Thursday, November 20, 2008


Farrukhnagar, a town in Gurgaon was founded in mid 18th century by Faujdar Khan. The town was established with the intention to eliminate the dacoits attacking the travelers on their way to Rewari from Delhi. Faujdar khan was the governor appointed by emperor Farrukhsiyar, after whom the place was named. In 1738 A.D faujdar khan was honored by the title of nawab and carved a niche for himself in the history and development of this town. Nawab Ali Khan the last reminiscent of faujdar Khan’s family played an important role in the uprising of 1857. For revolting against Britishers he along with the nawab of Vallabhgarh and jajjhar was executed by hanging them on the tree in front of Red fort

In 1858 British confisticated Nawab’s property and this town.


Farrukhnagar, seen from a bird’s eye view is octagonal in shape. If one zooms in closer one finds“boundary walls” of old fort still standing tall, encircling and guarding the main residential area of the town. While getting down from main road and on entering one of the sub lanes, huge tall pointed arched shaped “Delhi Darwaaza” greets one and proclaims the entrance to farukhnagar.
One is at once struck by the vibrancy of market right in front of Dilli Darwaza. It is a place which shows Farrukhnagar is full of life. It reflects the daily needs of the residents of the area. The shops are bedecked with colourful clothes, designer jootis, mooras made out of straw. There are shops of electronic goods, tailor, mobile showrooms too. It is eleven thirty in the morning, shopkeepers are busy attending there customers and customers are busy striking the right deal with the shopkeepers. This is the most brisk time of the day for the market. It is not only the goods changing hands but it is the changing time in terms of culture and practice of the Farrukhnagar. Most of the shops have women as buyers in their colourful and traditional Ghaghra Kurti. Ask any shopkeeper in the market he will tell you that those days are numbered when men used to shop and women used sit at home. I saw one such match between shopkeeper and a woman customer.
How much is this,” the woman asked holding a saree in her hand.

500,” shopkeeper gave her the price.

And to my utter surprise woman quoted half the price,” 250.

As expected argument ensued between them. Ultimately woman won this bargaining match. I was watching the whole episode very intently. Although I did not see anything special in that but the dialogue between them was very interesting. Besides I was amused to see the confidence of that woman supposedly coming from a rural background.

It is the women who rule the Farukhnagar Market these days,” I heard someone saying this to me as if someone has caught my inquisitiveness towards the Farukhnagar market.

I turned towards the voice. And this is how I met Mr. Arora a grocery shop owner who is running his business in the Market for last 45 years.
Earlier …I mean to say 7- 8 years back you should not have seen these many women in the market,” Arora continued, shopping was the prerogative of men. Now the scene is changing fast. Urban culture is taking us over.

How,” I asked enquiringly

Well….earlier the customer had to bear the tantrums of the shopkeeper now it is vice versa. Because in past farmers used to do all their purchasing after harvesting season. They never paid cash. They bought everything on credit. Paid the due amount on every harvest. That was the time when business was neither this brisk nor competitive. Shopkeepers could go for a siesta and game of cards in the afternoon after a decent business in the morning.

Before sunset, around 4pm in the afternoon they used to call their day.
So early,” I asked “how are the things different now.
Now customers have cash in their pockets,” Arora continued, “they do not like to stop at one shop. If they not get the things of their choice they move to another shop. Now they have plenty of choice. Now shopkeepers have to pamper the customers, competition is so tough that forget about afternoon siesta, if a shopkeeper takes things too seriously, he may loose his sleep altogether. Now customer is the king.
Rather queen,” I said jokingly pointing at the women outnumbering men in the market.
Arora nodded and laughed.

But how things have changed, I asked “where has the locals got money from.

Earlier the mainstay of economy was farming, Arora continued, “but now many have taken up jobs, with the arrival of "Reliance" and other business groups in the area the price of property has gone high. Today land price is Rs 10,000 sq ft. Farmers have acres of land, they do not need to worry about anything.

Arora asks,” you must have noticed many shops of property dealers?

yes,” I nodded, “ and lot of shops of construction material also.

yes, new houses are being constructed everyday, lands are being sold on a high price, influx of cash is sudden,” Arora said,” this is how the culture of the town is changing. But you still have plenty of shops with old architectural features. Many shops still 3 or 5 chambers and antechambers which we call as "teen khan" or "panch khan". First chamber was used to display goods at the shop, where as rest were used as godowns.Armature of the shop was constructed out of bamboo poles. Walls were made out of mud, lime and stones and used to be 18inch or 24inch thick. Where as ceiling was prepared with mud and was covered with a thick layer of straw.

