Qutub Minar – why I took 12 years to visit a must-see place in Delhi

Categories Travel

You can say it is entirely my fault, I can agree and that will be the end of that. But it is not in my nature to agree with others. Heck, I have a hard time agreeing with myself without a tough fight.

So, my defense is that it’s not my fault but the way we think about travel should be blamed. When we think of travelling, we think of it in terms of miles, we ponder how we will reach there and how many days of leave we will need. If we think of visiting a religious place, a monument or a lake etc., we think outwards, starting from the limits of the city we live in.

People from Delhi think of Agra, Jaipur or a hill station and vice versa. Most of my Delhi born friends who have spent nearly three decades in the city have never been to Red Fort and don’t know about the amazing Light and Sound show there. If you think they don’t like Red Fort, they have not been to the Qutub Minar or the Tughlaqabad Fort. And, I know of people in Agra who have never been to Taj Mahal.

So, why do we have such apathy for tourist places close to us? Is it mostly because they are tourist places? The inhabitants of the city have a mental map in which such places are highlighted with red flags branding them as places for outsiders. Given how territorial we humans are, it becomes easy to slight them as the reason behind all the nuisance.

Another very important reason can be indifference. We can’t be too excited about something that’s just half an hour’s drive away from us – we can go there anytime we want. Just that we never do.

But when we do, we realise the stupidity. We also realise how lucky we are to live close to places that people in some other part of the world dream of visiting. Precisely why, I have made a point of travelling my own city in a more interested and planned manner.

I went to Humayun’s Tomb on a cloudy afternoon in late winters. It’s less than three miles from my home and clearly, I was not prepared for it. I had seen photos but they never tell you it’s so grand and the grounds with all the ruins take hours to walk. I took some really bad photos but that’s the point – go, see it yourself.

On another cloudy afternoon, we went to the Qutub Minar. I dutifully repeated the compulsive self-loathing, childish running around and confused blabber about people being indifferent to their own backyard. Now, my wife is writing down the do’s and don’ts for our next outing but I don’t mind that so long as we are going out.

Imagine living twelve years just half an hour away from this place –

Qutub Minar Delhi

Yup, that place is just half an hour from my place. You must be jealous and I must be an ass not to have gone there earlier.

Qutub Minar history

There are these elaborately written plaques all over. And, I made a mistake. You get audio guide rentals that explains each of these monuments. It’s cheap and you can get it right at the entrance. I missed it in all the excitement when I was entering. Then I saw quite a lot of people with ear pieces and a long device in their hands and I knew I was missing something.

balconies of qutub minar

Imagine people standing in one these balconies a few centuries earlier. I have a serious case of vertigo. So, I panicked when I looked up and I panicked again when I imagined people standing in these balconies and looking down. A few years back you could climb up there, thank God it is not allowed now.

Qutub Minar scrolls

ASI markings on Qutub Minar

I don’t know what the ASI marking mean, but I suspect these pieces were damaged and have been replaced by ASI.

Qutub Minar history

Yes, Taj Mahal is taller. You seriously got my goat there!

Alai Minar

Oh, destiny! Qutub Minar was started by an emperor who died shortly after and was finished by his offsprings. Alai Minar, which was planned to be twice as tall as Qutub, was started by another emperor who died shortly thereafter. But no one cared to finish it.

Alai Minar history

Allaudin Khalji tomb

Shortly before I took this shot, a few giggling girls and women were sitting all over this and were posing for pictures. Did they know there is a dead guy in there? In fact, not a guy..an emperor.

college and tomb of Allaudin Khalji

parrots at Qutub minar

Did you spot the parrots at the top?

Iltutmish grave

grave of Iltutmish at Qutub Minar

This is one of the most glorious graves there. And, he had the sense to build a tall one. Go climb on that and pose, girls!

Iltutmish grave interior

Inside grave of Iltutmish

Prayer wall inside Iltutmish grave

arches at qutub minar

mosque pillars at Qutub Minar

ASI at Qutub Minar

tomb of Imam Zamin

tomb of Imam Zamin

sunset at Qutub Minar

  • zahra

    Wow, you’ve never been to Qutub Minar?! Even I’ve been to
    Qutub Minar. We went as part of a bus sightseeing tour, a rather long time ago.
    So, it is slightly vague in the memory. Another place I remember seeing is Lotus
    Temple. I thought it was really pretty and peaceful. And I do like the fact
    that it’s shaped like a flower!

     

    But, yes, I agree with you. I live in (arguably) the
    greatest city in the world. But have I seen all there is to see? Err… no. I think
    it is a common situation that people all over the world (especially if you live
    in a large city) find themselves in. I think it has a lot to do with apathy,
    taking things for granted. But fundamentally: this is the place that a person lives.
    This is where they have to study, work, and commute, do the shopping, pay the
    bills, visit the doctor etc. Isn’t that why people go on holiday: to get away
    from it all?

     

    Here, I have been to most of the “touristy” places as part
    of school trips and when guests come from abroad. But there are a lot of sights
    that I haven’t seen. There are many places I haven’t been to since I was a
    child, and I have often thought that it’d be really nice to visit them again. Recently,
    I went on a sightseeing tour of my city. Again, it was something I had thought
    of doing. It was really interesting: you get to listen to the commentary, the
    history, see this, that and the other and go to places that you wouldn’t
    normally go.

     

    It is about making the time. But it’ll be time worth spent.

    • That’s exactly what I was trying to say. After running to the hill stations, beaches etc, I realised we are trying to get out of the city at every opportunity. And, so many people come to see Delhi. It has been great so far.

      It’s quite interesting to see your own city with new eyes. While I was doing my course work on urban sociology, I read a paper about how walking changes your perception of the city’s geography. So, we started walking really long distances through normal streets, alleyways, underpasses we had never seen before. It was a strange experience, to say the least. We had never been to the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium which is close, we didn’t know there was such a huge Masjid so near and we had never been so afraid of dark passages so close to our home.

      I guess travelling far is great but not always possible. So, why not travel near. And you do live in a great city…don’t tell me you are not making the best of it. I won’t be satisfied even if I spend a month in London. Wake up…go somewhere. Let me read up and prepare a plan for you 🙂