In Delhi, as history students we would sometimes go on these wild goose chases. To try and step on the very site that some event had taken place. The ruins – even as they just that – in ruins offer some sort of a respite. They become a part of Delhi. Picnic spots, make-out spots for hapless lovers, gambling dens at night and even jogging tracks. But sometimes we’d yearn to spot memorials. It’s one thing to kindle memory with a crumbling monument, but where were the plaques? No, we didn’t expect everything to be on an India Gate scale, but on an average the small memorials were defaced a lot more than the ruins.
At the Rajpura Cemetery, we were greeted by a forlorn looking archway. At the Lothian cemetery, we felt like we’d stumbled on a large open air toilet. All these places, where some memories of 1857 reside, are flung away. Delhi doesn’t like memorials I think. Perhaps they don’t make good picnic spots. And so 1857 is sort of relegated to text books. And myths that surround the ruins. The few memorials that are usually for those who lost their lives to the “native forces”. You keep hunting for something that marks the memory of the “natives” who died. And just wring your hands.
Till I actually started studying history in undergrad I knew so little about 1857. Perhaps it has something to do with huge time lag between 1857 and 1947 – the lost years in which the official memory was different from “native” memory. Perhaps we were never really allowed to build our own memorials. In Dover last year, I spotted this – and felt a strange melancholy. The Mutiny, or Uprising is long over, but the battle over memories rages un-quiet in various circles and sites.