Qissa Haveli Ka- A Tale of my Husband’s Ancestral House within the Pink City

Day 17 (Q) ~ #BlogchatterA2Z

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(This post is a first-person narrative from my husband’s point of view, keeping in mind his childhood in Jaipur. He’s often told me stories about it and shown me his family haveli.)

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Haveli in Pink City

Article about my husband’s family house and the Independence movement.

“अंग्रेजों से बचकर यहां छिपे थे भगत सिंह और चंद्रशेखर आजाद,”

Jaipur can be truly experienced within the walled Pink city, in the labyrinthine streets, quirky shops, ever present view of Amer in the distance, and the colorful banners. And, one cannot miss the uniform pink color of all the houses. There’s a story behind the Pink city.

In 1876, Prince Albert  was supposed to tour India.  To impress the prince, Maharajah Sawai Ram Singh II got the entire city painted in terracotta pink (a color which denotes hospitality). Such was his wealth and power, that all his subjects obeyed the order. Obtained from a calcium oxide compound, this soothing pink shade gives the city a very warm and earthy feel. The Maharajah also constructed an ornate Memorial to honor the prince.

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Albert Memorial

The walled city resists life within to advance further. Its people and their lifestyles seem to remain unchanged – walking up to the nearest Kachori shop, chatting leisurely at a sugarcane juice shop, or visiting the century old temples. Navigating a narrow gully full of cattle (who have a life and mood of their own) and randomly parked vehicles- mostly cycles. The soul of this old city has remained the same for decades.

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A house in Jaipur, Pink City

Growing up in this city, I used to frequent our old haveli, situated in Baba Harishchandra Marg, Chandpole Bazar. The actual haveli is inside a dark sub-gully called Shivnarayan Mishra ki Gali. You would typically look for Sampat Kachori shop and take the dark alley next to it, few steps, musty air, and unintended falls (uneven stone path) later, you would see a huge wooden door on the right with metal latches as old as time itself. You push the door and it almost revolts with all its remaining life. You enter the main compound which is like a small parking lot, with stairs going up on one side, and some dark chambered rooms on the other. The stairs go up from different directions, through very narrow and uncomfortably steep steps that take you to more bizarre rooms upstairs.

Our haveli has all the quintessential elements of Havelis of Rajasthan – a courtyard, the narrow walls that support the courtyard scheme, ornate art on the walls, heavy use of limestone and gravel. Strange corners add character to the house. A semi-terrace which didn’t seem to serve any other purpose than catch lost kites, or lost cricket balls. A makeshift toilet. Few open areas on the second floor that caught sunlight and allowed one to do a mini picnic of eating guavas in winters or even play cricket.

We had a long room that almost felt like running into nothingness at the other end. I faintly remember entering that long room (tehkhana/surang, as we used to call it) at times and getting scared out of my wits. The archaic bulbs and ancient switchboards added to the mystery. Even if you light up a bulb, it would, like any other self-respecting small town dweller, keep its ambition low. And light up only a small area of the Tehkhana, as is his wont.

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Colorful homes …. (Art by Seema Misra, Copyright LonelyCanopy)

The musty smell was a constant feature. My childhood memories are attached to this smell, and then few. Like running down to buy kachoris if any guest came. Since the famous shop was close-by, we followed the golden rule of “always eating fresh”. It kept us healthy, the frequent trips on the staircase. Waiting for the India Today magazine to arrive every month, and the excitement of reading it. In more fortunate times, we would get our hands on a Sportstar as well. The bickering with age old neighbors over kites. Playing cricket with a cork ball that made the century old walled structure vibrate in protest, and earned us some unwelcome comments. Buying a new cassette and listening to it in old-school tape recorders; arguing over whether it was a good buy.

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Sampath Ki Kachori

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One vivid theme of living here was the constant confrontation of the old and new. Gazettes were few and far between, and used to fill us with a sense of wonder which can’t be re-imagined in these times of overabundance and embarrassment of riches.

In festivals such as Sankranti or Diwali the place felt less haunted, with lights adorning every corner. Especially during Sankranti, the haveli used to come alive, with sounds, screams and colorful kites all around.

