The perfect Delhi experience.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Green grass is growing over one grave. A black cat is sitting on another. And the grey monsoon sky has fallen into another one—actually fresh rainwater has collected over this grave.
As part of The Delhi Walla’s series ‘100 Things to Do Before You Quit Delhi’, I urge you to spend a few hours around the many, many anonymous graves at Chirag Dilli Sufi shrine in South Delhi. Its sprawling courtyard contains the spirit of Delhi, which is a city of tombs–Humayun’s tomb, Safdarjung’s tomb, Feroze Shah’s tomb, Sikender Lodhi’s tomb, and all the numerous shrines devoted to the graves of Sufi mystics. This shrine has Hazrat Naseeruddin Mahmud Roshan Chirag Dilli’s domed tomb built at the center of a quiet and spotlessly clean enclosure. (I have written about the shrine here).
These graves of unknown people clustered around Chirag Dilli’s modest monument are, in a way, a memorial to the private lives of all of us unknown Delhiwallas. We are to die in varying degrees of obscurity. We won’t be the war dead. Nobody will remember us after a few centuries, but something of us might survive in the story of our city. The survival of these old uninscribed tombs give us that hope.
Like a living person, each of these stone markers is a self-contained world. Some graves are almost leveled into the ground; some are raised high; some are slender and long; some are painted in shades of blue; some are green with moss; some are bare; some lie covered with red roses. The most sentimental sight is of a tiny tomb–a newly born child must have died (see the last photo below).
One of these will be mine