Its a nice wet sunday, I am sitting in my studio, looking out over the Mehrauli Archeological park, all freshly painted green by rain, Lila and Frida and Yuuka loll about lazily after their mid day meals and on my table is the book - Mehrauli, A View from the Qutab, by Karoki Lewis and Charles Lewis.
With no particular aim, I am flipping through it. I have no memory of how the book got here or if it is mine at all, but that is besides the point. It is just interesting to look at a curated and "other" view of the places and streets i walk through ( sometimes even unknowingly) almost every day, some familiar and easily placed, others still enigmas even after four years of being drawn here.
On page 41 is a double spread, a wide angle, front-on shot of the Madhi Masjid, and in the bottom right of the picture is seen a winding tarmac surface, a road. For a while I tried to place the image, and then it did come to me. This is the disused mosque on the left of the road, as you wind your way up the hill and before you see the rear of the Jain Mandir (temple) complex.
For a while it looked unfamiliar, where was this place? where you could casually walk off the road, and stroll into a mosque? Yes i could place it and yet some how it did not belong to the Mehrauli of now, where everything is behind walls and fences, and everywhere there is gate, which you are un-invited to pass ( if anything, that is what you feel when you see the gate the guard, the shabby upkeep and the fences that the ASI has built around its dead empire).
Why do we need a fence? A wall? A gate? Who's mosques and tombs and temples are these anyway?
And what is the wall doing? is it keeping the mosque safe? is it Keeping the people safe? is the road safer because now a wall keeps it from the mosque? So that no kids can park their scooters, or cycles and sit on its steps and while away time in lovely weather like today ( and in doing so keep a watch on the road)? Is the security guard there really needed? Are people really stealing stones off the wall? and a fence will stop them? And what happens at night behind the locked gate? Or behind the high wall?
Or are these things here to tell us this is mine and that is yours? So i can throw my garbage over the divide into what is not mine. And keep secure what is inside my gate? And what is outside my gate is another man/ woman/child/governments/owners /aliens /gods/ devils/terrorists business?
What if there were no walls? And no gates? would we all be killed by marauding cattle? Or better neighbours?
What if there were no gates outside which you could drop your plastic bag of garbage with the wilful justification of this great knowledge that the land outside the gate was not yours?
If you look at it another way, walls have made us more violent,… and gates have made us care less...
Labels: architecture, ASI, Conservation, gate, Jain Mandir Dadabari, Lodi period Mosque, Madhi Masjid, mehruauli, mosque, walls