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huma_xceptionHumayun can see the Surs hadn’t forgotten to leave their mark on the city. They’ve put in place many new buildings and utilities. Humayun thinks the aesthetics coarse but as much as he resents Sher Shah, he is impressed by what his advisers report of his legacy. Rigorous land revenue and tarrif reforms, management of the system of irrigation canals, extension of the network of arterial roads notably the Shahrah-i-Azim, known later as the Grand Trunk Road, and the helpful provision of sarais for travellers along these stretches.

It’s all quite impressive, but what Humayun isn’t so happy to hear is news that his dream city, Dinpannah, which was shaping nicely before he had left, has been radically re-altered after the Sur vision. Only a few months after settling back into his throne, he decides to head out to survey the extent of reconstruction at Dinpannah.

Purana-Qila,-Delhi

Humayun is not pleased to find the Surs have meddled with Dinpannah, his dream project. Image: 1823 painting, Inside the main entrance of Purana Qila (Yale Centre For British Art)

He recognizes some of the contours of the citadel’s boundaries, but not much else. It has been renamed Shergarh. Humayun thinks it’s just as well, since there’s nothing of his Dinpannah that remains. Nevertheless, the new buildings here can be put to good use. As he walks around, among the new buildings and some ruins, a middle-aged fakir approaches him as if out of history. He invites a visibly tired Humayun to share a small meal with him.

They sit down in a shaded recess and they open out a small bundle of cotton cloth holding a few discs of spiced bread that the fakir refers to as missi roti. Humayun finds it difficult to stop at one. Once he is done, he is a little taken aback to hear that the fakir had been keeping the rotis for a few days now. In fact missi rotis keep perfectly well over many days and are the perfect food for long journeys, he is told. Humayun takes note, thanks the fakir and gets up to resume his survey.

His mood picks up when he notices something familiar at the far end. A neat, pavillioned, ocatagonal building he had once marked out for his library. He approaches and is delighted to find that it stands unchanged and from the looks of it the Surs have been using it as a library too.

He doesn’t think much of their ragtag collection, but with the mandal, he knows he has found his bearings.

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