Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I live near "Barselas"

Sitting in the balcony, I can hear familiar sounds. The harried mothers calling out to their children to finish homework, prepare for the tests, have snacks. The aunties who used to call out to our playmates, still keep a watchful eye, though on the generation next … their grandchildren.

Same games … in same nooks and corners of the historic “Barselas”.

“The Barselas” …  the favourite hanging out place of growing and grown-ups in our block.

Children love it. Hide and seek, box cricket. You name it and they have played it there.

So do the old. They get to enjoy the cool breeze of the evenings. And they get to gossip.

Come winters and they become a haven for all those seeking the blessings of Sun Lord.

The massive tombstones look frightening at the night. As if some unknown is lurking in there, ugly and menacing. Fears, which cannot face the daylight.

Every now and then, a government appointed caretaker comes and looks after the monuments. Once in a few years, the tombstones are scrubbed and cleaned meticulously.

Sometimes a tourist (mostly from outside India) comes to have a look and click away photographs. The locals apprise them of the history since the board put up by ASI (Surprised! Yes, the Archaeological Survey of India has these monuments duly registered with itself) does not give away much information. But this is rare and I wonder if we have had a fortune of being host to one in long time now.

And every once in a while, these tombstones are scrubbed and cleaned meticulously. By the orders of royalty or by the orders of ASI … I am not sure.

The monument is 486 years old and was built in 1525 by the royalty of Mandi. The most imposing funeral tablets in the state. They show the figure of the deceased king, his queen, maids, slave girls, kids, temples, courtiers and bearing other inscriptions of historical value. These were built in the pious hope of guardian angel looking after the soul of the deceased.

Even today, if some member of the royal family dies, a monument gets built for him or her. They are not as elaborate or intricate as the older ones, but the tradition still continues.

And may this tradition continue for all the times to come. For these days, we are met with questioning glances when we specify “The Barselas” as the nearest landmark to our house; none other than locals interrogate about the existence of such a heritage in their very own town; their eyes roll out when the history is shared with them.

But the tall reminders from past, still hold their heads high. Content in their anonymity. Always widening their arms to welcome new buds with same old games.

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