the west.. try and visit the Taj on ur next trip to india!!

    @dipali-yeah as if to say our history and heritage dont form a part of our culture.. they contribute to it whether we like it or not..high time we recognised that and did smthing about it.

    @doodlescribble-err.. i think this comment was meant for the next post…anyhooow,calcutta wud have gone on a indefinite leave of absence if it faced the deluge…oh i have visited the city..2-3 time… its nice.. but after aday or two i begin finding it slow.. i gues i hv got too used to bbay’s pace.. love the sandesh there btw.fyi i still calle pune poona… 😛

  14. Lovely post.

    Every time I see these kids who seem to have been taught zilch about how to behave anywhere on earth, i wonder how can parents not care how their children behave in front of others.

    Do they like stares being delivered on their children because of their mistake, coz they never taught them what was right, and what was not?

    I still carry wrappers and polythene packets till I find a dustbin, and I also make everyone around me adhere to this. I can not stand things being thrown out of the car also. Its a standard practice across India!

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