One cursory look at the Bassein Fort as I walk through the Vasai village and I can easily visualise the glory this place probably once enjoyed. I realise that this is no ordinary-sized fort as soon as I pass through the outer walls of the massive structure. The grandeur of this place even as it unfolds while I walk through its streets reveals the importance the then ruler showed in its construction and maintenance. However, the decrepit and crumbling outer walls are a proof of its current neglect. As I further explore, I find to my dismay what I would call ruins of an erstwhile fort. Quite a few quarters of the structure leave a lot to be imagined in order to reconstruct meaningful structures out of the crumbled walls, some of them without a roof.
A few minutes later, I find myself facing an imposing structure that is the church in the Vasai Fort. Sadly it looks like it might crumble during any one of the heavy rains Mumbai and its suburbs experience each year. This structure with saplings growing on its walls wears a long-neglected look and discourages casual visitors from venturing in and taking a peek. Surprisingly, I see a man mowing a lawn that is being maintained on its left and wonder why they didn’t spend a little more money on weeding the place. Again some parts of the fort have dense foliage reclaiming their land by growing right on top of the structure.
I have visited quite a few forts, and every one of them like this one forms an important testimony to the people of a bygone era, who definitely lived a life of prosperity. There is no explanation as to why a ruler would make such huge investments in building colossal structures without returns of trade benefits? Was it a sense of comfort and pride in showcasing them to their counterparts?
However, the small village of Vasai abutting the once-grand fort has no proof of prosperity to it no matter from which angle I look at. To a great extent it is disappointing to find the lack of any additional activity among the villagers. The inhabitants of this seaside village with a minuscule population of predominantly poor Christian fishermen seem to eke out a meagre living and lead a minimalist life. I interpret this from the way they dress and the state of their dwellings and courtyards. Round the corner I bump into two scantily clad children probably on an errand and spot an old woman sitting outside her small house who seemed disinterested in whatever little that was happening around her.
The grandeur of the great monument may have been otherwise seemed lively if the villagers smiled with pride. The fort and the people living there lead a life independent of each other and play reluctant and disinterested host to the visitors that are interested in visiting places that have historical charm and adds life to existence.