December 7, 2013 by freakychakra
After a lot many days I decided to push myself out of the self induced lethargy, out of the inertia and just move around. The daily routine had taken its toll on me. What was once a lean and mean structure was now struggling to fit into its once loyal clothing. The energy of the youth had been replaced by the pains and laziness characterizing a retired life. I just knew that I had to throw myself out of my 250 sq feet pigeon nest. I had to abandon visiting the world on website and feel the air and the soil myself.
Hence I just got up, had a bath, put on my shorts, tee and my pair of Woodlands. I slung the camera in my pocket, covered my ears with my Android powered Radio and set off to the world outside my room. I didn’t know where exactly would I be going. I had researched a bit or two about the long lost monuments of Mumbai — the forgotten forts… the ones who once protected the grandeur of the rulers of Mumbai and were today merely the suffering their fate at hands of a careless government and a socially amnesiac public. All along had been mentioned that the forts were surrounded today by slums and were not safe to visit. Fear was an inborn factor within me. But I knew that fear could become an excuse for a sin far more. I had to overcome fear and lethargy.. both. Hence, just kept walking !!!!
I boarded the locals to Sewri to visit the Sewri fort. My numerous trips to South Mumbai had always taken me via Sewri and all that I knew from these short sighted visits were that it was a place dotted with petroleum and oil products and actually a place like this in the midst of a population burstling city was actually a disaster waiting for an invitation. However, life here has a lesser value than even the worn out steel coins. So this was acceptable.
Anyways, my cynical thinking aside, I decided to venture into this petroleum complex and search for the hidden fort. After getting down at the station and venturing out, on the eastern part of Sewri I just felt like I had come to a remote village of India. There were a few taxis standing outside, no crowd (a rare sight in this city), lesser roads and some amount of constructions going on. After getting directions from the few trotting locals, I started my trek through the dusty sand covered paths. These paths directly led me to a slum, which later on gave way to a truck parking shed, which in turn opened up at the HPCL petroleum complex. This fifteen- twenty minutes trot led me to some weird complex of completely worn out underconstruction buildings. I was unable to understand if the buildings were being torn down or were being sewed up. Anyways, in the midst of these massive eye sores, stood a brightly painted white stoneway to the Dargah manning the entrance to the Sewri fort. I recognised this from my research on Google about this fort. Despite the hatred generated over the absence of any infrastructure my heart gave a smile that the fort had finally arrived.
I went up the stairs and came to the Dargah… And infront of me stood the vast sea…. I could very well see the Pink Flamingo Marshlands beyond and the Chembur Oil complex was easily visible from there. I aimed for my camera and started capturing these jaw dropping views, which are just a rare sight in the otherwise clutter of this concrete jungle.
I headed to the other side of the dargah and there stood the majestic fort………….well majestic is an exaggeration. The majesty has been robbed off by the people and the government through years of neglect. What stood infront of me was a badly restored concrete structure which might have once commanded the salute and the respect of the seas. History says that Britishers built this fort as a watchtower over the western shores. Today it just remained as a watchover to Pink Flamingoes coming up and down over the oil licked western shores lining the refinery complex.
The inside of the fort was a victim to the misunderstood love statements of the stupid, insane Indian lovers,who believe that engraving their names on historical complexes will make their love stories collated in the annals of history aka Heer-Ranjha etc. The fort was restructured by the government, a rare instance indeed. However, like most of the government actions in this country, it lacked sense and direction. The border walls were broken down. One side of the fort was just a mini garbage dump. No inscription could be found detailing out the history of this structure. And most importantly it didnt have any roads leading to it. As I said before… the only human infested road to the fort was gobbled up by slums.
You can have a wonderful view of Sewri skyline from one side of the fort while the other side overlooks the sea. The inner areas of the forts are today used by the nearby locals as their cricket pitches. Tourists are a rare sight here, mostly because of no knowledge of its existence and also due to an insecure environment having developed here due to absence of any governance infrastructure.
On one side of the fort are the dilapidated buildings, on the other side is an upcoming Colgate Palmolive factory. The third side overlooks the sea and the fourth side lurks in the shadows of ugly slums. History is a hated subject in India, and as Indians we are hardly aware of our history, leave alone being proud of it. And in such a situation, when we are ourselves chipping off the last remnants of our modern history, I don’t think there would be any proud moment for our future generations to look back upon.
I hope that someday, sometime all these lost monuments are dug back from the annals of neglect and are given a fresh dose of life. We can create museums in these monuments, levy fees for them. I am sure that learning about history in these historical places would make history come alive aka “The night at the museum ” kind.
If nothing else, I hope to be a part of something that will help me bring back the lost glory of these silent monuments slowly awaiting their death at the hands of an ungrateful citizen and a lame government. For more information about the fort you may always fall back on the ever reliable Wikipedia.