These days for about two hours in the evening I put on my best announcer voice, accent and all, and read aloud from The City of Djinns, by William Dalrymple (WD). Its been a day or so, but I haven't been able to get this scene out of my mind.
WD writes about literally stumbling on a taykhana, an underground cool chamber from the times of the mughals, early 17 th century. He writes about persistence and cutting through red tape to get permission to visit what used to be a residence used by the British deputy resident William Fraser. This complex is now the administrative office of the chief engineer of the Northern Railways. The official mentions in passing how horrible the seepage problem in the main block is because of the underground chamber. An attendant takes an excited WD down several steep flights of stairs, some crumbling, some broken, and after a number of turns he finds himself in a huge musty chamber, with torchlight illuminating what seemed to be remnants of frescos on the walls, tangled roots and webs and the sound of water trickling somewhere. The bricks that line this chamber are smaller and seem to belong to the mughal period. He determines later that the bungalow was built over a palace that once belonged to one of Shah Jahan's senior generals. Several tunnels that lead off this chamber have not been explored, but have been summarily sealed.
I want to go and see. I want to stumble down those stairs and explore the network of tunnels that lead off. I want to check if there is a catacomb-like network. I want to feel scared and excited, curious and strangely alive.
I am reminded too, of the tunnels, bypasses and hidden recesses deep in our minds. Something on the surface and something quite different deep, past the grey matter and and the tracing crisscrossing capillaries, and you watch yourself. One thing leads on to another, reactions, events and memories triggered by seemingly random stimuli. Unsettling, and I can't say why.