Nov 30, 2006

Bhopal has a working Hammam

The hammam (Arabic:حمام) is a Turkish-Muslim tradition of bathing, ritual cleansing and respect of water. The Turkish hammam has an improved style and functionality that emerged as annex buildings of mosques and quickly evolved into institutions and eventually into monumental structural complexes, the finest example being the Çemberlitaş Hammam in Istanbul, built in 1584. A typical hammam consists of three interconnected basic rooms similar to its Roman ancestors: the sıcaklık (or hararet -caldarium), which is the hot room, the warm room (tepidarium) which is the intermediate room and the soğukluk which is the cool room. The sıcaklık usually has a large dome decorated with small glass windows that create a half-light; it also contains a large marble stone at the center that the customers lie on, and niches with fountains in the corners. This room is for soaking up steam and getting scrub massages. The warm room is used for washing up with soap and water and the soğukluk is to relax, dress up, have a refreshing drink, sometimes tea, and where available, nap in private cubicles after the massage. Usually there is a five-step progression through the hammam. First is the seasoning of the body with heat; second is the vigorous massage; third is the peeling off of the outer layer of skin, fourth, the soaping, and fifth, relaxation.

Hammam-e-Kadami as the name suggests is an old hammam of Bhopal. Built by Dost Mohammad Khan (1722-28), Hammam-e-Kadami is the only hammam that is functioning today, the nearest perhaps being in Turkey. It is a three chambered structure joined by a corridor. The entrance chamber has a vaulted roof with taqchas on all sides. The other two have domed roofing. It is however the steam chamber that is of significance. A large copper vessel is used to heat water that is stored in a tank above it. The heat is generated with the help of wooden logs inserted in arched basement. The steam is taken through copper pipes embedded in the floor and walls of the chamber. From the rooftop one can see five openings called the (naak) nose and (kaan) ears that maintain the ventilation inside. The hammam opens every year the day night of Dipawali and closes the night before Holi. The bath is open from 8 PM till 8 AM for gents and for ladies in the morning.

A masseur is assigned depending on the clients build. The client lies down on a slab that rises about one meter above the floor. The hot steam makes the limbs become soft and rubbery, and ready for a massage. The masseur start pulling, twisting, kneading and pummeling the client like lumps of dough. After this massage the body is scrubbed using some kind of body brush down the back with long sweeps from shoulders to waist. Days' accumulation of dead skin and dirt curled into the hairs of the brush. Entire body is then soaped and rinsed by pouring water over head. That is that, and it is time to relax.

Get In touch with the present owner of the Hammam, Sajid Chacha at +91(0)9302336853

Nov 28, 2006

Hungama hai kyun barpa

Politicians, sadhus, people are all into this. We at Bhopal lost our only chance to show that we are no less patriotic when J.P.Yadav lost his place from Indian team. 

So the Congress party members reached Roshanpura chauraha and burnt the poster of the Indian team (See picture). Why does the Congress show their protest in Bhopal, while the BJP protests at Delhi? Is the Indian team different for different states according to the party that rules it? Just confused. I suggest that everybody around save energy till the World Cup

There would be lot of yagnas, Chappel bashing and such like around, given the present form of Indian cricket team. The solution proposed is typically "bring back Laxman and Ganguly" - wonder how that would help.

And now Munnabhai too!

Bhopal dancers

Louis Rousselet was an extraordinary French traveler who visited India for six years (1864-70) and has left behind one of the most detailed accounts of these years’ study of India, its historic monuments, religious beliefs, old civilization and customs and manners of its diverse people. His main objective was to visit the princely states and see for himself the traditional modes of life, the social and cultural milieu and the glamour and grandeur of the courts of native rulers. The title of his prolific travelogue, India And Its Native Princes indicates the chief object of the author. A voluminous book of over 500 pages, it contains 300 excellent illustrations which embellish the descriptive text.