There I thought to take leave from Arora and explore the market on my own. And noticed despite all the changes taking place around there are many buildings and shops in the market with medieval feel in their form and design. They had corbelled arch, cchajja with brackets, niches, wooden doors with iron rings.

The shop which caught my eyes most was of “Ladies Beauty Parlor”. Interesting part was that billboard announces that it’s a parlor but when you look at the shop you can see a woman sitting on the floor and showing her customer bangles of different shapes and sizes. It was a open shop without any windows or doors and racks on the wall was filled with hair pins, combs, bangles, bindis and powder packets. She was selling these products under the board of beauty parlor. So you can imagine it was a beauty parlor with a difference. Out of all interesting things, I spotted the most interesting which was a “Photo Studio” named as R.K STUDIO.


A photographer is busy rushing from one hardware shop to another wood ware shop. He is busy selecting the color of sun mica for his desk table, looking for fancy lights, ordering for “glass sheets”, and picking up beautiful exterior frames. Refusing one, selecting other he is trying to design the “look” of his photo studio shop. Located amid the shops made out of straw roofs, tin shed, mud walls and bamboo poles, photographer’s shop stands apart not only in terms of “look” but also in profession. His competition with others is not about profession but about survival. As he is going to be the one and only photo studio owner in farukhnagar. His competitors are tea sellers, grocery shop owner, cloth vendors and tailors. They are not only critical of his profession but also tease him by inquiring about his plans of shutting the shop and leaving the town. He and his studio just doesn’t fit in the frame of this small town. This not only determines him for giving a modern get up to his shop but also to set the trend of photography in the town. He does so by cycling from one village to another advertising for his shop by putting self painted boards all over and rewarding his reluctant customers by clicking their free photographs during initial days. He edited people’s photograph by working with the needle like pencil on negatives and removed the scars, wrinkle and unwanted marks from their faces. Making them believe in the beauty of getting photographed. His skills of photography astonished people and encouraged them to capture their life’s moments on camera lens freezing into undying memory. After listening to the experiences of Mr Verma , the photographer I realized establishing a photo studio in farukhnagar is not unique but an interesting phenomenon too.


To turn leisure pursuit into obsession, Verma the photographer convinced people to unfetter their fantasies into reality in photostudio. He attracted people by getting them clicked in different states dresses and style, for e.g. Rajasthani or Kashmiri. Getting clicked in “Kashmiri dress” became trendy among couples who travelled on pilgrimage to Jammu. Couples who got themselves clicked used to conceal the photograph from the rest of the family as it was not meant for display. If somehow got caught parent in laws used to critically comment- Oh what a shame!!!!!! He is getting himself clicked with his wife. Slowly and gradually people fell in love with the risk involved in getting themselves clicked. And photostudio became a laboratory to experiments with the conventions. Photostudio became hit among women as it became the space to secretly wear make up and bellbots as both were thought to be the taboo in society. Verma learned more about his craft by watching films. He watched frames and compositions closely in the films and tried to capture people on his camera with different angle. He learned about “close ups” from hit hindi movies of his times and technically experimented by shooting brides in close ups. Not only “frames” but “backgrounds” also became important for technical and aesthetical details. Couples got themselves photographed in gardens, between flower fields (as in 70’s farukhnagar was famous for flowery), Bajara fields and even sometimes in buffalo stables.


Little was verma aware that not only him but also his customers are getting inspired from movies to gear up in different poses in front of camera. Influence of bollywood in 60s, 80s was so impactful that even if meant standing for hours at a shopkeeper’s shop every Sundays to watch a movie if one doesn’t have a TV set. People loved to internalize the character they saw on the big or small screen. Farukhnagar was no exception. Not only men but women were also trying to modify themselves by switching to the new fashion statements made by the heroines of their times. During 70s many movies were made on the heroic acts of dacoits and pirates which inspired many women in farukhnagar to get into the shoes of their favorite character and got clicked by holding a gun. Looking at one such photograph verma remembered that farukhnagar before partition had a tradition of making swords, military guns, knifes etc for Mughal army and later for Britishers. It was the Muslim artisans who practiced this occupation as they were good in martial artistry. With Muslims this profession also got wiped out at the time of partition. Weapons and heroism still flatter the inhabitants in farukhnagar. Because of which film sholay in 80s swiped away the earth beneath the feet of people in farukhnagar. To be photographed as a movie’s character became obsession. Good looking males became “basanti”, heavily built turned into “gabbar” where as other loved to get into the dress of “veru”. Holding Guns, wearing big and fake mustache, beard, this style of photography – realizing the fantasies – made photo studio the talk of the town.


