The Old Man and the Dungeon

15 kms from Mysore lies the town of Srirangapatna, the old capital of the legendary warrior king, Tipu Sultan. Despite its past as one of the great capitals of South India, Srirangapatna is today a town in anywhere India. The old fort walls stand cheek to jowl with concrete boxes of the new India, with monuments, strewn liberally around the city, mostly forgotten and crumbling. One such curiosity is the oddly named Baileys Dungeon, named after Coloney Bailey who died in captivity in 1780. In this underwater prison where Tipu held British soldiers, we came across Chandrasekhar. Chandrasekhar spends his time hanging around Baileys Dungeon eking out a living by taking visitors on short ‘tours’ of the old prison. Please come sir, he says pointing towards an old cannon placed in the centre of the floor.. Old cannon sir, gifted by French, made fully of iron! We nod, as he spreads his arms, Christ like, indicating to us how prisoners were shackled to the stone blocks embedded in the wall, unable to move, as the dungeons periodically flooded by the waters of the might Kaveri River. After showing us the mouth to an old boarded up tunnel, Chandrasekhar indicates that our tour stands concluded and bows slightly. He obliges our request for a photograph and stands stiffly staring into the lens. We hand him twenty rupees, he thanks us gratefully and looks forlornly around the empty chamber, searching for his next customer, as we make our way out of the darkness of Baileys Dungeon.

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