Sunday, October 24, 2010


Holiday homework for Theory of Settlements. Group project with N. Navneethakrishnan.

My dad's family also moved to Sikkim during the trade boom. They've been there since the early 1930s, maybe before

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Near Hauz Khas

Planned to explore the Hauz Khas monuments today. But a last minute movie plan (Dabang, fun, but only if you don't think) meant that my brother and I only had time to explore the Deer Park and Green Park monuments.

Deer Park is on the way to Hauz Khas village, on the right of the road leading in from Aurobindo Place market. The Green Park monuments I'm talking of are at the beginning of this road, right next to the market.

Deer Park is actually a jungle, interspersed with seemingly random jogging tracks and infinitely more random exercise bars and balancing beams and other 'fitness' equipment. And it's full of insects. A word of advice: either wear full length clothes, or apply insect repellent. Otherwise you'll end up like I did, with a couple of dozen bites all over my arms and legs.

There are three tombs in the forest, and even though I had Lucy Peck's brilliant 'Delhi: A Thousand Years of Building' to guide me, we wasted precious time trying to find them.

1. Bagh-i-Alam ka Gaumbad, late 15th to early 16th c., supposedly one of the finest Lodi tombs in Delhi. And it was pretty impressive, though unfortunately the interior was inaccessible, and there seemed to be nobody around who would open the gates for us. Peeking in through the bars revealed the beautiful inside of the dome- it's got some awesome plaster work. The tomb also had a 'wall mosque' adjoining it - just a wall on the west side with a mihrab. The sign says that its roof had probably fallen in.

2. Tuhfewala Gumbad, 14th c. Pretty plain. Some guys were playing tash inside and blasting Akon and Justin Bieber. Baby baby baby oooooh.

3. Kali Gumti, 14th c. Small. And black.

I was disappointed that there were no signages leading to the tombs or even ASI information boards (barring ones for the small wall mosque near Bagh-i-Alam and the Kali Gumti). These monuments were obviously poorly maintained, and slightly vandalized, but honestly, they still had charm, shrouded as they were in greenery.


We took one of those Vodafone e-ricks back to Aurobindo Place. There are actually 6 monuments in this area, but one of them (Biran ka Gumbad, late 15th c.) is some distance inside Green Park, and since we were really running late we had to miss out on it. These are different from the Deer Park tombs because they are very much maintained. Every one of them has an ornate sign outside and a detailed information board with drawings. They also have some pretty fancy lighting.

1. Choti Gumti, late 15th c. Very, very small. But exceedingly pretty. The cream plaster was beautiful.

2. Sakri Gumti, late 15th c. Literally 'narrow dome', easy to understand why. Most probably a gateway and not a tomb. An old man was sleeping inside, complete with jute mat and water bottle and slippers left outside.

3. Barah Khamba, 14th c. Dome supported by twelve pillars of varying sizes. I remember our History of Architecture teacher telling us that there are many Barah Khambas in Delhi, not just the one which gives Barakhamba Road its name.

4. Dadi ka Gumbad, late 15th c. Big, and very impressive.

5. Poti ka Gumbad, late 14th c. Right next to the Dadi ka Gumbad, and so seems even smaller. The Dadi-Poti Gumbads, though very close together, have nothing to do with each other and the names have no real history. I guess they just represent the sizes.


Had fun, but am sorta disappointed about not getting to see what I really went there for: the Hauz Khas complex. Dunno when I'll next get the time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nehru Memorial

Slept away the first few days of the holidays. But I was really bored today, so when I read that the Nehru Planetarium has organized a sky show on Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, I dragged my brother to the Teen Murti Bhavan to see it. The complex (huge, around 45 acres) houses the Nehru Planetarium, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, and the auditorium. It's called Teen Murti because of a group of three statues, a WWI memorial to soldiers from Mysore, Jodhpur and Hydrabad. The main building, a classic example of colonial architecture, is designed by Robert Tor Russel, who also designed CP. It was built in 1929-30 as the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army, and after independence, in August 1948, it became the official residence of PM Jawaharlal Nehru. After his death in 1964 it was converted into his memorial.

