My first stop for the day is the town of Faridkot. It supposedly has a fort worth visiting. Getting off the bus, I walk to it. The gateway stands three storeys high with an ornate parapet wall at the top. The gateway is architecturally interesting but it is rundown. The distemper is peeling. Underlying brickwork is exposed. Black blotches tell the tale of neglect and the toll of many monsoons. It is flanked by smaller bastions. Compared to the massive ones at Bathinda, it hardly looks intimidating for a fort. Banners and small shops clutter the pathway. As I walk through the gateway, I notice there is some scaffolding inside. I am stopped by security, deliberately officious people who like to exercise their power to deny me entry.
‘The fort is closed. It is not open for visitors,’ I am told. I am not all that disappointed. I have seen so many forts and palaces across India. I have understood that all of them use the same basic architectural elements. The final effects may differ. Details may be differentiating factors. In any case, I feel I am not missing much.
I walk around the fort. I look at the fort walls and round bastions. They are not impressive when compared to the forts at Bathinda, Gwalior, Jhansi, Agra or the magnificent ones of Shivaji’s domains.
At one corner, a man is sitting under a shade selling bhel puri and sherbet. He is soon joined by a stall owner nearby. I have a small chat with them. The stall owner, a younger chap, probably five years younger to me, is a bubbly fellow. He is all smiles pasted on a motorized mouth that stops not and has no starting trouble. He enjoys his relaxed hours at the shop. He hasn’t had much education.
‘The fort was open to public earlier. Some 3 or 4 years ago it was closed. It was transferred from the government back to the erstwhile raja,’ he tells me. This is news. Normally such places of heritage are transferred to the government when they can no longer be maintained privately.
‘There are lots of things to see inside. It’s worth a look,’ he continues. This rekindles in me a disappointment that I thought I had buried with aplomb.
‘It does open for three days in September – 21st, 22nd and 23rd,’ tells the bhel puri man.
Tourism in India is mostly confined to popular locations. When you get off the beaten track, lack of information can often mean a long journey all for nothing. The best way to deal with this is to not expect fireworks but simply embrace the reality of India.
I find an Internet center on my way back to the bus stand. I blog for a couple of hours on my earlier travels in Uttar Pradesh. I haven’t been blogging on a regular basis. While I am blogging, the owner offers me a cup of tea. You can never tell when and in what form hospitality will come.