City Monument – Jama Masjid on a High
Allah is closer to Old Delhi rooftops.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One afternoon The Delhi Walla went knocking around houses in Old Delhi’s Matia Mahal asking the residents, “May I please climb to your rooftop?” I was refused. People thought I was crazy. But I only wanted to see how Jama Masjid looks from the roof of a Walled City house.
While thak-thaking around, I met a paan-walla who claimed that his terrace faced Jama Masjid’s Gate no. 1. Bingo. We became fast friends and after discussing girls, sex and politics, I asked him, “Can I see Dilli from your terrace?”
The guy grew somber. He had women in the house and I was a man.
I walked ahead hoping to find a women-less home.
Finally I met Uzair Ahmad. Within five minutes I knew everything about him: a student of Daryaganj’s Somerville School; a fan of actor Shah Rukh Khan; ‘happy birthday’ on June 7th; and his favorite dish – ammi’s masala dosa. Now the real thing: Mr Ahmad’s chhat (rooftop) is the highest in Old Delhi.
Obviously, he became my latest best friend.
Mr Ahmad invited me in, took me up in an in-house elevator(!), and there we were: at Old Delhi’s top-altitude terrace.
Mashaallah, what a sight.
The world was below us. A few terraces away stood the stony Jama Masjid, looking lonely amidt the concrete of Delhi’s unplanned modern architecture. Beyond it the golden dome of Gurdwara Seesganj. On the right, Red Fort. Backside: the Connaught Place skyscrapers. Down: Old Delhi people carrying on with domestic lives in their courtyards.
My naked eyes watched the purdah women of these courtyards. A veiled lady who was kneeling down by her balcony darted inside the instant she spotted me. A few chhats away, a kabutar-baaz (the pigeon man) went on hurrrruuuing his pigeons. The kabutars would flutter their wings, fly away to distant rooftops, soar up in the sky, and come back on the kabutar-baaz’s roof. In silence.
Mr Ahmad has spent all his life in this house and so was immune to its rooftop views. Instead of swooning like me, he cried out to his friends – Sameer and Gullu. They were lounging on a lower rooftop. On another terrace, Mr Ahmad’s cousins continued flying their kites. In silence.
It was all so otherworldly, like being in a Himalayan mountain peak. The city noise had faded to a distant hum. The air had grown thinner, cooler. And Jama Masjid was just an arm-length’s away. Almost.
Yes, Allah is closer to Old Delhi rooftops.
A little later we came down. Back where we belonged. A little further from the God.
You may also enjoy such views Just tap-tap on doors and request to be escorted to the rooftop.
Rooftop paradise, with Mr Ahmad
Sameer and Gullu, Mr Ahmad’s friends
Can you spot Seesganj?
I’m the king of the world