During this trip to Bhopal, a Bhopal Carnival was on. Cultural programs, food festivals, and heritage shows were held at several venues across the lake city. Bhopal Haat on the lines of the delightful Dilli Haat is an ambitious and well-intentioned initiative but it was thanda-thanda.
The handloom and handicrafts exhibition at Gauhar Mahal was enticing as always. But I guess it’s more for its historical, architectural and romantic ambiance than for the shopping that I’m drawn there. When the evening lights come on and the lake in front shines like an endless sheet of glass, reflecting the lights of the city, the green-glassed windows from the turrets of Gauhar Mahal lend the evening a mystical aura.
The other delightful experience was the late-night mushaira held at the Iqbal Maidan surrounded by as much history as any place can hold – remains of three palaces – Shaukat Mahal, Zeenat Mahal and Sheesh Mahal and two beautiful masjids - Moti Masjid and Heera Masjid. The poetry echoing from the lighted facades created a surreal experience.
Now for the heartaches.
The Kamla Park so seeped in my personal memories had grass and weeds growing out of the statue's head. It was unforgivable.
The beautiful new road along the Bada Talaab is incorrigibly called VIP Road! I hoped and prayed all these years that a namkaran would happen but the name has stuck. It is like a slap on the face of the Bhopali ethos. Imagine getting out of the magnificent Gauhar Mahal with the grandiose Bada Taalab in front and then on to the VIP road !! ?? The options are lovely - Gauhar Mahal Road, even Begum’s Necklace or Begum's paajeb, kangan, bajuband... anything.
Then, Hamidia (College) became MLB (College) and MLB became Hamidia much like the Karva Chauth kahani – Rani bani dasi aur dasi bani rani. As if it was that simple! To rip-off an entire living, breathing milieu – identity, aura, history and thrust it on to another bleeding trunk with no concern of whether it will live – take root?
The loss is more MLB’s than Hamidia’s, I feel. Generations of girls would remember the dipped in, tree-covered haven right in the heart of Ginnori; a world of their own next to the Chota Talaab. Imagine the girls’ hostel across the lake and the girls coming to college by boats. It was a way of life. Now I hear many girls from conservative families will not go to college. End.
I asked many passionate Bhopalis how they could let this happen? Why was there no public movement, protest, representation? It seems it happened overnight. The reason given was Hindu girls run off with Muslim boys, it being predominantly a Muslim area. God!
दे और दिल उनको जो न दे मुझको ज़बाँ और