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A very real estate

An imaginary conversation among three people on what should be built on the disputed Babri Masjid site. Gopalkrishna Gandhi writes.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2011 12:58 IST
Gopalkrishna Gandhi

I do not know if the precincts of the high court in Lucknow have a garden and if that garden has maalis. I have simply assumed that to be the case for the following imaginary narration.

Waiting for the court’s pronouncement on the Ayodhya case, a reporter gets to talk to two gardeners, Yusuf and Raghu, in the grounds of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

Reporter: What do you think will be the verdict?

Raghu: What can it say? If it says mandir, then the masjidwalas will be cross…

Yusuf: And if it says masjid, the mandirwalas will not forgive it.

Reporter: But the court has to pass some order. But then if no one is satisfied, what is the use?

Yusuf: But then this is not just about individuals.

Raghu: It is about communities.

Reporter: Is it really about communities? Is the man on the street really bothered about whether there should be a mandir or the mosque should be re-built?

Raghu: I would say, the man in the street is bothered but within limits. The man in the street would like to see something done in Ayodhya, which satisfies pious people. But the man in the street wouldn’t want to either break anyone’s head for that or have his own head broken in the bargain.

Reporter: So, what according to you would ‘satisfy pious people’?

Raghu: Let us see… One side says, ‘You have broken our mosque’…

Yusuf: The other side jumps and says: ‘But you broke our temple before that…’

Raghu: The first side then says ‘… No, no it was already broken… in ruins…’

Yusuf: Then the other side says ‘… Let that be so, why did you have to build a mosque over that ruin or over any ruin…?’

Raghu: The first side then says ‘I did not… Babur did… and that was a long time ago…’

Yusuf: The other side then asks: ‘But was that right?’

Raghu: To which the first side says ‘I can’t answer that but was it right for the old mosque to be brought down now?’

Reporter: And so it goes on and on…

Yusuf: Yes, on and on.

Reporter: Think of a solution that would satisfy pious people.

Raghu: I’d say before anything else, there was soil, there was something growing on it, watered by the river. And plants grew on that soil, trees, flowering trees, fruit-bearing trees…

Yusuf: Khajur…

Raghu: Banyan…

Yusuf: Roses… There were streams there…

Raghu: And ponds…

Reporter: And so, what does that take us to?

Yusuf: There was peace... No one thought of ‘this is mine’.

Raghu: ‘No, no it is mine’.

Reporter: This is all very beautiful, but…

Yusuf: … what will satisfy pious people?

Raghu: The trouble is pious people are not just ‘pious’. They are also now…

Reporter: Influenced by others, by people with their own plans.

Yusuf: Exactly. The whole trouble starts from there.

Reporter: And so…?

Raghu: Back to your question?

Reporter: No, forward to some solution. Your solution, shall we say.

Yusuf: All right, let us say that there may have been a temple there… which may have been pulled down...

Raghu: Was pulled down…

Yusuf: And in its place a mosque built and was also pulled down... So now, let us say goodbye to all buildings there…

Raghu: No buildings?

Yusuf: Arey, how many buildings can you build on two or three acres anyway, especially, if each has to have some walking space around it for a decent garden…? You asked us your question as we are malis right? So, let us say let us have on the site on which stood a mosque and on which earlier stood a temple, what existed before those structures were built… what may have been seen by the devta…

Raghu: Ramchandraji.

Yusuf: Yes, Ramchandraji and his abba…

Raghu: Raja Dasrath.

Yusuf: Right, what those two might have seen…

Raghu: As is, if they were to come there now, they would recognise it as their own place…

Yusuf: Right. Let us plant at the centre of the site, right below the central dome… Let us plant… What would you suggest, Raghu?

Raghu: A huge banyan…

Yusuf: Barhiya! A great banyan, with many roots…

Raghu: It’ll grow slowly but grow great… it will give shade… shelter…

Reporter: I like the idea...

Raghu: The banyan, sending newer and ever newer roots which grow into trunks themselves and then send another generation of roots down, tells us about eternal life…

Yusuf: That should be at the centre of the site. Around it should be other trees...

Reporter: And not just trees but perhaps some flowering shrubs as well?

Raghu: The parijat, certainly. Such fragrance!

Yusuf: I would insist on the rose, all varieties of it.

Reporter: If we have the banyan and other trees with a wild look won’t the rose-lines look too… too streamlined?

Yusuf: Janab, life is like that, is it not, a little wild, a little in our hands…

Raghu: Let us have the banyan in the middle, with a scatter of trees all around it, the khajur trees on an elevation to the west so that they can be seen against the brilliantly changing lights at sunset, and in between them, not trimmed rows of roses but rose bushes so that we can see them in their own natural condition… And let us have on the opposite side, the east, tulsi bushes growing wild…

Reporter: I am entranced…

Raghu: Sir, look… the court seems to have given its decision…

Reporter: Heavens! I missed it…

Yusuf: That bearded gentleman there… he looks pleased!

Raghu: And that other bearded gentleman… He looks a little downcast.

Yusuf: Janab, now don’t you feel downcast at having missed the moment in the court. We have seen thousands of orders being given. This way and that. But the grass here, it never stops growing. The more the rose bush is trimmed, the more fragrant comes the flower.

Raghu: And oh yes, I forgot to say, we must have on the Ayodhya garden…

Reporter: Will there be one?

Raghu: Why not… some day… when everyone has had enough of buildings… I was saying we must have on that garden some sandalwood trees.

Yusuf: Absolutely… The axe that falls on it, janab… it gets scented. Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor

The views expressed by the author are personal