30 January 2014

Troika Park, Durgapur


Having travelled by now through several districts of Bengal, I can state with confidence that Durgapur is by far one of the most developed cities in the state – the city can offer several options for entertainment of kids & adults as well as for fine dining & satiating the shopping urge – there is Benachity & malls like Junction & Suhatta for shopping, restaurants like Lemon Grass & City Residency for fine dining experience, bars like Aqualounge & High Octane for the occasional alcohol/hookah splurge, cheap eating options at Panthashala & Dosa Plaza & measures for family/friend get together & amusement at the Barrage & Troika Park (one or the other facility is always lacking in all the districts in Bengal, except of course Calcutta, that I have been to).


Inside Troika


Not all tourist/cultural spots are as soothing as the famed Ram Temple of Bidhan Nagar; some might actually be a waste of time & effort as is the case of Kumar Mangalam Park (KMP) near City Centre – but the Troika Park (aka Anand Amusement Park) in the City Centre area (actually behind the city centre bus stop) is a great case example where a few joy rides & eating options have been thrown in together to create an amusement park that can offer several fun-filled options to the entertainment-starved population of the city. Unlike KMP, the rush of families & children to the park in the evening hours has prevented Troika Park from being overrun by couples. There is also a small but well-maintained church next to the park – it is the haunt of a very friendly feline who doesn’t mind jumping onto the laps of visitors (if it were not for this cat, I would have observed the church features more closely). The park boasts of a toy train, carriage rides, boating facilities & small enclosures where rabbits are housed for the amusement of toddlers, along with several outlets retailing fast food & soft drinks (at slightly above the market price).


Furry!!


Of all the rides, perhaps the toy train is the most boring even though it takes one along a tour of the vast complex; however with nothing attractive to see along the entire route leaves one with no option but to chat up with the friends you are with. In my opinion, the boat rides were the most entertaining – a 2/4-seater boat can be hired for Rs 30 for 10 min (but since the people manning the boat station have their hands full, a boat ride can easily be extended to 25-30 min without their notice) – the boat ride gives excellent opportunity to indulge in some light banter, gossip & reminiscences (or to nudge into other boats just for the sake of it!). 


Sunset on the lake


Looking at all the families that were out enjoying themselves in the sun, Troika reminded me of the huge Badhkal Lake (now dried though!) close to my home in Delhi which we used to visit as kids as part of family picnics on Republic & Independence days. Recently, a water park was added to the park – I doubt if I’ll be able to visit the park again, given am still unable to use my left arm & have been advised utmost precaution & my college life comes to an end in another 3 months. But I do fondly wish to visit the place with all my close friends & would also recommend a visit to all those who are in Durgapur for even a few days (special advice to those joining NIT (my alma mater) or Durgapur Steel Plant – after all there isn’t much else to see in the city, is there??)


New additions (Photo courtesy - Facebook.com/www.durgapurcity.co.in)


Location: Near City Center Bus Stand
How to reach: Buses are available from different parts of the city for City Center.
Entrance fees: Rs 20 (Tickets for the rides to be bought from the counter next to the ride)
Photography/Video Charges: Nil
Relevant Links - 

24 January 2014

Photo Publication


Two of my photographs have been featured in a book published by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, Govt. of India. Titled "Razia Sultan" & authored by Mrs Rashmi Swarup Johri, the book details the life & struggles of Razia Sultan, the only female Empress of India till date who reigned from AD 1236-40. 


Front cover


Of the two photos, the first is of the enigmatic Qutb Minar that was commissioned by Qutbuddin Aibak (ruled AD 1192-1210). 
Qutbuddin
 established Muslim rule in India on the orders of his master Sultan Muizuddin ibn Sam Muhammad Ghuri & founded the Slave ("Mamluk") Dynasty to which belonged Empress Razia.


Qutb Minar


The second photo is that of Razia's controversial grave in the Bulbuli Khana area of Shahjanabad (Old Delhi). The photo also appears on the back cover of the book. I had visited the crumbling graves back in 2012. You can access the original posts here - 
  1. Pixelated Memories - Qutb Minar, New Delhi
  2. Pixelated Memories - Razia Sultan's Grave, New Delhi

Back cover (The third photograph is mine)


As of now, the book is available at CGO Complex (Soochna Bhavan), Lodi Road. It would also be available at all the upcoming book fairs throughout the country. 