Rousselet's description of his visit to Bhopal has many interesting facts. He saw the Moti Masjid, which was under construction at that time and wrote "The Moti Masjid would be considered a grand monument for any period and in any country". He was also suitably impressed by the majestic bearing of the Begum Secunder, the only woman ruler of a native state, at that time. The most surprising part is he describes to have witnessed a dance by cathacks, the male dancers who were fine tall young men attired in a very rich costume and performed the very same dances as the girls with great agility and much grace. 

He concludes in his book that it was natural for the Begum to have a masculine dancers as other Rajas to have a feminine dancers (nautch, as per Rousselet). Another dance, which he found infinitely more graceful and interesting and is harder to visualize - was the egg-dance. The dancing girl carried on her head a wicker wheel round which threads were attached, provided at their extremities with a slip knot, keep open by means of a glass bead. The dancer began whirling round to the rhythm of music and at each turn placed an egg in a loop until the eggs formed a horizontal halo. She repeated the process and without breaking them withdrew each one of them as she continued dancing.

(Picture courtesy: The Tribune)

Nov 26, 2006

IT and Bhopal

India in the past decade has become synonymous with software and IT. For the outsiders India has suddenly transformed, almost overnight, from a land of snake charmers and elephants, to a place which can do anything in computers. Slowly the confidence generated by the Software and IT industry has started percolating to other spheres of life, so much so that the proud NRIs of yesteryears have started wondering why they ever left this land of opportunity.

Madhya Pradesh under different chief ministers has made encouraging noises from time to time. Ex chief minister Sri Digvijay Singh declared a space for IT park at Ayodha Nagar in Bhopal. The board can still be read at the site with some efforts, where a water hole has developed overtime, where many buffalows can be seen working on a very futuristic IT project. Now the new government, presently under the leadership of Sri Shivraj Singh Chauhan has another policy in place, as per which a IT Software park is to be established near the Bhopal Airport.

Recently SEM India announced $3B investment at Hyderabad. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) aligned with the government and a set of non-resident Indians led by San Jose, California-based techie Vinod K Agarwal to announce a $3 billion microprocessor chip making plant—India’s first. The back ground story has been unfolding over sometime now. What has not been reported however, was Vinod Agarwal did his schooling from Cambridge Convent situated at Idgah Hills, Bhopal. He went on do his Graduation from IIT Pilani, and then taught at Mcgill University, Montreal. He started his own venture at Silicon Valley. As is the case with many expatriats, Vinod Agarwal also wanted to give something back to Madhya Pradesh where he spent his childhood. All the project sought was 1500 acers land near an International Airport, electricity, water and roads. As can be visuallised by any veteran Bhopali, the files would be lying somewhere at the Babu dom, for some fortunate mouse to devour it

Nov 24, 2006

Allama Iqbal and Bhopal

Allama Iqbal visited Bhopal four times at different times. The first visit was on 10th May 1931 and stayed at Rahat Manzil. The second visit was from 31st January till 7th March 1935 when he stayed at Riyaz Manzil owned by his friend Sir Ras Masud. He came to Bhopal for the third time on 17th July 1935 till 28th August 1935 and stayed at the Sismahal. He visited Bhopal last on 3rd March 1936 till 28th April 1936 and stayed at Sismahal. Although that totals to about six months of about total stay, Iqbal wrote many wonderful nazms while staying in Bhopal, recorded in Zarb-E-Kalim (Sorry no translations available). The government of Madhya Pradesh has renamed the Khirniwala Maidan to Iqbal Maidan, situated in front of the Sismahal. The ground has also been developed into a park by the Bhopal Development Authority. The length of park is about 150 meters and the width is about 40 meters. At one end of the ground a 18 meter long and 7.5 meter wide stage has been constructed. A path way using stone slabs has been layed between lawns. The ground has five gates, and the surronding boundary has been overlayed with red stone. The famous "Sare jahan se accha" from Iqbal has been engraved on the inner walls and stages. A monument by the name of Shahin Monumnet was built by the famous artist Jai Swaminatahan and Rewen David. The monument has four brass plates engraved with recitals from Iqbal about Shaheen.

