A Passage to India
With its vast territory, multicultural identity, diverse nature and hundreds of places having historical and archaeological significance, India arrests the attention of tourists from all over the world. My nomination for the 50th Midcareer Training Program held in September 2019 paved the way to translate my dream of visiting the country into reality.
Kolkata was the city that we first touched during our tour in India. Having a cup of tea in ‘Bhaar’ (a traditional cup made of clay) and seeing a pulled rickshaw drawn by human beings were two of the interesting things that I did here.
After our overnight stay in Kolkata, we started for Mussoorie, a hill station and a municipal board in the Dehradun district under Uttarakhand state, for attending the first phase of our two-week training program. Mussoorie, popularly called the ‘Queen of the Hills’, offers a wonderful and tranquil but awe-inspiring natural beauty with the interplay between cloud and sun on the edge of the mountain.
The orientation programme of the training was arranged at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), the apex training institution for the probationary officers in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Young bloods undergoing training here will, no doubt, be impacted by its surrounding bucolic natural beauty.
During our stay at Mussoorie, we visited ‘Kempty Falls’, ‘Park House’ (the house of Sir George Everest after whom the highest peak of the Himalaya was named), Haridwar and Hrishikesh (twin cities considered sacred by Hindu community). After one week, we set forth on our journey to Delhi for the next phase of the training.
On our way, we made a stopover at the ‘Rock Garden’ in Chandigarh. This garden, designed and constructed by Nek Chand Saini, is basically a miniature kingdom comprising nearly 5000 sculptures of dancers, musicians and animals which are made from scrap and waste items, such as bottles, glasses, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks, electrical waste, broken commodes and pipes etc. which people threw out as garbage. In fact, the ‘Rock Garden’ is a superb presentation of the ‘best from waste.’ We reached Delhi at noon and checked in the Ashok Hotel.
The next morning, we went out for Agra, the former capital of the Mughal Empire. A long-cherished dream of mine came true on this day when I stood in front of the Taj Mahal, one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World', under the rain impending sky at Agra. Words fail me to describe the aesthetic beauty of this great piece of work of the Mughal Empire. The fabulous monument made of ivory-white marble was a colossal enterprise undertaken by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the fond memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is said that the construction of this project required 20 years for 20,000 artisans at an estimated cost of 32 million rupees at that time.
The Taj Mahal standing on the bank of Yamuna River is not just a mausoleum representing the Mughal architecture today. Transcending time and place it has become an epitome of love, a beautiful poem written in white marble.
Our next mission was to visit the Red Fort in Delhi, another spectacular Mughal construction of Emperor Shah Jahan. It is a fortified citadel that housed royal palaces, courts and other establishments of the Mughal dynasty. It became functional in 1648 AD when the Mughal capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. Standing on the bank of the Yamuna River, it bears testimony to the splendid construction work in Mughal architecture.
After the death of Emperor Aurangzeb, the fort went out of the control of the Mughal Emperors several times due to invasions from outside enemies. However, the Mughal Emperors fought back, reclaimed it and used the Fort as their royal residence until 1857. During those invasions and after the final nail in the coffin of the Mughal Empire was put, many valuable possessions (i.e. the famous ‘peacock throne’, the ‘Koh-i-Noor’ diamond, the crown of Bahadur Shah and the wine cup of Shah Jahan) of the fort were looted, and many structures and edifice were vandalized. As such, the Fort turned very listless losing its original glamour.
The fort was declared a ‘World Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 2007. Each Year the Indian Prime Minister delivers his speech here on the 15th August (Independence Day of India).
As I passed through the high-rise Lahori gate and was treading across the walkways inside the Fort, I came across a number of edifice such as ‘the Diwan- Am’, ‘Diwan-I Khas’, ‘Mumtaz Mahal’, ‘Khas Mahal’, ‘Rang Mahal’, ‘Hira Mahal’, ‘Moti Masjid’, ‘Hammam’ etc.
All these infrastructures sent me back to those days when they were vibrant with the movements and activities of the royal people. Momentarily I lost myself into the realm of imagination and visualized, in the eyes of my mind, the Emperor waving his hands to his subjects or listening to their problems sitting on his throne, the musicians playing melodious songs at ‘Rang Mahal’, guards making arrival announcement of some royal guests, royal members bathing with perfumed water in the ‘Hammam’ etc. My imagination abruptly got interrupted with the call of my colleagues for our departure from the Fort. I came back to the present world and got out of the Fort for remaining on schedule.
The final day of our training quickly appeared before us. The curtain fell on the training programme with a formal valediction ceremony. I got firsthand experience in some beautiful places and the traditional cuisine of India from this tour.
On the whole, the tour was so enjoyable that it left an indelible impression on my mind.
The writer is the Additional District Magistrate of Pirojpur.