Today I visited Sonar Kella. Today I did something that I was dying to do ever since I was eight. But guess what? I'M NOT HAPPY! Jaisalmer is a small town. Built around the fortress. But it was unknown to the world before Satyajit Ray's film Sonar Kella. And now 80% population of this town is made of the tourists. Tourism is the major source of income to the people living here. Therefore it is quite obvious that the people here almost worship Satyajit Ray. Most of the visitors are Bengalis and the people here are pretty fluent in Bengali. The effect of the film is so much that the original name of the fort has been obliterated. Its now called Sonar Kella, and while I was walking past a shop selling yellow sandstone bowls, the shopkeeper called me and asked me, "sonar pathor bati nibe?"
So as you can see, Sonar Kella owes its popularity to Satyajit Ray and the people here owe there living to the tourists attracted by the film. And they blatantly own this fact. The Bengalis have a different sentiment attached to this place. Therefore, its not wrong to say that the Sonar Kella is as much our as Jaisalmer's. Yet, what do you see when you enter the fort? Let me tell you. You see vendors selling all kinds of artefacts everywhere, the walls of the fort donned by colourful dresses, shoes, you see people thronging everywhere, you see the walls defaced by writing, paan spits, you see hotels and restaurants eveywhere(!), you see people residing in the houses everywhere, people washing clothes, hanging them, people cleaning the floors, you see A.C's, you here the noise of washing machines, you here the sounds of the radios, televisions, you get sprinkled by soap water (like me!), and you spend most of your time by avoiding getting pushed by dirty, smelly cows! And mind you, you find all these inside our very own Sonar Kella. There is a whole lot of people still living there, although it has been declared a national property, who exist there only to turn our beautiful Sonar Kella to a dirty, crowded place from inside. As a result, while inside the fort, if you are a fervent Feluda reader like me, you feel like throwing yourself from one of the high battlements of the fort (like me!) and end this agony! I dont want to talk about the experience anymore. I dont want to dwell upon the memory!
Next we went to Patwanji ki Haveli. A well maintained structure. Atleast better than Sonar Kella, successfully reflecting the once prosoerous living that it witnessed. It is from a shop here that I bought my sonar pathor bati! After this, we went to see a beautiful lake, called the Gadisar Lake. Its really refreshing to see such a beautiful amidst the arid desert! A desert oasis. Then we went to Akal Wood Fossil Park, 15 kilometres from Jaisalmer. Here we saw the fossils of trees which existed in the lower Jurassic Era, and when there was a rainforest in Rajasthan! After this, our hunt for cheap sandstone artefacts begun. We went to a factory in their search. But we failed to secure them at a lower price. Afterwards, we went through the various alleyways of the town in search of them but we failed. Ultimately we had to back to the previous shop to do the rest of my shopping. Then it was time to return to the hotel. After a tiring day, we retired to our room with heavy hearts. Our Sonar Kella is lost. And we seriously need to give it back its original beauty. Its our responsibility as Indians.