The Serai of Nurmahal, Punjab, India.
Art finds the artist. Artist finds the art. The bond brings each other close. They meet. February 11, 2022, I found myself surrounded with 140 rooms, which must have held so many art and artist stories. The gate had no one sitting in the Jharoka’s looking for merchants, artists, traders this time. But, the carved elephants of the oriental architecture welcomed me.
The ‘Serai’ as the people of the neighbourhood call it. It means a ‘resting place’, as one of the people, doing the entry work told me. It was commissioned by Nur Jahan, Emperor Jehangir’s wife in 1620’s who had an interest in the Arts and Architecture. The place reflects it pretty well. The Serai was constructed between the travel route from Agra to Lahore and vice versa.
A home to many stories, the place itself is a storyteller. The moment you enter from the gate, you look, left, right, in front, all you see is the arch shaped rooms, with Taaks in it. That too in symmetry. Sunlight comes in some rooms, as if made for the privileged and some darkened, with no hopes. The Serai also has a mosque, with a dried well now. It somehow feels as if it has lost touch. For my company, there were musical storytellers, parrots. Three parrots clinged to a particular place, speaking to each other. I walked around, wondering what an artist would have been in those times.
While strolling, my eyes went to the lock. It seemed unusual. The nut and bolt. It seemed different. The next room had a door, V B written on it. It was a classroom. The place had been transformed into a school too, which was also a police station at some point of time. Now, parrots live here. With me, they left their place. They flew in the sky, I walked on the old bricks. I stopped, they stopped, taking their places on a tree.
They started talking, I started listening. Now I wonder, where was the third parrot? Lost, in it’s own world, like the serai is lost in it’s own...
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