15 January 2014

Kali Gumti, Deer Park, New Delhi


Diminutive & weather-beaten, Kali Gumti is an orphan – no one knows when this thick-walled structure was built or what purpose it served – its origins are unclear, but so is its present – it stands vulnerable to vandals & its walls bear testimony to the uncouth city youth who left it disfigured with their graffiti & multi-colored sketch messages. Literally “small black-domed building”, the Gumti is probably referred as such because of its dark dome – a result of the microbial growth on the plaster layer coated with organic mortar (cow dung, fenugreek, yoghurt, lentils) – a traditional method that allow air exposure to the mortar in order to prolong building life against natural elements.

Flanked on one side by a children’s park & on another by a qibla (wall indicating the direction of Mecca, faced by Muslims when offering Namaz) that almost hugs it, the structure sits snugly atop a low, but large, plinth. The building is pierced by arched entrances on all sides except the western which serves as a mihrab (same as qibla, except that it has a roof over it) – it has been claimed that the structure served as a tomb, however there is no trace of a grave within, nor any signs of ornamentation (except for double arched niches along the mihrab & the corners) or inscription.


A little Gumti hidden in a forest


Most of the plaster coating the interiors is long gone & the walls are stripped to the rubble underneath; even the dome is threadbare with its bricks peeping out all over. On the outside, the roof of the Gumti & the top of the qibla are adorned with a line of kanguras (battlement-like ornamentation) – the overall look is sparse, militaristic – thereby conferring a 14th-15th century time frame for the Gumti’s construction (Saiyyid era (1414-51 AD)/Lodi reign(1451-1526 AD)). On the outside, the whole structure is plain except for a slight rectangular embossment around the entrances & scribbles that are just slightly older than this post. Similar embossment exists around the central (larger) niche of the qibla – the side niches are embedded within rectangles embedded in the wall. Towards its back, the qibla boasts of a tapering turret along each of its corners & another two flanking the central niche. Given its appearance, one can certainly imagine the Gumti being used as a fodder store – a fate it was subjected to till some years back when the Government finally woke up to its plight & had it cleaned up!!

Given the thick vegetation & the ground size that make Deer Park a delight for joggers & nature enthusiasts, it is no wonder that the few guards entrusted with safeguarding the monuments within the park grounds have an unenviable job – several spots within the park would have resembled forest lands were it not for un/paved paths weaving in & out of them – it is difficult to keep an eye on so many visitors entering from different gateways, many of them with the sole objective to color the monuments with their love letters, tirades & messages. I had a run in with a couple of guys writing a letter with sketch pens on the walls of the Gumti - the idiots did not even bother when informed that this is a State monument & they can’t spoil it.


Weather-beaten yet strong 


Colorful swings painted brilliant violet & vibrant orange keep the Gumti company; the place resonates with the cheerful shouts of children & the buzz of insects - the colors & merriment further add a sharp twang of contrast to this melancholy, silent corner. Visitors might shun it on account of its bone-bare condition, but the Gumti’s raw beauty lies in its rough, exposed walls, flaking plaster & the lack of any adornments. Ensconced within its close-set canopy of comforting foliage & strong trees, the Gumti espouses a tender relationship with this wilderness of whose part it has so intimately become – in fact, it is difficult to contemplate this little structure’s existence in a surrounding other than this mass of gnarled branches & tangled vines that is Deer Park.
Another piece of Delhi's history off my list; about a thousand more to go!!

Location: Deer Park
Nearest Metro Station: Hauz Khas
How to reach: One can walk from the metro station; availing a autorickshaw is advisable since the distance between the two is roughly 2 kilometers.
Entrance fees: Nil
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 20 min

01 January 2014

Happy New Year!!


Here's to the hope that the coming year would bring promises of peace, prosperity & well-being to us & the world at large!! Happy new year 2014!! Cheers!!