Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal to house the tomb of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. And more than three-and-a-half centuries later, an 80-year-old man from Bulandshahr is building another one in memory of his late 'Begum'.
Faizul Hasan Qadri, a retired postmaster from Kaser Kalan village (around 50km from Bulandshahr in western Uttar Pradesh), married Tajamulli in 1953.
Fifty-eight years later when Tajamulli Begum died due to throat cancer in 2011, Qadri devoted all his finances in setting up a 'mini Taj Mahal' - a structure to embody his love for her. But time is slowly ticking away for the retired postmaster.
Qadri started the construction of the mini Taj right after wife Tajamulli death.
Three years later, the construction came to a halt as the grieving man had no finances left to complete the most treasured gift for his late wife.
"Initially, I sold a piece of land for Rs 6 lakh and my wife's gold and silver jewellery for Rs 1.5 lakh and got the 'makbara' (mausoleum) constructed with the help of a local mason named Asgar. A total of Rs 11 lakh was spent, but now I have to get marble studded on the monument and also to build a lush green park around it, both of which is likely to cost me another Rs 6-7 lakh," Qadri said.
After his wife's death, Qadri buried her on his agricultural land, and then later began the construction.
Qadri has a little space reserved right next to his wife's grave in the mausoleum where he wishes to be buried after his death.
"Asgar prepared the dome and constructed the four 'minars' around the central building, which is a little more than 27-feet in height. The structure is built on my own land and I have also tried to plant some trees around it and have a small water body at the back side of the building. However, work has mostly been held up due to finances as marble costs are high. A number of people have offered me money that I have refused to accept so far. This is my personal endeavour for my late wife and embodies my love for her. So I should do this on my own," he added.
The old man was recently called for a meeting with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow which he very eagerly is looking forward to.
"The chief minister wants to meet Qadri to appreciate his efforts and to offer some financial help so that he can complete his unfinished building," said additional district magistrate Vishal Singh. Qadri, however, said he was planning his finances on his own and would not like to take any help from the CM.
The idea of the monument, he claims, came to him while he and his wife were once wondering if anyone would ever remember them after their death.
"I will go to meet him (Akhilesh Yadav) and will request him to get my village school recognized by the education board rather," he said.
Qadri's half finished monument is already famous among residents as the mini Taj Mahal with locals flocking from far off areas often to catch a glimpse of his royal monument.
"I travelled almost 25 km with my friends just to get a glimpse of this structure. The efforts put in by him is really commendable," said Zakir Ali, a resident of Pahasu.
Qadri now spends most of his time inside his new house, which is next to his Taj.
The idea of the monument, Qadri claims, came to him while he and his wife were once wondering if anyone would ever remember them after their death.
"The doctors initially treated my wife for an ear ailment and could not find any traces of throat cancer. Later I took her to Aligarh Medical College where the doctors told me that she was suffering from throat cancer and had no strength to bear the effects of chemotherapy. We moved in to a plot of agricultural land outside the village. I got a new house constructed for her," he said.
"I have told my brother to bury me here by the side of my wife. I have deposited the fees with the Wakf board also. Everything that comes has to go away some day. My wife is dead. I will also die some day. The monument too might not stand forever. I just wish to see it complete before I die," he adds.
(All photos by Burhaan Kinu of Hindustan Times)