I had a conversation with someone yesterday that went something like this.
Me: I really want to go back and see Sadras. There is so much more to see in that fort.
X: Sadras? Where is that?
Me: Behind the Kalpakkam Atomic Power station.
X: Oh! That old building? Yeah! I know of it. I have been there…we used to use it as a bar, since you don’t have one inside Kalpakkam!
Me: What the F***?
This kind of an attitude pains me. My heart breaks when I see a part of my history and my culture being used as open-air urinals and bars. Such monuments of historical importance are meant to be valued, cherished and protected. I was always under the impression that it’s only people who were uneducated and uncouth did this kind of thing. But my conversation with X effectively rid me of this perception. I now realize that smart, educated, urban young men (and women) are as ignorant of the value of such historical monuments as the uneducated village youth of my imagination.
Sadras is not the only fort to meet with this fate. Some time ago, there were ads by the Ministry of Tourism, as part of the Incredible India campaign to sensitize people to the value of their heritage. I honestly don’t think that has worked. I myself saw several empty beer bottles, plenty of plastic waste, and graffiti inside the Sadras fort. I remember pointing out a random declaration of love to Sriram and fuming at the mouth about it. I can only hope that at some point in the future, people will stop treating forts like Sadras as urinals and bars and start giving them the respect they really deserve.
After all, they are not just old, ruined buildings. They are a part of our culture and our heritage. They constitute bits and pieces of history using which we can rebuild the story of our past, brick by brick. When will people understand that?