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CATASTROPHE OF THE NAWABS OF AWADH

Ravaged walls and doomed structures have so many tales to tell if only someone is all ears.

Many of us must have visited the plush Malcha Marg having known very little about the existence of the relic that is situated in Delhi's southern ridge. Malcha Mahal, one of the many hunting lodges built across the capital by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1335, hardly a five-minute drive through the dense forest. The drive that felt like macabre taking you to a century backward, albeit. There was a certain eeriness as the air was filled with the chatters of monkeys from almost everywhere accompanying with hound dogs welcoming us at the entrance itself. My comrade this time is my 17 years old son, who is always up for an adventure, perhaps we chose to compromise on our safety, while tripping down towards the forest despite reading the warning. A long winding drive through the canopied road led us to the dead-end where Delhi Earth Station is situated. We looked around, however, there was no trace of any monument. After enquiring from the guard at the Earth Station we were directed towards the right side where trees grew taller than the monument. As we both jumped over the wired entrance, hurting myself a little and then reading the signboard that read, "Entrance Strictly Forbidden-The Raj House of Oudh" next to it was a warning "Cautious of hound dogs," I was resistant to move further while my son insisted me not to leave the story unheard. Paving our way through the steep, rocky path we could finally see Malcha Mahal with enormous arched doorways. A basic but robust giant like structure since it was not a princely abode but just a hunting lodge of Tughlaqs.

As we maneuvred through the stairs that led to a hallway, the condition was distressing. Bats all over dangling through the ceiling and every corner littered, walls were crumbling, how could have someone spent an entire lifetime in the living hell? I still wonder while writing the blog. I have been rock-ribbed however, I shuddered to go further to the rooms that were reeking of bats to click enough shots. Scratching and flapping of roosted bats on the attics made it even worse, I felt creep and couldn’t hold myself there. Pardon me for that, the spookiest place I have ever visited not because of any paranormal activity but because there is a lamenting story that the relic sings the blues about.

The Princess, Wilayat Mahal, great-granddaughter of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, who was the last Nawab of Awadh, in the 70’s came to Delhi from Pakistan with her two children, an army of ferocious dogs and her seven servants and stayed in the first-class waiting room at Delhi Railway Station. Her purpose was to humiliate the government for not returning her ancestral property that was seized by the Britishers, a century ago. After almost past a decade, fighting tooth and nail with the government, The Prime Minister of that time, Mrs Indira Gandhi intervened in the matter and tried to resolve it by proposing to Princess few places out of which she agreed to move to Malcha Mahal only with a promise to refurbish the place and to make it liveable. However, nothing at all was done once they relocated from the railway station as though, motive was only to evict the family from waiting lodge. They were supplied with a tanker of water once in every month that they stored in concrete tanks where lizards and insects bred, don’t know how they must have survived all through these years. Hit by acute depression and with no courage to fight with the government and her own fatal destiny, at the age of 56 Princess Wilayat Mahal committed suicide by consuming crushed diamonds. With years passing by, living in a dungeon, the number of dogs and servants went down and later in 2014 her daughter Princess Sakina died. Surviving for few more years of isolation by November 2017, the last successor of the legacy, Prince Ali Raza also succumbed to meagre living conditions. My mind could not even fathom that someone could have lived inside a lodge that was open from all sides with absolutely no doors, no water, no electricity, perhaps covered only with creepers and hedges as the saving grace.

We all must have heard many haunted stories, this one being unique is because it is not spooked by ghosts but speaks of the heart-wrenching story of Awadhs, who from being Nawabs ended their legacy as paupers. Usually, it’s the contrivance, the plot that is set on the ground of imagination that draw our attention. This story, however, piqued my curiosity and touched me to the core as till 2017, the place was home to the Prince of Awadh and not domiciled by ghosts. No, not even today the deceased royal family wake up from the slumber to scare you. That is what makes this place a must-visit, an eye-opening experience and looking straight in the horrifying eyes of fate. Experience how life turns you down when the power lies solely with money. If you happen to visit Malcha Mahal, spare some five minutes to enjoy the expanse and breeze from the roof-top. Sit and introspect your life, you would find many answers to the harsh reality of the gruesome world.

FAQ’S when visiting Malcha Mahal

Timings: Visit during broad daylight as it is deep inside the dense forest.

Address: Southern Ridge, Delhi (near Chanakya Puri)

Entry Fee: Free

Nearest Metro Station: Dhaula Kuan, from there you can take a cab. You can also go by your own car, enough space for parking.

Facilities: You must carry your own water or food and beware of monkeys. No loo around the vicinity but then you are deep in the forest so you always have an option :-D

PS: Darr ke aage jeet hai.

I am glad that I shoved off my skepticism and explored Malcha Mahal from inside, one of the greatest learnings of life that I am carrying with me from here.

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--- Published By  Shradha Mehra