B r i c k L a n e C i r c l e
‘The once-manicured gardens of Char Bagh were now a ramshackle series of vegetable patches, makeshift tents, and fires heating an assortment of smoking pots and pans. The formerly paved walkways, decorative fountains, and interconnecting lawns, had become spindly tufts of parched grass that housed the palace guards: rebel sepoys, refugees, servants, jihadis. The soothing flow of the garden’s watercourses were now dry but for small pools of stagnant water. Blood-thirsty mosquitoes thrived on these static pockets of water as well on the stateless mass of life that now congregated on these grounds.’
My story is about the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar the Second, and his refuge in his ancestor Humayan’s Tomb outside Delhi in 1857. It is set towards the end of the Indian Mutiny and during the last few days of his time in the tomb before his capitulation to the British.
I chose the topic as it is a forgotten part of history, and charts the demise of a hugely powerful dynasty. I was also interested in gaining a greater understanding of the Emperor, as he was an enigmatic and aloof figure.
My background is in training and I have always been interested in storytelling in all mediums. This has led me to make documentaries about compelling characters whose stories would not normally be told by mainstream media channels. I am an avid reader and read widely including historical fiction and non-fiction.
I was attracted to the project as I wanted to research the East India Company, as it was a period never covered in my history lessons at school. I also wanted to discover: its hidden stories; the colonial legacy of the Company; and more about my heritage and background.
My experience has been enjoyable and I have learnt a great deal about the East India Company. I have enjoyed: researching stories using first-hand sources such as letters and journals from the British Library; listening to historical accounts from the ancestors of individuals directly affected by the Company; and viewing and touching a range of dresses, fabrics and artefacts from the era.