Twilight of the evening is diffusing from the sky. Night is about to fall. People are returning from their backbreaking work at fields. Shutters of the shops were locked before sun could set. But still bazaar is alive by the thrilled voices coming from the corner of a bazaar where “game of cards “has reached its climax. Bulls and camels refresh themselves at pond refusing to take any more commands from their master.
This lethargic ambience breaks by the echo of a skilled voice coming from a near by house. A lively crowd of 200 people has gathered around a window of this house to hear evening news at 7pm of All India Radio. House belongs to no one but “bera”, the one and only Philips transistor owner. This is year 1970, place Farukhnagar. Before transistor the only source of entertainment available to locals was the religious “Swang”. It was the only occasion on which villagers got the chance to witness the religious epics and dance drama performed by local actors continuously for two or three nights. Female characters were mainly played by males. Soon repetitive performances of Swang were replaced by the variety of “Radio Stations” offered by Bera’s transistor. Bera earns his bread by making ‘moora’ but bought his toy of entertainment by selling rare seeds of ‘nut grass’ which he gathered through out the spring season. Nut grass is an expensive herb used in various medicines to cure many diseases. Transistor has turned bera into a celebrity overnight. But clever Bera never wanted to loose his moments of glory in the passing time. He wanted to leave something for the posterity like emperors do. And in order to achieve this he got himself clicked with the transistor.


Strolling around in Farukhnagar is like treading into the lanes of memories and the time bygone. Likewise one of the roads of Farukhnagar takes one straight in front of a building which evokes divine respect but it is difficult to relate that grand building to any particular religion. Apparently it looks like a mosque, you go closer to it you will find Gurudwara written on its entrance and out of curiosity you enter into the building to discover it is a temple. This is what Farukhnagar is. Even oneness of divine can be experienced here in a very simple manner. “Mosque is gurudwara and gurudwara is temple”. Seems like a line from the couplet of medieval saint Kabir Das. A mosque build by nawab Faujdar Khan turned into Gurudwara at the time of partition and today it has converted into mandir. Three domes and two minars are visible from the distance when one enters into the narrow lanes of bazaar. On inquiring about this particular mosque from the pan shop located in front of it I met Mr Murli Lal Saini, a septuagenarian though more agile than a youth. He is a very active resident of this town and had been a corporator as well as Sarpanch of Farukhnagar for many years. He had many stories to narrate about Farukhnagar. He told me enthusiastically that during the time of partition, riots broke out in farukhnagar and almost all the Muslims fled from this town. It was at that time that Punjabis from Pakistan came to farukhnagar for shelter and got settled here. For them a separate “katra” or colony was built whose wreck is still visible. Only façade of this katra remains while rest of the colony has been taken over by new local inhabitants. Along with homes they also required a place of worship. This mosque which got desolated after Muslims left was handed over to Punjabis by locals. Punjabi did not try to change the architecture of mosque in gurudwara as they were broke and did not have enough money to carry out the construction on such a grand scale. Hence “Gurugranth Sahib” was consecrated in the mosque and loudspeakers were fixed into the wall so that “Gurbani” can be heard every morning. Slowly the dust of differences settled and India started reconstructing itself as a free nation. Punjabis looking for opportunities left farukhngar and started establishing themselves in Delhi. Gurudwara was left abandoned. Till 90s nobody took interest in it but in 1995, it was converted into mandir. Gods were sanctified and bells on the entrance were hanged. But basic features of a Mosque were still intact.

Only in the latest past the ablution pond was filled with mud and grass was grown on it. Murari Lal adds,” “if somehow….(pointing towards the minarets) these “poles” are removed then no one can even recognize that it was a mosque .

On inquiring about the relationship between Hindus and Muslims before partition he said there are many temples in farukhnagar which are build on the land gifted by Muslim zamindars. He took me to “Kale Mahadev mandir” and panchayati mandir. According to local history Kale Mahadev Mandir is the oldest temple of farukhnagar. Almost 200yrs old. The exterior of the mandir was recently renovated by the locals. Black shiny marble gives façade of the temple a glossy look. As I was focusing my camera on the small “shikhara” I saw advertisement of the local “beauty parlor”, hand painted on it. Proper direction was given to reach parlor by big arrow marks on the shikhara.

The story about Kale Mahadev Mandir goes like this. Kale khan was a rich zamindar at the time of nawab who gifted his land to the locals for constructing the temple. While gifting the land to the locals Kale Khan demanded something in return for the respect he has shown to the Hindu God. The locals thus attached the first name of the Zamindar with the name of the temple.

As I entered into the temple, I saw a lady praying to lord shiva with hundreds of wish- bells hanging over linga. The Temple was recently white washed & it was tough to imagine its old glory. Other than arches and niches on the walls no traces of history were visible.
But in my ears the anecdotes told by Murari Lal echoed. They were full of rich cultural amalgamation unique to Farukhnagar.