A guide and interpreter of our historical monuments to the foreign delegates K.K.Mohammed is always one step above when it comes to heritage and human race. ANEESH POOKKAD takes us to a walk with that archaeologist along his bizarre ways across the nation.
We are passing through a period where everyone thinks of changing the world sans changing himself. But here is a man, K.K.Mohammed stands apart with a green thumb on his twisted wrist, never hopes to sit under its shade.
We know K.K.Mohammed as an official with high profile at the esteemed Archeological Survey of India. We know him as the prestigious CJ (Citizen Journalist) Award winner of CNN-IBN. We know him more as the hand-picked guide to Barack Obama on his visit to India in the last January. We have enjoyed the visuals of Mrs.Obama dancing with some poor children (in TV slots) and catharsized by the visuals when the First Lady celebrated with those hapless kids, a distant dream even an ordinary Indian can have. Thank Mr.Mohammed an Indian who loves to perceive fraternity at all odds for making that dream true.
What made the Obamas to visit these children, dance with them and share love and sweets leaping beyond the protocol is the report they got from FBI (the investigative body of the U.S.) prior to their visit to India. They somehow spotted the story of the school run by the ASI in a different shade and fortuitously got the right person, its patron K.K.Mohammed to guide them there.
Excavations and Revivals
Some see Archeology as the peeping Tom of the sciences and archeologists, who care not where they are going but want to know where everyone else has been. K.K.Mohammed is here to rule out this appraisal by resorting to one step above where the Science bows before compassion.
“I used to spot the same children at different work sites indulged in beggary. “, recalled Mohammed of the origin of a noble mission.
“During my tours to various sites of revivals we put almost the same labourers most of them come from Bihar, Jharkhand and like economically poor States. During this migration, they carry their children with them but cannot afford to send them to a school. So they were sent to nearby streets begging or laying under the scorching sun until their parents come out of the works. I was really moved at this plight.”
But unlike a layman hiding his tears or journo writing and publishing the human interest fragile story, Mohammed decided to start some informal classes so that the kids can learn. A person who expertised in excavations and revivals, Mohammed handpicked the kids soaked in sludge and ignorance and started to educate them. As a first step he hired certain youngsters to train them. He contributed Rs.10,000 of his own money toward this cause and approached the contractors for the rest.
“Labourers from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan etc also live in make-shift tents at the monument premises. To keep their children engaged sans a roaming around, I think is rather a social responsibility. “He commented on the Schools at the Heritage Sites.
Though ASI supports him in this endeavor, these schools never get a Government aid. But the children are provided with books, stationeries and uniforms thanks to the Archeologist who owns a mindset to protect the past as well as present, to posterity.
Thus Obamas requested their guide Mr.Mohammed to take them to these schools and saluted those wretched kids with a ‘namasthe’ in return to their mugged up ‘Good evening’ and spent with them 10 minutes plus beyond the protocol.
The antique ways
For the voracious reader Mohammed, history was not mere a subject for academics but an extinguisher for his wandering mind. Reading Bhagavad Gita he smelt the same subtleness he got from the Khoran even when he was a high school student at Kozhikkodu. Acquaintance with Nalanda University and the historically sensitive places of Bihar ushered him through Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’. While doing his Post Graduation in History at Aligarh University he realized the way he has to walk over to his goal, not an end, but a journey. After acquiring another Master’s in Archeology it came close on his tip toes.“Later when I joined Aligarh University as an Assistant Archeologist, I could get in touch with more excavations especia
lly at Fatehpur Zikri. The findings amazed us as well as the whole nation. We could spot the plethora of richness that our nation possessed once – precarious traits of Din-i-Ilahi the religious doctrine propounded by the Mughal emperor Akbar, the then market places, the first Christian Church in North India and like.”, surged an eloquent Mohammed.
Central Government honored him with a chair in the prestigious Archeological Survey of India. It really focused his journeys on track and he started to visit places of historical importance along the length and breadth of India and started to revive each for the future, keeping its antiquity as such.
It was at this point Mohammed noted the sporadic trauma that the children of the migrant labourers at the work sites go through.
It is not for the first time K.K.Mohammed is being selected by the Government of India, to introduce our precious cultural heritage to foreign delegates. When Nawaz Sherif , former Pakistan Prime Minster visited India at a time when the friction between the two neighbours where at high, K.K.Mohammed took out his task of guiding and narrating the vast potentials of the veiled heritage to the distinguished guest with pride.
Mohammed’s deep and wide knowledge of history and heritage, the instigating inner spirit and the quest to know and learn may be the factors which push him forward in his professional and personal life. It makes him spurt out the facts and truths at the hour of the need and came out his statement of the birth place of Sri Rama, as the place of issue, at Ayodhya and of the mortal remains of Mumtaz that brought to Yamuna.
“It made chaos and at the end I got a job transfer which never affected me as I love all the places alike and find something potentially worthy wherever I go. Because we are that much rich..”, smiles away Mohammed.
“Besides excavations, Archeological Department is destined to conserve our world heritage as such. So every worship centre of the ancient age, we consider as historical monument or never as a private asset of any religious segment “, says K.K.Mohammed the only Muslim participated in the Ayodhya excavations.
Another controversial incident in which Mohammed had involved and made headlines was the ‘Taj Corridor project’ by the Mayavati government. Finding it would mar the celebrated beauty and significant heritage of the 7th wonder of the world which attracts lakhs of tourists every year, Mohammed approached several historians and other influential people and began a signature campaign against that move. He fought unto the Supreme Court Verdict to ban the project.
Historical monuments mirror a country’s civilization. To protect it is the right and responsibility of every citizen. But it confines to the framework of a bureaucratic body, the Archeological department. Utilizing and exploiting its bureaucratic and public-acceptance elements at its best are the professional policy Mohammed has taken along. However, he has been felicitated and honoured with scores of awards for his sincere mission now and again.
The Great Sanchi Stupa dating back to the 3rd century B.C., a globally acknowledged historical monument was saved from destruction thanks to the timely interference of Mohammed, as an official in the ASI. For it, he has been honoured by the nation in 2008 and by the Sri Lankan Buddhist Society later. He was again privileged in the next year for arranging facilities for the physically disabled people to visit and make out the vast richness of the repertoire set at Qutub Minar.
Next year it was for the right kind of preservation he served at the Humayun’s tomb by wiping off the ‘hooligans and vagabonds’ who reigned inside. Mr.Obama on his recent visit to the tomb described it as ‘spectacular’, thanks to the ‘clean-up’ by the ASI.
Mr.Mohammed has got the award from the Madhya Pradesh government for the best excavator who loves to travel. “Shri K.K. Mohammed was the first conservation archaeologist to plan and execute the preservation of lost glory of The Bateshwar Group of temples, in Chambal valley remains in Madhya Pradesh. At a time when people were even scared to go to the valley dull of dacoits, he dared enough to lead his team and start conserving the dilapidated temples within the forest. Some 200 temples in 25 acres of land were brought back to its original glory, using the same fallen stone members with a meager budget of 15- 25 lakhs spent for the labour only.”, states the citation plaque.
Recently he has got the REACH foundation award for his selfless service in preserving the ancient temples and heritage monuments. It was at the start of the World Heritage Week that the award had given away to Mohammed.
CNN-IBN’s Best CJ award keeps aside in this array of accolades. It reached him when he looked beyond his official duties and indulged himself in providing basic education for the children of the migrant labourers. He documented the activities of these schools at work sites and showed it to the world through CNN-IBN channel and challenged conventional media houses in an open air until its waves reached and resonated unto Washington DC