Ravi was visiting his cousin in Delhi. His uncle and aunt were taking him to Mehrauli because he really wanted to see the Qutub Minar. Ravi had read in books that the Qutub Minar was the tallest brick tower in the world. He was excited about seeing it for real.
He knew that the Qutub Minar was built by Qutub-ud-Din-Aibak in the year 1199.
But there was so much more that he wanted to know. They soon reached the spot. Ravi looked around eagerly.
“Oh! I didn’t realise how tall this monument actually is!” said Ravi, in wonder.
“Yes, it is! It’s about 73 meters tall,” said someone.
Ravi turned and saw a young boy clad in worn-out tattered clothes standing beside him.
Ravi ignored him because the boy’s hands and legs were dusty. His hair was unkempt too.
Ravi wanted to see the Qutub Minar. He walked ahead, and after reaching closer, he said, “The tower looks wide from below, but narrow from the top!”
“Yes, the base diameter is about 15 meters wide at the bottom, but it reduces to 2.5 meters diameter at the top. This tapering structure required architecture skill to build,” said the boy again.
Ravi looked at him in surprise.
He thought, “I’m not talking to him, and yet he keeps answering. And how does he know so much?”
Ravi decided to test him. He asked, “How many stories are there in the tower?”
“The Qutub Minar is 72.5 meters tall and it has five stories. The iron pillars in the premises that you will soon see have not caught rust despite being almost 900 years old,” said the boy.
Ravi was surprised again. And he was impressed. He asked the boy, “You know a lot! What’s your name?”
“My name is Sumit. I live nearby.”
“My name’s Ravi. I’m visiting my uncle and aunt here in Delhi,” said Ravi shaking hands with Sumit.
They both were around the same age.
Although Sumit was untidy and his clothes were tattered, Ravi became friendly with him.
Sumit told him more about the Qutub Minar:
“Qutub-ud-Din-Aibak, the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, started the construction of the Qutub Minar but he built only the basement. Iltutmish, the successor of Qutub-ud-Din-Aibak, built the three stories after that. The top was damaged by lightning. Then Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the third ruler of the Tughlaq Dynasty, reconstructed it and built the last two stories.”
“Why is the tower tilted?” asked Ravi who was roaming with Sumit now.
“Because it has been repaired and reconstructed many times. The top stories were added a few years later,” said Sumit.
“But tell me something.”
“How do you know so much about this monument?”
“My family is related to its history,” said Sumit.
“How are they related?” asked Ravi, surprised.
“My ancestor was one of the labourers who was employed to build this monument. He worked under the instructions of Qutub-ud-Din-Aibak.
When Iltutmish took over, my ancestor’s successor was employed. After the top part was damaged by lightning in 1368, and when it was being reconstructed, another ancestor of mine was a labourer.
Whenever the Qutub Minar has been repaired or reconstructed, someone or the other from my family has been involved in it. I belong to a family of those labourers,” said Sumit.
“So, that’s why you know so much!” said Ravi.
“Yes,” said Sumit, in a sad voice. He then became thoughtful.
“What’s wrong?” asked Ravi.
“You see, it’s the construction workers and the labourers who are most involved in the building of any historical monument. But no one remembers them.
Qutub-ud-Din-Aibak constructed the Qutub Minar, but my ancestors put in the hard work and labour. But no one asks about them,” said Sumit, dejectedly.
Ravi was taken aback. He had never thought about this. Sumit was right. Not just Qutub Minar, there are so many historical monuments and nobody knows about the people who worked to build them, how much they toiled and how they lived.
Ravi thought for a while and said, “You’re right, my friend! We should at least know how many people were involved and how much effort they put in. Do you stay nearby?”
“Yes, I stay nearby. My father is a labourer too. He does the cleaning of construction sites, and so do I. We often visit this monument and look after it. We love it a lot. So much of our ancestors’ work went into its construction,” smiled Sumit.
Ravi looked at the Qutub Minar thoughtfully, and said, “I can’t even imagine the effort that went into the construction of this monument!”
They roamed around for a bit. Then Ravi went home with his uncle and aunt. He had learned a lot about the historical monument today.
He decided to go back home and tell everyone about Sumit and how his ancestors worked hard to build the Qutub Minar and decided to also know about the lives of labourers who built other monuments too.