Dreamy-eyed,Salahuddin stepped back to look at his work of six years. Finally,he had got it right. Humein uss waqt ke turquoise colour ke saath apna turquoise match karne mein do saal lag gaye (It took us two years to match the turquoise colour they had used then).
Salahuddin is among several craftsmen who,over six years,worked tirelessly to restore the Humayuns Tomb in the capital. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was officially declared open by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday after completion of the restoration work by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Twentytwo-year-old Salahuddin came to Delhi from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. A Bachelors in Chemistry,which he earned in 2010 from a college in Moradabad,may not have made much sense then but today,he feels all the richer in terms of knowledge as he understands that the chemical cobalt produces a dark shade of royal blue,which the Mughals apparently loved.
Master craftsmen from Uzbekistan the original home of Babur were flown in to train men from the neighbourhood for the restoration work. Today,Mughal-style handmade glazed tiles are made only by this group.
Mohammad Asif,a Class XII dropout,spent one year sitting idle at home. He is among those who worked on the restoration of Humayuns Tomb. Mohammed Imrans automobile workshop had shut down. I knew nothing about tile-making or even Humayun and Babur, Imran says.
In remote Lakhisarai in Bihar,Amrik Chauhan,a mason,worked on a water reservoir where cement wasnt used. Lime plaster was employed to reinforce the reservoir,much like the Mughal school of architecture. I didnt know that this technique was employed 500 years ago by Mughal-time architects because it makes the joints stronger and gives a smooth finish unlike modern-day cement, Chauhan,among the men who worked on the Humayuns Tomb,says.
Attar Singh,the head mason of AKTCs project at Humayuns Tomb,doesnt talk much but shows you around the site where he and his team of 70 men worked since 2007. When I came here,this place looked like a jungle. The jaalis (screens) made in marble and red sandstone were falling off,people marauded the mausoleum and the waterways had no stone lining. Weve given more than a slice of our lives to this place, he says while his team feasts on paneer tikka,chicken tikka and gulab jamun at the high tea that preceded a sitar recital by Ustad Shujaat Hussain Khan after the inauguration.