You have been told that the Ahmednagar Fort is in possession of the army and the entry is prohibited for civilians. So you hover at the front gate content with photographing the tricolour fluttering in the cool evening breeze. Land around India is barren but the fort walls everywhere have forest growing on them. The sign boasts that it is one of the strongest forts of India. You are not sure – to you it looks puny and you have a good feeling you could knock down the gate with a kick.
Then you muster some courage and walk to the guard.
“Is it possible to have a look inside the fort”?
The guard is friendly.
“Yes, of course!”
You are elated.
“But the timings are till 1700”.
You look at your watch. It is 1715. Chand Bibi had taken much of your time. Dang. Your face falls.
“I like forts and I have come from Delhi. Is it possible if I can have a look inside for few minutes?
Dangling camera gives you the air of a kickass fort aficionado. Guard wants to help.
“What do you want to see”?
“Just want to walk around and take some photos”.
“Okay, why don’t you go see the Leaders' Building”?
“What is the Leaders' Building”?
“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders were imprisoned here”.
This is news to you. You can do all the wiki ing but real life throws surprises at you. What a break!
|Leaders' Building at Ahmednagar Fort|
You sign the register and the guard waves you towards the building. The fort is at ground level. Inside it are the standard military buildings and signage with some trucks rolling. And then you walk into this entrance to come into a courtyard with barrack like rooms on three sides. It is calm and quiet inside. Whenever you find yourself going back into time, the world becomes tranquil and clock stops ticking. The rustling leaves in the breeze lend charm to the place.
Each room has a sign on it – Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Acharya Kripalani. During the height of Quit India Movement, the British had imprisoned the top Indian National Congress leadership here in the Ahmednagar Fort in 1942. The imprisonment lasted for almost three years.
At the end of 20th month of confinement, Nehru started penning the classic Discovery of India. Solitude of prison gave enough creative time to look at India’s history from the Indus Valley Civilization to the then present British Empire. Presence of colleagues helped him discuss, revise and invite suggestions. The book was published upon his release.
|Pandit Nehru's Room at Ahmednagar Fort|
Walking into Nehru’s spartan room with stone floor is kind of humbling. You can actually imagine Nehru rocking on the easy chair or bent over the study table writing the book. Those were the people who sacrificed their years in prisons confident that their struggles will give birth to India of their dreams. They will be really disappointed with the present state of affairs.
|The original hand written manuscript of Discovery of India - Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi|
You thank the guard as you walk out of the time capsule into the indifferent scoffing real world. Coming back to Delhi, you order your copy of Discovery of India. One of these days you will finish reading it even as your own discovery of India continues. And yes, Aurangzeb died in the fort in 1707.
Getting There – Ahmednagar is 125 kms North-East of Pune. Fort is in the cantonment area of Ahmednagar city. Ralegaon Siddhi, Anna Hazare’s village is in Ahmednagar district.