Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An almost same-sex marrige in Delhi in 1880's

This amusing incident is mentioned by Rev. G. A. Lefroy, the Head of the Cambridge Mission at Delhi during the 1880's, while describing part of his duties in a paper written in 1884*. Among his other responsibilities Rev. Lefroy was the marriage-registry-officer for the native congregation in Delhi. As he puts it -

An beguiling couple

Fascinating creatures, these-

A couple of peacocks at the Delhi zoo

Panorama of Chunnalmal's haveli

Another panoramic image of Old Delhi. This is the historic haveli of Chunna Mal (sometimes also written as Chunnamal) in Chandni Chowk.

Seth Chunnamal was at one time perhaps the richest and the most influential Indian in Shahjahanbad. This was in the turbulent years after the revolt(mutiny) of 1857. His haveli(mansion) in the central street of Shahjahanbad is an extensive building that used to be in its heyday a cynosure of all eyes. It is still fairly well preserved, unlike many other fascinating structures in the same area that are crumbling and decaying into nothingness.Unfortunately, we in India are not strong on historical preservation.We will fight, agitate and become violent at some some perceived 'insult' to some historical personality even as the monuments that truly embody  our heritage rot and disintegrate. I made a film about it called the Losing Heritage- the case of Chunnamal's haveli.

  The historic haveli of Chunna Mal in Chandni Chowk  - click for a larger image

Delhi in panoramic photos

Starting a new feature on this blog -panoramic images of Delhi. First off the mark, the historic Gurudwara Sis Ganj and it's surroundings located in the old city of Delhi, known in Mughal times as Shahjahanabad.

 Panoramic image of  Gurudwara Sis Ganj  -click to see larger image

It's no good posting a panorama if you don't click it to see it in it's extensive glory.So do click on the image.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Children have all the fun

Cooling down after school at the India Gate.

Golden God

Lord Buddha at the Tibetan Monastery in Delhi

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Narayani Gupta vs. William Dalrymple on Ghalib

I posted on this interesting story -the Ghalib-Thompson incident- earlier at The Liberty Blog. Here it is again-

When I read this in Narayani Gupta's book Delhi Between Two Empires, pg 9,  I knew it stank (or as we say in India, mera maatha thanka!) -
Ghalib, like others, realized that the British had come to stay, and shrewdly thought that a qasida to the Queen would be a useful investment. But he went that far and no further. When Thomson, the provincial Secretary, treated him boorishly, Ghalib sacrificed the offer of an appointment at Delhi College, though he desperately needed a steady income to cushion him against his extravagances and his gambling debts.

Ghalib -The proud poet

And sure enough. William Dalrymple describes the incident in greater detail in the Last Mughal, pg 129-130 -
Ghalib, like  many writers before and since, suffered from the potentially combustible combination of expensive tastes, a keen sense of his own worth and insufficient financial resources to support either. Always precarious, his finances had become especially troubled after his sense of personal honour compelled him to turn down  the lucrative chance to become the Persian Professor at Delhi College. Ghalib had arrived at Delhi College in his palanquin having being  invited to apply for the new post. But after reaching the college gate, he refused to enter until Mr Thomason, the secretary, came and welcomed him, as he insisted his aristocratic status dictated. After a long stand-off, Mr Thomason came out personally and explained that a formal welcome was appropriate when he attended the Governor's durbar, but not in the present case, when he came as a candidate for employment.

Ghalib replied, 'I contemplated taking a government appointment in the expectation that this would bring me greater honour than  I now receive, not a reduction in those already accorded to me .' The secretary replied, 'I am bound by regulations.' 'Then I hope you will excuse me,' Ghalib said, and came away.

What a difference in the two narrartives! And I don't mean the detail.

Ms.Gupta leaves an impression of Ghalib being a victim of colonial arrogance - you know, those racist, rude British that pepper our films and stories and official histories.The truth, as in the account of  Dalrymple, appears just the opposite. It is Ghalib who in his aristocratic loftiness and vanity did himself much harm while  Mr.Thomson(or Thomason) was politely correct and rule bound.

Mr. Thomson has long left this earth, of course but I hope that Ms.Gupta would do the departed soul justice and correct her description of the events.