City Life – Evenings with Jahanara Fakeera
Strange encounters in the tomb of a woman sufi.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Evenings at Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah. Sometimes, too much crowd, too many tourists, and too loud qawwalis. No peace, no quiet, and no place to sit. But I know a secret refuge. After doing my haziri round, I go straight to Jahanara’s tomb, enclosed in a walled chamber at one end of the dargah courtyard. Usually no one is here except an old gentleman who has adopted the place as his night shelter.
I always feel at peace here. There is calmness in the company of Jahanara. Born as a Mughal empress whose father Shahjahan was buried in the splendorous Taj Mahal, Jahanara lives alone here. Grasses grow on her tomb and there is no roof above. Choosing to live the life of a sufi fakeer, she was an aashiq of Hazrat Nizamuddin. Her love can be sensed in the very air around her tomb. There is an also an epitaph inscribed on a marble slab here:
He is the Living, the Sustaining.
Let no one cover my grave except with greenery,
for this very grass suffices as a tomb cover for the poor.
The annihilated fakeera Lady Jahanara,
Disciple of the lords of Chishti,
Daughter of Shah Jahan the Warrior
(may God illuminate his proof).
In this place I have chanced upon strange encounters with different sort of people.
I’m with Jahanara. Qawwali going on at full blast in the courtyard outside. Suddenly a man rushes in. Pink shirt, blue jeans, white skull cap. He doesn’t notice me in the dark. He is on mobile phone and crying:
Man: Maa, forgive me. I have hurt your heart. I will never do it again. You raised me. You brought me into this world. You nourished me with your milk. Ammi, mujhe maaf kar do. Please forgive me.
He went on sobbing for a few minutes. He thought he was alone and not wishing to unnerve him, I held my breath and did not move from my corner.
A Wahabi’s advice
I’m with Jahanara. Qawwali going on at full blast outside. Suddenly a man rushes in. He catches me with my head bowed down on Jahanara’s tomb:
Man: What do you mean by this?
Me: What do you mean, janab?
Man: Don’t seek dua from graves. Ask Allah. This won’t help. Don’t talk to tombs.
The man is shaking my shoulders. I push him away, but gently, and again bow down to Jahanara.
A beggar’s curse
I’m with Jahanara. Qawwali going on at full blast outside. Suddenly a woman, a well-nourished woman, rushes in. I’m praying by Jahanara’s side:
Woman: O son, give some paisas to this old woman.
Me: I have nothing. Maafi.
Woman: So you won’t give any to me?
Me: No, amma.
Woman: Hai hai. With what face have you come to the dargah then?
I make no reply. Her large nostrils are flaring in disgust.
Woman: I swear by Him (she points to the dome of Hazrat Nizamuddin mazaar) that you will never be happy in life.
I have faith in Jahanara.