Tag Archives: India

Poem – When did, the foe become the friend, And the brethren the foe?

Oh, My country!

When did the dream fail?

When did we stop to care?

How did we let the suppressor wear,

the diadem of friendship?

And the brethren

the thorns of injustice?

When did, the foe become the friend

And the brethren the foe?

 

The multitude that with confidence strode

Glorious heritage upon their brow

Smiling faces did bayonets embrace

With mirth their dying breath.

Oh, Motherland supreme each did proclaim.

To the very end, Hind on their tongue.

What would be their Anguish?

When we made,

the foe the friend,

And the brethren the foe.

 

The oppressors were few

yet they did subdue, masses large.

A country enslaved, that passive stayed

Till our heroes stood

Hand in hand

Shoulder to shoulder

Caste forgotten, creed forsaken

Religion that ceased in matter

Blood that throbbed, that bled, that fell

was ever only Indian.

When did we then,

make the foe the friend,

And the brethren the foe?

 

Our heroes prevailed, on an enemy racist

The foreign monarch routed,

helplessly departed.

We were FREE

Time stood up and Applauded.

A people found their wings

to fly they should

the world theirs

more glory to be shared.

But with midnight’s peal,

a blight persisted.

For we had made,

the foe the friend,

And the brethren the foe.

 

Dover Beach we would aspire

the shingles to kiss.

But the brethren we suspect

We shun

We disrespect

The lines we, allowed to be

Created

With each stroke the

pencil drove

The foe the friend

And the brethren the foe.

 

 

 

 

 

Kargil Memorial: A lesson in Humility

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Photo Credits : Namish Gulati

I had not heard of Kargil till it made the headlines in the summer of 1999. Like everyone in India we followed the news in those days and debated the whys and wherefores of the conflict between the Indian and Pakistani armed forces. We all heaved a sigh of relief on July 26, 1999 when the war came to an end. Slowly the headlines changed to whatever was the burning issue of the time and barring a few mentions Kargil became another name stored away in memory.

Last summer when planning a road trip to Ladakh, Kargil became a destination on our itinerary. A nondescript hill town with a swollen, muddy river flowing down the center was my first impression as we pulled into the town late in the evening. A river in a rush were the last sounds I heard before I dropped into a tired slumber. The next morning was bright and sunny, looking out from the hotel window at the snow covered ridges surrounding Kargil was a treat in itself, the Suru River was still muddy, but now in the daylight the town looked charming.

We did not linger long there and headed towards out on the Srinagar-Leh Highway towards The Dras War Memorial. Do take a local guide to point out the various points of interest along the way or you will miss out on a lot many details. Our guide pointed out the towering wall that the Engineering Corps of the Indian Army built in a single night to protect from shelling the road that is the supply lifeline of the rest of Leh and Ladakh. We stopped to gaze in wonder at the Indus that starts its journey in India and the Saru as it flowed into Pakistan. There was no barrier and the unbound waters danced on unaware from my country to the other. As I gazed across the landscape the guide pointed out to bunkers on ridges that belonged to Pakistan, I was struck by an oft heard abstract thought that became so real there that nature does not create barriers, humans do. The land on both sides of the LOC is the same, similar flora and fauna, even the people including the soldiers and yet the divide is so great that so much of our human potential just goes into drawing up lines of demarcation.

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Photo Credits : Namish Gulati

The landscape as we drove towards the Kargil War Memorial in Dras on both sides was breathtakingly beautiful with snowcapped mountains visible in the distance and rolling hills of soft green grass, rivers flowing on one side and fields being tilled on the other. Signposts along the way ominously remind you of the area being under temporary ceasefire. Then from a distance the guide pointed out Tiger Hill, the decisive 11 hour battle here had turned the tides in our favor on July 4, 1999, after which the Indian Army had regained control of Dras and soon managed to drive the insurgents away. There was silence in our car after that. Soon we were at the Memorial, Vijaypath built by the Indian Army in Dras with Tiger Hill overlooking it.

