Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Memoirs of Bhopal

Memoirs of Bhopal:

In the mid of September 1998, when I left my home and my city to pursue my engineering degree, I never ever thought that my close and continuous association with this lovely city is going to be interrupted. Since then I have always realized that whenever I use to go to Bhopal I use to spend time with my family, my friends but somewhere in between spending time with Bhopal was missing. Bhopal as city is so lively that its worth spending time with it. It’s a city which has imprinted its identity on me as a person.

Once I reached out to meet people from different Cities and they came to know that I belong to Bhopal, the first question or remark that I use to get was “Bhopal? Where gas tragedy took place?” As a Bhopali I have always been proud of this city. I want to bring forth other facets of Bhopal as well which are lying under the dark shadow of Bhopal gas tragedy.

The Spirit of Bhopal:

Bhopal has always been a city which has been closest to my heart. This is amongst a few cities which still have kept its Nawabi idiosyncrasies preserved and alive. Keeping the idiosyncrasies preserved is tough but keeping these idiosyncrasies alive is a different ball game. If you find excessive usage of abusive language between two gentlemen than be rest assured that they are two gregarious and close friends. My most loved aspect of Bhopal has been “Bhopali Batolebaji” at the tea and Pan shops of Bhopal. “Bhopalis” as a breed are omniscient. They have in-depth knowledge of each and topic and field (at least this is what they know to the best of their knowledge). People sitting at roadside tea stalls are an intellectually stimulating sight in Bhopal. But “Patia-bazi”, as the “Bhopalis” refer to the evening get-together, “Patia-bazi” is a euphemism given to a process of killing time in an ultra smooth manner. During the day, shopkeepers used the “Patia” to display products and seat customers; at night it served as a meeting place. These “Patias” were intellectual diet for Bhopal’s residents," says an old Bhopali. Discussions at “Patias” range from politics to movies to hockey to Sher-o-Shayaris to Kisse kahanis of the participants. The famous character of “ Surma Bhopali” played immaculately by legendary Jagdeep in movie “Sholay” is a typical “Patiya- Baaz” and “Batole-baaz” Bhopali Character.

A typical day in Bhopal starts with hot and light “Bhopali poha” garnished with coriander leaves and Sev coupled along with “Jalebis” served with hot piping. This is followed with a cup of authentic “Bhopali Sulemani chai”. The entire 3 course breakfast costs you in range of Rs 12.  

It is said that Bhopal is famous for its three jewels “Parda”(veil for women), “Zarda”(Dried pieces of tobacco leaves), “Namarda” (eunuch). Eunuchs form an integral part of Bhopali culture and any celebration without them is considered incomplete. These eunuchs have a tremendous market intelligence network. They are always aware of Birth of a baby and Marriage functions. They are the barters between the money and the blessings for a happy life. They have powers to convert materialistic power in to eternal happiness.


I made a point that during my travel to Bhopal I take along my younger brother as well, so as to make him come face to face with a Bhopal which till these trips has not at all existed in his memoirs. My brother knows all the joints of Pizzas, coffee shops and other cool hangout kind of places of Bhopal, but when I asked him where I can get a sumptuous Bhopali food he was unaware of.

Despite witnessing the post Babri Masjid demolition riots in Bhopal, I still have conviction in my heart that this is amongst the most secular and peace loving cities in India with a sizable amount of bipolar population.   

Another major aspect of Bhopal is the planning of the city. The city has been planned and then established. Bhopal has been a centre for studies, be it Islamic studies, art, Law, Forest Management, hotel management, Disaster Management, Engineering or Medical. From Sufism to Science, from Culinary to Disaster management the city can offer you best in the class education.


The Tajul Masajid:

The mosque boasts itself of being the largest mosque in Asia. By virtue of this the city boasts of hosting the Alami Tablighi Ijtima every year. It’s an annual 3 day convergence of all the preachers and followers of Islam. Apart from religious value Ijtima also held an important place in worldly pleasures. In the days of pre globalization the delegates from other countries use to bring apparels from their country to be sold in Bhopal. It was also said that the apparels sold in the Ijtima were used and worn. Because of this stigma associated with Ijtima many Bhopalis used to avoid buying anything new during these days, for the fear of being labeled as bought from Ijtima. The taunt went "Kyun Mamu Ijtima se liya"?

I wish to take a photograph of the Masjid courtyard when Namaz at the occasion of Id is offered. The grandiose gate of the mosque speaks volumes about the Mosque. Watching the reflections of the Mosque in the Motia Talab increases the love and Awe for this sacred place.

Masjid Dhai Seedhi:

This Mosque boasts itself as the first mosque of Bhopal and most probably the smallest Mosque in the world. It’s just a coincidence or a deliberate effort that the Tajul Masajid (Asia’s largest mosque) is just juxtaposed to the Masjid Dhai Seedhi. 

The Upper Lake:

Bhopal is also synonymous with City of Lakes. Amongst all the lakes this happens to be the largest lake. In Bhopal it is known as “Bada Talab”. There are various scenic points in and around the lake where one can spend hours doing nothing and yet not panicking after the shear waste of time done. 

Sunsets at the lake are a treat to watch. I personally like the views at the Karbala Ghat during the sunsets. 

A small island in the lake which has a Mazar on it is so very reminiscent of Bhopal in a way that whatever is happening around it, it continues to have its own identity. 

Moti Masjid:

Moti Masjid is again a mosque which has acted as a synagogue for Bhopal. The Masjid is in Ibrahimpura. Moti Masjid has witnessed innumerable number of Nikah ceremonies. Moti Masjid is an architectural splendour.

Sadar Manzil:

Look at the snap and than look at the initial few scenes of Sudhir Mishra’s “Hazaron Khwaishe Aisi”, can you see the gate through which Shiny Ahuja passes?
Sadar Manzil has been announcing itself for ages. It is now host to the municipal corporation office in Bhopal 


Bhopal has a 300 year old Hammam (Now a days known as Steam Bath), The most intriguing and interesting aspect of this Hammam is the fact that although it is operated by Mulims, still the operating period of the Hammam is decided by two major Hindu festivals, namely Diwali (Marking the start) and Holi (Marking the end). The Hammam has two time slots during the day hours the entry is only allowed for females and it is during the evening hours the Males can secure an access. Kubra Bi- the owner of the Hammam made me look around the Hammam and also made me look at the place where the wood is made to burn. 

Curfew Wali Devi:

Please do not think for a moment that I have mis- spelled name of a goddess. This name has been given to this goddess because of the fact that during the pratishtha of idol of this devi communal riots broke out and curfew was imposed on the entire city. Till now the Believers call this divine deity as “Curfew Wali Devi”.


Bhopal to me is a stunning, attractive and laidback jewel in the heart of India. Bhopal is India's most livable city, not withstanding the still festering injustices of the Union Carbide tragedy.


Anonymous said...

Feels like Visiting Bhopal

joshi daniel said...

nicely presented!

sandeep said...

well written and beautiful pictures to go with it!

shalini said...

An absolute delight! Just the way a photo-blog should be... And it came in handy too :) Thanks. Keep going.