There is also the Iqbal library which was instituted by some youths of the city, in two rooms at the first floor of a house at Ibrahimpura. This library is a resource of all literatures of Iqbal apart from other magazines, books journals etc. The library was later shifted to the Sismahal, to the place where Iqbal stayed at one point of time. This library also organises the "Yome Iqbal" or the Iqbal festival traditionally on 21st April. However this year the festival is presently underway at Iqbal maidan.

Government of Madhya Pradesh has also instituted an award for Urdu literature by the name of Iqbal samman worth Rs One Lakh, which is the biggest award of the Urdu literature.

Nov 23, 2006

Passionately Lazy

At Bhopal you will come across strangely named places. There are places like the do (2) number, the teen (3) number, the cheh (6) number, the sade cheh (6 1/2) number till barah (12) number (as on date) - and believe it or not - these are all thriving markets or/and residential colonies . The big and beautiful bungalows of the administrative services and of some politicians is located at something called 1100 quarters. One might wonder why these strange names. It is nothing but the Bhopali heritage of being lazy. We are passionate of our laziness, and preserve it as our heritage. Out of laziness no body for a long time bothered to name the places and hence people (bus conductors - the trend setters of Bhopal) started calling these places by the serial number 2, 3, 4 etc.

Coming back to our heritage of being lazies, Bhopal was the founding venue of the legendary lazies’ Club, the Daairat-ul-Kuhala, which began somewhere in the late 1920s. This club was Bhopal's response to the global strife of the world being in “too much of a hurry”. In response this mid-century home to the Urdu ghazal, under the proud president Jigar Moradabadi, elevated laziness to an art form. The entry fees to this club was a pillow, and the status of the members was ranked by there vertical position in the club, viz lying down, sprawled, seated or standing. The standing members were to pay for the drinks, and this they did gladly. Once Jigar Moradabadi was even kidnapped by a local goon - and was let go only after a private recital.

In this era of finding twenty-four hour days too short, what can one say to that? As Gulzaar saab has said so beautifully - Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din… baithe rahe tasavvur-e-jaanaan kiye hue

Nov 22, 2006


I am sure that is one of the best administrative solution the independent India has heard of. Na rahega Sar, na rahega dard. Will the students be still there? Who asked this question? I want the names and the mobile numbers of any doubting jacks. There is no derth of doubting jacks in the world you know. Some body was telling me that a college management alleges that boys offered their 'namaz' in a mosque to get a good glimpse of the girls. See, what I told you about these doubting jacks? When I spoke to Ashu Mian he was not worried. "Forget boys, even men did not have the courage to offer 'namaz' in this small mosque" he said "it is better left to the jinns". If we can have spooky mosques, why not some spooky colleges?

Nov 21, 2006

Ijtima at Bhopal

Alami Tablighi Ijtima held every year for three days at Bhopal is one of the world's largest religious congregations. The event concluded on Monday the 20th November with offering prayers by more than 12 lakh Muslims. Previously this event used to be held at Taj-Ul-Masjid in Bhopal, but has been shifted out of city five years back, to a place called Ghasipura near Bhopal.
Almost every Bhopali of my generation remembers the fair that came to be associated with this Ijtima. The foreign delegates used to bring clothes which were sold in this fair at very attractive prize. Those were the days of pre-liberalization, pre-television. These clothes were probably discards of these foreign delegates. There are many rumors which claim that people who bought these clothes found foreign currency in the pockets! The hype and hoopla surrounding these clothes was such that most part of the city did not even know that the fair was actually just a by-product of a much bigger event, the actual Ijtima, which is reported to be the second biggest non-political gathering of Muslims after the Hajj!
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 Ijtima se liya"? Many went to the extent of hiding the things purchased from Ijtima till well after the event was over. The charm and nostalgia associated with Ijtima started dwindling with free availability of high quality clothing and advent of television. The death blow was shifting the Ijtima site out of Bhopal, obviously for administrative reasons.

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain, a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, was declared tax-free in Madhya Pradesh by chief minister Shivraj ...