City Life – Discount Shopping at Humayun's Tomb

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Childhood Memories - The Way We Were

Malls, monuments, malls, monume…malls.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It was no dream. It happened for real. The sky was overcast, the wind cool, and the grass wet. There was no queue at the ticket counter. Inside, the trees stood alone, the benches were empty, and the stones seemed to heave with silence. I entered through the main gateway and there it was – Humayun’s Tomb. Stately, elegant, and melancholy, standing gracefully since four centuries.

I was alone except for a few foreign tourists who, in their hats and shorts, were busy clicking photographs. I could not see anyone who looked Indian.

After climbing a few steep stairs, I tiptoed inside the main chamber.

Humayun, the most unfortunate of the Mughals, was buried here 452 years ago. He had lost his kingdom and not long after reclaiming it, he died on the treacherous stairs of Purana Qila.

A century later, the headless body of Humayun’s great grandson, Dara Shikoh, the greatest Mughal emperor India never had, was also buried here. Poor Dara. He was murdered by his own brother Aurangzeb.

But who cares for dead kings? Delhi is littered with the graveyards of princes and prime ministers who thought they were invincible. Yet places like Humayun’s tomb are different. They are an ideal space to reflect and connect with one’s self and to unwind from the metropolitan pressures.

Despite the dangerous signs of climate change (heavy rains in May!), the trees, the birds and the squirrels here create a gentle communion with nature. The sound of the crawling traffic on the Ring Road too fades into a distant hum. What an idyll.

As I stroll in the ruins and hear bats flapping their wings, somewhere up in the ceilings, I began to understand why this place, inspite of its breathtaking beauty, is not as frequented as, say, Lajpat Nagar or the Khan Market for that matter.

Humayun’s tomb has a character that remains drunk in grief. In today’s happy world of fast food chains and snazzy shopping outlets, no one any longer seeks dreamy retreats. Most want to achieve their wants instantly; and retail therapy is the order of the day. The more you shop, eat, drink and browse, the better you feel. Getting lost in crowds, with shared need of quick gratification, is comforting.

Keeping one’s self busy these days is a virtue: busy at work, busy at the multiplex, busy at the mall, busy driving a flashy car, busy making love. We are growing incapable of spending time with the self.

Detaching ourselves from the world, even for an hour, is out of fashion. We drive past places like Humayun tomb but we don’t feel tempted to go inside them. We just have no time. Perhaps our metro-souls are busy too.