Christmas holidays or “Borodiner chuti” is big in this part of the world. I belong to a city who wears her hat of colonial past with elan and pride and frankly speaking I do not see anything to be ashamed of there either. You cannot change history and if you want to, you belong to the same class of Taliban fellows who were trying to demolish Buddha statues in Bamian, Afghanistan, a few years back. They probably tried a bit too hard to prove that Buddhism had not left its footprints there a few hundred years back. So when anybody asks me what is there to be so proud about Victoria Memorial in Calcutta and why it should be preserved since it is a constant reminder of the British rule in the country, my only answer to them is – my dear! since you asked that question, you made the distinction about ‘class’ and ‘crass’ so clear in front of my eyes :)
That part of the rant was necessary, since my chosen destination for spending Christmas holidays with family this year was – “Murshidabad”. Anybody aware about this long forgotten chapter about India’s brilliant past will know that Murshidabad is not only about the famous “Battle of Plassey” that changed the course of the history of the sub-continent. Unfortunately, like many things which I find unbearable about India’s education system, our history books have relegated the pomp and grandeur and the long history of the Nawabs of Bengal and Murshidabad – the last flag bearers of independent Indian rulers in this part of the world, to a mere 8 marks essay type answer in the history answer sheets.
The fall of Murshidabad and the defeat of Nawab Siraj-ud-daullah in the “Battle of Plassey” in the hands of the English East India Company, earmarked the beginning of 200 years of British rule in the country. But the ‘his-story’ of Murshidabad is much more humane, much more passionate, much more Bollywoodish than what is presented to us in the history books. It is that classic tale of human aspirations, ambitions, jealousy, betrayal and in the end the overpowering of one power centre over the other. Before Plassey happened, there were constant tussle going on between the already British dominated and nurtured city – Calcutta and Murshidabad, the capital of Muslim Nawabs of Bengal. The story of “Black Hole” is a part of the many legends that my city’s history is intertwined with.
And to think that if Mir Jafar, Jagat Seth, Lord Clive and Umichand had not strategised about that ploy of betrayal, the entire history of my city, my state, my country and the sub continent that I belong to could have been different, to the extent that it would have been quite impossible for an English educated me to write this rant in name of a blog with the expectation of somebody actually reading it, gives me goosebumps. That my dear fellows, is the beauty of history :)
I thought of sharing some photos of the trip on the blog. Some of them are clicked on a point and shoot camera, some of them are clicked through my smartphone and most of them are unedited takes. No unauthorised use of the photographs is permitted. You want to use it somewhere, ask for my permission, as simple as that. Otherwise, I am a lawyer and I know what to do :)
I also have another thing going on my mind while I share these photos. Some of the monuments lie in state of utter disrepair. A country’s tourism potential is often measured by two indicators -natural beauty and its history. Thankfully, for us, we are blessed on both the counts. But we do lack the sense of preservation and often undermine the importance of these things which lie closer home, but are second to none in matter so their historical importance. I see advertisements of “Incredible India” and “Beautiful Bengal” everyday on newspapers, hoardings and television. But if you really want to see tourism flourish in Bengal – firstly, you need to preserve, secondly, you need to provide proper historical and rational information, thirdly, you need to train local people/tour guides that they need to stop cheating tourists at every juncture and fourthly, build infrastructure in form of more trains, good hotels and customised tourism packages. I know that the State tourism authorities are making a wonderful effort and I stayed at the Behrampur Tourist Lodge and could see that changes have been made. Their website also shows customised tourism packages on offer, but I wish people were more proactive.