As a kid my biggest fear was falling in the dark space between two havelis from the topmost terrace. It was all the more risky as the terrace wasn’t too big, and the boundary walls were quite low. Anyone who has done kite flying can attest to the maddening level of concentration kites can make you addicted to. Though my elders would do this routine almost sage-like, I often found it tough. Instead, I looked around and observed the other elements – screaming people, music playing on some terrace, different sizes and masses of people all around, smell of pakodas or some such exotic food, the strange cacophony of it all, a sky full of kites, and the few birds jostling for their rightful space …

Coming back to the dark space, let’s call it the black hole of the haveli, we would often see kites fall into it. It was so dark that the kite would become invisible after some time, almost like a spaceship entering a time warp in a Star Trek episode. Till date, I have nightmares of fears instilled from a very young age living and visiting that haveli.

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Art by Seema Misra, Copyright LonelyCanopy

59 thoughts on “Qissa Haveli Ka- A Tale of my Husband’s Ancestral House within the Pink City

  1. I have never seen a haveli except in a movie. Really enjoyed the vivid description. Your use of water colours is exceptional. Brilliant work. The newspaper painting is the best.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Seema..lovely post. I belong to Jaipur and the description of narrow streets, nook and corners of the old city is wonderful. I never really lived there but went there numerous times with family and friends. Loved it. Beautiful artwork!!
    -Surbhi

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Surbhi 🙂 Glad someone from the place likes my artwork. All the descriptions are thanks to my husband … in fact, because of him, I have enjoyed so many nooks and corners of Jaipur.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice to see the comments here. It was memorable indeed to live in Jaipur and seeing the life within the walled city. It had its own rhythm and moments, and it is nice to relive them now, and share through this wonderful medium, and Seema’s artwork have brought them alive.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Iain. Yes, I’ve sold several of my paintings and take up digital and traditional art and illustration projects.

      If you or anyone you know anyone who to buy prints or has some illustration requirements, do get in touch 🙂 You can email me at simz.at@gmail.com

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This story brought to mind so many bitter sweet memories buried long ago…
    and the bitter sweet and dark notes continue throughout.. I feel there’s no other place on earth s beautiful as Rajasthan and its havelis and came here expecting to read about that.. but just like the only Rajasthan trip I have made, you go looking for sights, you discover bits of you… Loved how the author has drawn parallel between a light bulb and a small town wallflower

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Deepti … Rajasthan is indeed a beautiful place. Travel, I feel is like a relationship, it takes a bit of you … something that’s changed forever and hence the bitter sweet feeling of it all!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never been to Jaipur. Reading this post about childhood memories of haveli was very pleasing. And that painting on newspapers is very beautiful, offbeat and looks awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The two of you really brought this place alive in my mind. I have never been to India and I likely will never get out to it so I relish these sorts of descriptions. I also love the accompanying artwork. I love learning about cultures that are foreign to me, as it informs my writing and helps me create better fantasy worlds.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. More than the text, its the illustrations that have captivated me- kudos on them Seema.
    I had a few initial years of growing up in Jaipur and can relate to the kite flying fever and nukti ke laddoo used to be a hot favourite of mine too. Then there is mishri mava, gulan shakari and pheni – all particular of Jaipur as I havent eaten or even heard of them anywhere else.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. Yes, Jaipur is a foodie’s esp. sweet-lovers’ paradise. From what I have seen and heard, there are festivals all round the year, and each festival has a special food item associated with it. People revel in these little sources of happiness and the culture and tradition of eating and celebrating together stay alive through generations.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Seema, thank you for visiting my blog and your lovely comments on my posts!! This is my first visit to your blog as well and your post as well as the absolutely stunning artwork brought back lovely memories of our trip to the Pink City two summers ago..
    I am inspired now to do some artwork on newspaper (or otherwise also)…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Beautiful piece of writing but I am truly in awe of your paintings. I have visited Jaipur twice and love the city. Your Art on the newspaper is just wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

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