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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Desecration of Monuments

' Kyon nahin deewar-e-dil pe apna aur unka naam likhte ho
Ye zaroori toh nahin ke muhabbat ki is tarah numaish ho'

                                                                      -Zafar Gorakhpuri

(Why don't you write your and your beloved's names on the wall of your heart/ Rather than adverise it so blatantly (by writing on the walls of historical monuments)? Seeing this couplet written in Urdu at the entrance of Fathepur-Sikri in Agra, I also felt in the same manner and I'm sure, you too feel likewise. Wherever you go in India, esp, if you go to see a historical monument, you get to see the walls desecrated with assertions of undying love inside a badly drawn heart and an arrow.

This makes me puke. Why this vulgar itch to let the world know that you're a lover par excellence? You see such eyesore insertions even on the outer walls of Tajmahal, one of the greatest monuments in the world.  Despite requests, reminders and rebuke, there're people, who just can't refrain from indulging in this obnoxious pastime to perpetuate their love and leave a 'loving legacy' for the generations to come. On my visit to Mohanjodaro and Harappa in Pakistan's Sindh province (Larkana) in 2005, I didn't get to see anywhere ' Muhammad loves Amina' or ' Shabaaz loves Nadira' etc. etc. I asked the caretaker, how come people of Pakistan were so sensible not to write anything on the walls of historical places? He said matter-of-factly, '' 

They were no different as the common ethos and spirit ran through the collective consciousness of the people of the entire subcontinent. It's just because, Field Marshal Ayyub Khan passed a strict order way back in the sixties that whoever would desecrate the walls (of monuments) would have to delete the names first and then he'd be put behind the bars for minimum six months.

He would also be lashed. The fear of the slammer and lashings desisted the 'great lovers' to restrain and refrain. Hearing that I wondered, is there any such punishment for such vandals and enemies of good things in India ? " In India, no one cares how to behave in a historical place. They treat such places as picnic spots," observed English travel writer Trevor Fishlock in his travalogue in 1997. He was absolutely right. Whether it's Charminar of Hyderabad or Calcutta's Victoria Memorial, no place's spared by the miscreants and extremely casual visitors.  People eat, spit and throw away plastic bags and leftover everywhere in the vicinity of the monuments. In 2004, I saw a group of girls from a reputed college in Delhi.

They were doing History Honors. A couple of 'polished-looking' girls were stealthily  plucking roses from the Tajmahal's complex. If 'educated' girls indulged in such frivolous and clandestine activities in a historical place of international repute, how can we expect others to be decent and responsible while visiting historical sites? More than forcing them to behave properly, I think it's imperative to realise on one's own that this is a national property and belongs to each and every individual. When foreigners can be so respectful of our monuments, why can't we emulate their examples and try to preserve the beauty and sanctity of these spots? After all, you can't teach certain things. One has to learn on one's own.    

                                              ----Sumit Paul

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