I arrive at Roopnagar quite late last night. As far as I can see there are only two hotels close to the bus stand. The first one is too posh for my budget. The second one quotes close to Rs. 400 per night. Perhaps I will take this but I am having second thoughts.
‘If you hesitate, even this room may be taken up,’ advises me the manager. ‘This is the last room we have.’
But I will not be rushed into taking a hasty decision. I don’t like the place that much. It is rather dingy-looking. It would be quite a miracle to come up with a cheerful hotel in dingy surroundings. This is true of most places in India. This makes every luxury in India rather out of place. I let it go and return to the road for more options. Actually there are none.
A few paces down the road I find a dharamshala. Just what I needed. I enter through the gateway, walk along the passage until I arrive at a typical quadrangle surrounded by rooms. Rooms are on two levels, the second level standing half-finished but already occupied by visitors. To one side on the ground level are toilets and bathrooms. A cement water tank stands in a corner. In the verandah to my right, reclined on a cot, is a huge guy.
This guy is huge and obscenely obese. By my estimate, he would weigh 250 kgs easily. His dress hardly fits him. His stomach is like a cauldron. His waist seems to bulge out in all directions. Thick lumps of fat cover his face and hang under his chin. Any movement he makes disturbs his fatty constituents into lumpy waves. He can hardly move. When he turns, the cot creaks in agony. When he attempts to lift his head, it is an exertion to his neck muscles. He looks at him as if to question.
‘I would like a room,’ I tell him.
‘You are alone?’ he asks in a low smooth voice.
He considers the response for a while and measures his next question, ‘How long will you stay?’
‘Only for one night,’ I tell him. ‘I’ll be gone in the morning.’
He considers this once more. There is no way to tell at the moment if this guy likes long-staying guests in preference to one night stands.
‘Fir kabi nahi aaoge?’ he asks with concern in his voice. I consider this myself. Will I ever come to Ropar again? Am I likely to spend another night here? Unlikely but only time will tell.
‘I might come to Ropar again on a separate trip,’ I reply with vain hope. ‘I will visit you then.’
He is satisfied. The room is given for Rs. 100. I am quite aware that I cannot expect any luxuries here. In the morning I walk around town but the main interest for me is the museum at the site of old excavated ruins. A huge grassy mound can be seen hidden behind some trees. I go up a flight of stairs. From the top of the mound the entire town is visible. This must be the place where the first Aryans settled some 3000 years ago, perhaps even earlier. Scattered brickwork of these ancient civilization can be seen.
On this morning, only one guy is sitting in a shade reclined against a wall. I wonder what he is doing so early in the morning. I walk past him and discover his secret. He is on his mobile. An open text book is spread out before him. He is reading out answers from the book. Thanks to modern technology, some student somewhere is cheating.
At the museum, I pick up a colourful pamphlet about the collection. It is in Hindi since they have run out of English versions. The collection is small but nicely organized with lots of informative descriptions. I learn a great deal about beads, necklaces, pottery and terracotta objects from various periods – Harappan, Painted Greyware Period, Northern Black Polished Ware Period, Sunga Period and Gupta Period. Among the prized exhibits are a terracotta woman with a lyre and a medallion with a griffin in relief. Among the pots are unique decorative styles. Some sport geometric lines and patterns as incisions while others display surface moulding. Such mouldings are scales or honeycombs to name a couple. These are part of what is known as wetware technique, done with fingers when the clay is still wet.
Yet another truly amazing find at this site, evidently a site occupied since the Harappan Period, is what is called a ring-well. There is a photograph in the museum that shows this at the time of excavation. Apparently this well, formed by stacking terracotta rings, was used to channel harvested rainwater into a tank. Probably many such wells were built. For an early civilization this is remarkable development.