A lone voice speaking for the dead

” They have given Rs. 50,000 for a garden. But the gardens will not help this place. What will a garden do? Encourage couples; families may come to picnic. These tombs have been around for 200 years. If they need to survive for another 200 the government must do something”, Rehmatullah finishes the self-initiated lecture.

“Do a lot of people come here?”Arvind asks while at the same time casually photographing the lattice work on the walls.

“Yes everyday they come. They come from all countries. They write their name and country in the guest book.I take it to the government official and tell them, see how many people come here. We need more money for maintenance and repair.IAS officer, Rajat Kumar came forward to help this place but in 2 weeks he was transferred!”

I walk away from them. Not out of disinterest. But hindi is not a language I can follow clearly and especially not when spoken fast.

As I stop at a distance to peep through the cement screens into the tombs that form part of the Paigah complex, I still hear the passion of Rehmatullah. Even without the luxury of  a satisfactory hindi vocabulary I know he is still talking about the conservation of the 200-year-old heritage site that comprises of the Paigah tombs.

The truth is that not many people know of the existence of these tombs. You might think that the AP tourism board would have taken care of that already! That is in all honesty far from the truth. A sign by the tourism board has  an arrow pointing in the direction of  Engine Bowli. Next to the arrow it is written Paigah Tombs 1 km, when  in fact you should take a U turn at that sign  and travel about 4 km in the opposite direction if you want to get anywhere close to the Paigah Tombs.

“Rehmatullah has been taking care of this place for 40 years”,the guard appointed by the Archaeological Survey of India to the tombs tells us.

“Before him, his father took care of the place.Everyday he is calling government people, meeting people with money to get some money for the restoration of the tombs.”

“Why don’t people know of this place?” I ask. “We asked a lot of people and no one seemed to know about the place”.

“It’s not that they don’t know. They don’t want you to come. Because if people start coming then government will have to make roads and the people will lose houses since they have built their houses on the roads.”

Arvind and I give each other knowing looks. That explained a lot of things, like having to ride through people’s backyards to get to the tombs, the presence of shelves, bathrooms and other house hold goods in and around some tomb structures and most importantly why people living next to the site did not seem to know the way to the tombs.

Sitting among the dead it seems that only Rehmatullah  really cares about what happens to the dead rotting 6 feet below delicately carved marble tombs.

If the government does not extend a hand to restore the falling structure the fate of this place after Rehmatullah’s time will be sealed forever.

In Rehmatullah’s words,”We may not be there tomorrow but these have to remain forever..thats our only hope.”

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