Travel Shot: The garbage well

“Where is the bawri?” I ask a group of men playing cards on the road. I am at Fatehpur, a large town in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan and searching for a nearly 400-year-old stepwell, locally known as bawri.

“You’re standing at the entrance to the bawri,” drawls one of the men.

I look at where I am standing and then behind me. All I can see is an arched entrance and garbage beyond that. Heaps and heaps of garbage.

“This is the bawri?” I ask in disbelief.

Hereitage, Well, Bawri, Garbage dumpLoud, raucous laughter erupts from the group. “This used to be a bawri. It used to contain water, now it only has garbage. Therefore, it is kachre ka bawri (or a well of garbage). Why have you come to see this kachre ka bawri?” says another man in the group.

More laughter, this time mocking and derisive, as I look on in horror and recall all that I had read about the bawri or stepwell in Ilay Cooper’s book.

[The stepwell] was constructed in 1614 by Sheikh Mohammad of Nagaur… [and] local people used to refer to this as… [a] wonder of the world. They still tell stories of a robber, who dwelled undetected for many years amongst its underground passages… Fifty years ago one could still walk down to the water’s edge, now the whole place is a filthy dump. (page 121)

Yes, I knew from the book that the stepwell was in a bad shape, but I had not expected it to be one big garbage dump. Literally. 😦

There are recent constructions on three sides of the bawri and the only thing that remains from the original structure is the entrance arch. Perhaps that survived because an opening was required to dump the garbage ! The stepwell is supposed to be deep, descending down various levels, so seeing the amount of accumulated garbage was a shocker and an indication of just how much was there.

But the most shocking of it all was the apathy. I know, I should not have been surprised considering what the general attitude towards heritage is in India. And my travels in Shekhawati and the state of the various havelis only underscored that. But still… Let’s not even look at the heritage aspect. A well in a water-deficient region like Fatehpur should be all the more cared for shouldn’t it, rather than used as a garbage dump?

As I walked away, I reminded myself that travel is not always about the perfect, picture postcard moments; it is also about the uglier and apathetic side. Much like life itself.

To read more posts from the Travel Shot series, click here.

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The Painted Towns of Shekhawati Series: Introduction | Nawalgarh | Dundlod | Mandawa | Lakshmangarh | Fatehpur | Bissau | Mahensar

Other Shekhawati-related posts: The Shekhawati trip planner | The painter of murals | Messages on the wall: The graffiti of Nawalgarh | The stepwell at Lohargal | The garbage well |

25 thoughts on “Travel Shot: The garbage well

    1. Travel is not always about the beautiful and the perfect scenes we capture. It is also about the stuff that we don’t like as well. I thought for a long while about whether to share this or not. 😦


    1. The Taj Bawdi at Bijapur, right? I visited Bijapur in 2010 and was shocked to see the state it was in. But this stepwell in Fatehpur is far worse.

      A very warm welcome here and thank you for stopping by and visiting. Hope you’ll keep visiting. 🙂


      1. Don’t remember the name. But it was a joke, said the auto driver who promised to ferry us to all the sights in Bijapur and then took us there. 😁


  1. Such a sad state of affairs… And looks like there is no intention, even in the distant future, of a clean up. Local people are also comfortable with it, means no hope for the stepwell. Another heritage lost?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lata, the fact is that people don’t care and it amuses them that someone else does. For them, the step well is a place to dump rubbish. Its there, its convenient and the present is always more interesting and relevant than the past, isn’t it?

      In my opinion, the change in attitude has to come from the people, not the government. We, and I particularly mean the local people, have to initiate the first step.

      Till then, our heritage will be crumbling to dust or disappearing, one by one.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, Path Breaking Writer. I have always maintained that the there is only so much that the government can do considering it also has other priorities. Indians have no civic sense and as a rule are used to someone picking after them or someone else taking care of their needs. First it was the rulers and now it is the government that they expect will take care of everything around them.

      I am extremely cynical about change in attitude towards cleanliness, sanitation, traffic, heritage. That that thought depresses me even further.


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