Interview with Iftakhar Nadime Khan (Arshi)

What's the subject of your latest book?
My book is related to one of the most beautiful architecture of the world; the Taj Mahal. There is a story which exists parallel to it; the Black Taj Mahal. It is popularly known that Shah Jahan wanted to build another identical mausoleum with black marble on the other bank of river Yamuna, for his own burial. As Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son thereby he could not complete his dream. In absence of any dedicated literary work on Black Taj, the story swayed between reality and myth. There are several material evidences in the Taj Mahal and at the so-called site of Black Taj that favours Black Taj.
What is the most interesting part of this book?
White Taj Mahal has been scientifically portrayed in the book that makes it a useful guide for the tourists. The book also analyses the Taj Mahal - the world’s most beautiful architectural creation from completely new angle, on the empirical rules prepared by a modern scientist; The Fifteen Properties of Christopher Alexander.
Besides this, the book unveils astonishing facts and surprises that the construction of the Taj Mahal was only half of the original scheme conceived by its builder Emperor Shah Jahan.
What else your book has?
The book covers the historical events of Emperor Shah Jahan, his dethroning and the conspiracies by his own son. The history of Mughal dynasty is given in a narrative way. It traces the inherited quality of creativity and love for art and architecture of Mughals; history begins from Amir Timur and ends at the last Mughal ruler.
The book also highlights unusual way of fulfilling the forgotten dream; the making of miniature Black Taj Mahal with ebony (natural black wood).
When and how your love affair with the Taj Mahal began?
Some thirty years back, I visited the Taj, that time I was fourteen years old. The purity of white marble, inlay work, Arabic calligraphy, vegetative patterns, and its flawless perfection casted a hypnotic spell on my mind.
I had noticed some discrepancy in its funerary chamber, but later I heard that this story is a myth. But I realized that something is hidden in the sands of time. This book is the outcome of my independent research of 30 years.
You are creating a Black-Taj Mahal - what is it?
It is Black Taj Project; you can call it an action based research. Perhaps, it is for the first time that unfulfilled dream of someone, is being fulfilled after 350 years; the making of a "Miniature Black Taj". The vision behind the project is to showcase Miniature Black Taj" for the tourists and admirers of the Taj Mahal. This Black Taj would be displayed with the special audio-visual show to highlight the significant art work and the rich heritage of Mughal era.
How your journey started and what were the ups and downs?
My visit to the Taj Mahal in 1982 left a lasting impression on my mind. I started visualizing the beauty of Black Taj across the river Yamuna. I became so obsessed that I wanted to see Black Taj in material shape, even, if it is a miniature Black Taj. In the beginning, I never thought of making it myself but, due course of time, I realized that only I can create Black Taj. From the past 30 years I am busy in the research work and the shaping of Black Taj.
The journey of this unusual venture was very painful. It has cost financial loses as well as many emotional damages. I sold my loving house in Lucknow due to loses in business, it happened because my partial attention was with the project. My joint family disintegrated due to it, and I had to pass several years in extreme disappointment. But I faced all this without a thought of failure. Now, everything is over, and I am working with full confidence.
What has influenced your courageous journey - does it has any link with your family roots?
I owe my never loosing spirit to my father, he had always been a source of inspiration. He always reminded me of my noble birth and instructed me to follow the path of courage, like Rohilla Pathans. He specially taught me that "never give up", even if you lose everything.
My family lineage is directly connected with my Great Grandfather General Bakht Khan, the commander-in-chief of the Indian Army appointed by Bahadur Shah Zafar who fought war of independence in 1857 against the British.
When did you first start writing?
I was conducting research to find the origin of Black Taj with the intention to satisfy myself, and if needed, I can show it to someone. But with the passage of time the material grew quite thick and it became a necessity to give it a shape of book. In fact, the collected material was very interesting as it contained mystic facts about the most recognized architecture of the world, but it was unorganized and high-brow. I had to go for its editing again and again to create the flow in the language thus making it interesting for common reader. I have worked hard for its visual contents; pictures, graphics, paintings etc were made to enriching and engrossing and be able to blend with and complement the text material most appropriately.
What do your fans mean to you?
Since childhood it was my nature that what I liked or wanted for myself, I thought that others should also have that. When I knew that Black Taj Mahal could not be materialized, I felt an urge to see it, similarly I also felt an urge that other admirer of the Taj Mahal should also see it. The same way I wanted to share the conspiracy related to the Black Taj with others thereby I have written this book. I can say that people and my fans mean everything for me.
What are you working on next?
I am still busy in completing the miniature Black Taj which is 2.5 meter squire in size, reduced to scale with incorporation of all the artistry. I am sure that the visitor of this Black Taj will engulf in its originality. After its completion, I have to set up a “Visit-arium” for its public display which I feel another difficult task for a single person.
Published 2015-08-26.
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Books by This Author

Black Taj Mahal: The Emperor's Missing Tomb
Price: $8.99 USD. Words: 70,400. Language: English. Published: August 28, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Architecture, Nonfiction » History » Asian
To realize the crux of Black Taj, the existence of a paradox, a glaring asymmetry at the very center, this book is a summation of the research conducted by Arshi who visited the Taj in 1982. He was awestruck with grandeur and magnificence of the white marble, its perfect symmetry and the balance of the entire complex. And especially the unfulfilled dream of emperor Shah Jahan;the Black Taj Mahal.