Mehrauli, my birthplace, is famous for Qutab Minar; a monumental stone tower. UNESCO recognizes it as a World Heritage Site. I used to study in a school very close to this magnificent tower and it was a routine for schoolkids to use Qutab Minar premises for play, walk and lunching venue during the recess. That was a time when Qutab Minar did not get even a fraction of tourists as it gets now. For us, the schoolkids, Qutab complex was like a thoroughfare. No checks, no tickets, no metal detectors. The tower and other smaller monuments within the complex were as spectacular but not as clean as they look now. Things have changed in the Qutab complex.
The other day I visited the complex after nearly a decade and a half. A friend of mine wanted to visit the site. I met her and her brother at the entrance of complex. Now one has to buy a ticket of Rs. 10 to set foot inside the walls (foreigners have to pay Rs. 250 per person). The crowd movement is incessant. School buses, tour buses and private vehicles can be seen arriving all the time at the gate. Security check is also there but for the namesake only. Inside, the parks are lush and well kept.
The renovation work which used to go on without a break when I was a kid has been completed and now Qutab Minar stands full and tall in the middle of the premises. I was glad to see that the entire site has now been made wheelchair accessible with ramps connecting all the interesting places. Photography is allowed. Photography is free —but for videography one has to pay a nominal amount. The second most famous thing in the premises is the Iron Pillar. This ages old pillar is now showing signs of… er… age —though I don’t remember exactly how it looked when I last saw it. The third famous structure is called Alaai Minar —the stump of a dream tower that could never be completed. Alauddin Khilji began building Alai Minar and conceived it to be double in height in comparison of Qutab Minar. But when the Sultan died, the project came to a halt.
Well, it was a nostalgic experience to visit the Qutab complex which once was part of my daily life!