City Monument – Anglo-Arabic School, Near New Delhi Railway Station
Far from the world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is a secret world–exquisite without being ostentatious. The Mughal-era Anglo-Arabic School consists of a cluster of early-18th century buildings. That includes a Sufi shrine, a tomb and a mosque. The only drawback is that it is Delhi’s oldest surviving educational institution (since 1696). So you cannot enter the compound unless you are a student or a teacher.
One afternoon, however, The Delhi Walla manages to sneak inside the school. It is like entering into an abandoned city. The classrooms are locked. The corridors are empty. There is no one in the gardens. It turns out to be a holiday. All is silence. Unknown tombs are lying everywhere. An unlit gallery leads into a hall with an arched gateway. A few wooden desks are piled up under a broken stone screen–a very melancholic sight.
The pathways snake through wildish lawns. The grand trees seem alert and watchful. Some of the classroom windows are patterned after old designs not seen any longer elsewhere in the city.
The football filed is also home to the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Ghiasuddin. The saint’s grave lies in an underground vault, and so he is known as Tehkhane Walle Baba.
The mosque is the most imposing structure here. It was built by Ghaziuddin Khan, who had originally founded the school as an Islamic madrasa. This Delhi noble has another notable place in history–his son was the first nizam of Hyderabad.
Khan’s marble tomb, too, lies in the school, enclosed within a fawn-colored sandstone screen.
A corridor in the school’s upper floor is particularly soulful. It is accentuated by a series of arches. While the peeling paint on the walls exposes the old lakhori bricks.
It is probably a good thing that the school lives in solitude. To that rare visitor from the outside world, the old buildings might look fresh, as if they had never before been gazed upon with so much attention. As if that lucky visitor is their first connoisseur.
What land is this