We went to the Planetarium first. Outside there are a series of pretty awesome educational exhibits, some interactive, on astronomy and the universe, although some don't really work. But they really do explain seemingly difficult concepts easily. They were facing some problems with the Chandra movie, and so they screened 'The Ultimate Universe' instead. This was my first time in a planetarium, and it was brilliant! The movie, about the universe in general, was great and really informative, though slightly too long and boring. The visuals were amazing, and the whole experience was almost 3D.

Very surprisingly, right outside the planetarium, and part of the complex, is a protected monument! The Kushak Mahal was built by Feroze Shah Tughlaq as a hunting lodge. Quaint and surrounded by greens, it's really one of the lesser known monuments of Delhi -I can't even find an appropriate link!

The museum was boring, and most galleries were old and not really maintained. There was a new exhibit called 'Nehru, the Architect of Independent India', which was better, though honestly, still boring. The recorded speeches were interesting. One you had to listen to the normal way, on headphones, but for the other one (Nehru announcing Bapu's death), you lifted the receiver of one of those old-style telephones. Pretty charming. Since it's a personalia museum, parts of the Teen Murti House -the sitting room, study, and Nehru's and Indira's bedrooms- have been preserved. These were also great, and shit! the amount of books they had. The best bit about the museum, though, was undoubtedly the recreated Central Hall of the Parliament as on 14/15 August, 1947 midnight. There are figures of the speaker, and all these people, GB Pant, BR Ambedkar, C Rajagopalachari, etc., at least 12-13 of them, sitting on the benches, all listening to an animated figure of Nehru, complete with head and eye movements, delivering the 'Tryst with Destiny' speech. You could sit with all of them and listen. It was awesome.

We also went to the auditorium, where they had a play going on, which, sadly, we were too late for. The building is nice, one of those which bridge the inside and the outside. Our next stop, the nearby canteen, was pretty dark and dingy, but mostly because greenery covers all the windows! Really weird.

I enjoyed the day, and the planetarium was amazing, but, like I said, I was disappointed with the museum. And considering that it's a stop on the HoHo bus tour as well, I expected better.

P.S. The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library has a whole host of events lined up during the CWG. Unfortunately, I won't be in Delhi for most of them. Damn :/

Update, 06/11/11:
You can read more about the complex in The Modern Architecture of New Delhi: 1928-2007, a brilliant little book. Discovered that the architect of the Teen Murti Bhavan extensions is Padma Shri Mansinh M. Rana, erstwhile Chief Architect of the NDMC.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Science is beyond awesome. It's the brilliantest, most awe-inspiring thing ever. I always knew this, of course, but lately I've been reading a lot of science-ish books, and watching a lot of Discovery Science, and I'm completely overwhelmed by all the amazing things that science enabled me to know. When I think of all the secrets that scientists have unravelled, and all those that they soon will, I, well, I can't even contemplate the scope, because I know so little of their discoveries. All I feel is this extreme sense of well being that I was born and live in this age, where people want to know how, and why- this age where we are encouraged to question everything. And, when someone finds one of the answers (which, in most cases, leads to even more questions), they are able to, and encouraged to, share them with the whole world. And then come all the discussions, and debates, and further experiments. Science never stops, and I love that. People never stop questioning.

And science is so frickin' vast. I read What on Earth Happened, and that was about everything. In Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, Richard Feynman gets upto all sorts of antics, and in terms of science, he definitely doesn't limit himself to just theoretical physics. He's experimented with biology, and chemistry, and 'magic' tricks, and ant behaviour, and electronics, and so much more. Even Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics cover such a large range of topics, and I know they're about economics, but economics is also a science. Right now I'm reading Genome, and I'm flabbergasted by what all comes just under genetics, and how interrelated all science is. Behaviour and psychology and physiology and genetics are all different facets of the same body, and they work together to make us who we are. Next on my list are The Code Book, George's Secret Key to the Universe and A Brief History of Time, and anything else I can get my hands on. Science is seriously fascinating and knowing is seriously addictive. I can't seem so stop.

Edit, 13.10.2010:
From Genome, pg. 271
The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view.

So, so true.