Excerpts from my upcoming book Fireflies of Gulab Bagh and other Short Stories:-
Udaipur, the city of lakes is situated in the state of Rajasthan, India. It is a beautiful city with a rich heritage of the legendary warrior- Maharana Pratap, the erstwhile king of Mewar. It is also the city where many iconic movies were shot like the Bollywood movie Guide and the Hollywood James bond movie Octopussy.
The city is really beautiful or was beautiful during the seventies and earlier periods. It has beautiful lakes; all filled with water and could touch the brim during the rainy season. The city also has lots of mesmerising forts and palaces which speak about the royal grandeur that this city once enjoyed. And then there are the beautiful green parks all across the city. There is the ‘Sahalion ki Baadi’, the Nehru garden, the Town Hall Park and many more. But the biggest of them is the Gulab Bagh – the Rose Garden. It is situated at the north corner of the city. It is a huge public park and had a special garden only for Rose plants. This rose garden had a variety of roses in terms of colour and breed. Legend has it that at one point in time it even had Rose plants producing black roses!
The entrance has a huge green coloured iron gates. There are two lion statues carved out of stone atop both the pillars supporting the huge gates. The lions are painted yellow and their tongue painted red. This magnificent rose garden was built by Maharaja Sajjan Singh and is situated near the royal palace and on the east side of the lake known as Lake Pichhola. Within this garden, there is also a zoo which at one time had lions, tigers, leopards, bears, and many other wild animals including various kinds of bird species. The most spectacular part of Gulab Bagh was a public library in the middle of it with collections of ancient manuscripts and other books. This library was situated in the high ceiling building which was of Mewar style architecture and was painted in lemon yellow colour. It also had a reading room where newspapers, journals, and various magazines were kept.
The year was 1977. Just outside of the Gulab Bagh, there was the Garden Hotel. This place or the building belonged to the royal family who was known among the locals as ‘Durbar’. They now run this place as a tourist hotel. There was a small paan shop attached to the outer walls of the ‘Garden Hotel’ just adjacent to the main entrance of the hotel. A straight road ran in front of the GulabBagh gate with either side of the road having a housing colony. One was known as ‘Radha Niwas’ and the other one as ‘Kamla Badi’. These were middle-class localities where most of the households were engaged in services, either government or private, and some managing their small business or shops.
The Kamla Badi was bigger in terms of having more houses. Most of them were single-story, small to medium size bungalows except for a few which were of two stories. In terms of the overall area, Kamla Badi was more or less similar to Radha Niwas except that Radha Niwas was differently laid out. The entire area (land) of Radha Niwas belonged to four brothers, the Agarwals. The land was divided among the four brothers and each one got one portion also known locally as ‘Khet’(in local language land for ploughing or agriculture). They had built independent bungalows on the periphery of these four khets. They had a palatial three-story bungalow in one corner of these khets and rest of the houses, eight in all with two bungalows to each brother were all rented out. The khets were given on contract to a farmer annually. Among these eight bungalows of the Agarwals, two adjacent bungalows were rented out to the Mukherjee family and the Hopkins family respectively.
Please note: Book coming by end of 2020.