 

The sandstone wall in the open has the names of all the army personnel who laid down their lives during the Kargil War. Your breath will catch in your throat as your eyes skim over each name. Walking into the Manoj Pandey War Gallery you will experience the war recounted with every step that you will take melting even the most hardened heart at the ultimate sacrifice of our soldiers. As tears flow down your cheeks the epitaphs on each tombstone will humble you. The freedom that we enjoy comes at a price that the soldier pays to protect us. I did not lose any loved one in the Kargil conflict. I was not affected by it in any way till that day that I stood at this monument of bravery and courage of the Indian soldier and my heart was full of pride and my eyes full of tears. The silence here was palpable, what a contrast to those days and nights of the summer of 1999 when guns thundered and patriotism bloomed in the hearts of those brave men who laid down their lives while I slept safe in my bed.

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Photo Credits: Namish Gulati

Junagarh Fort, Bikaner, Rajasthan

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The Glorious Anup Mahal

 

Sometimes you visit a place and it lives up to more than your expectations. Junagarh Fort for me was one such place. I enjoy reading History and visiting monuments wherever I travel. Somehow, with my very active imagination, these places come alive to me. On a road trip around Rajasthan last year, our second stop was at Bikaner, the erstwhile capital of the Rathore’s of Bikaner. Founded in the year 1488 AD by a Rajput prince Rao Bika the younger son of Rao Jodha of Jodhpur, the state of Bikaner played an important role in the History of India.

The Junagarh Fort at Bikaner is an excellent peep into the History of the Rathore’s who trace their ancestry back to the Gahadavala Kings of Kannauj. The sixth ruler Raja Rai Singh built a new fort called Chintamani during 1589 to 1593 AD. It was renamed Junagarh or old fort in the early part of the 20th century when the royal family moved out of it to the Lalgarh Palace.

Junagarh fort is one of the few forts in the world that is not built on a hill and the modern day city of Bikaner has grown around it. When one walks into the Suraj Pol (Sun gate) of the fort you leave behind the hustle and bustle of modern life to take a leisurely walk down the annals of History. The fort is a composite structure, the result of building efforts of a number of rulers through four centuries. An audio guide accompanying you with its soothing rendition of the past brings alive the various palaces created by every ruler making the fort a vibrant jewel in the middle if the Thar Desert.

One walks into the sandstone structure into a white and pristine Karan Mahal, built in classic Mughal style, this was the Public Audience ‘Hall.’ The Anup Chowk that the next few palaces are built around has been featured in many movies and as one walks into it images of peacocks and bustling maidens come to mind.  The first palace to visit is the Phool Mahal, motifs of trays, flower vases, and rose water sprinklers stucco work and glass inlay is reminiscent of the Jehangirian era. Then into the glorious Anup Mahal or the Privy Council Chamber, breathtakingly beautiful to which no words can do justice and should be seen to be believed. Bikaner is famous for this kind of gold vermillion varnished work and you may have seen some of it earlier.(See Picture Above) Then onto the Badal Mahal, reflecting the longing for rain in an arid landscape. The room is soothingly blue with clouds and rain drops depicting the Monsoon.

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Badal Mahal

 

Then onto to the Gaj Mandir and Dungar Niwas with their white walls decorated with elaborate niches and mirrors in the Mughal floral designs and style.

Here the past ends and the British influence begins to be seen the rest of the fort was built in the Indo-Saracenic style and houses the first lift installed in India and the Durbar Hall and Vikram Vilas. It is here that one finds the ancient sandalwood throne of Kannauj and various war souvenirs, howdahs and the famous Nalki, one of the honors conferred by the Mughal rulers.

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Honors Conferred by the Mughal Rulers

 

This is but a short synopsis of the many treasure that the Junagarh Fort houses. I have visited many heritage sites in my country, a lot many are more popular; this fort however provided to me the best insight into the grandiose living style of the rulers of Rajputana. So if you like to tread down the annals of the past as I do, do visit the Junagarh Fort.