City Hangout – The Delhi Walla’s Speech on Hazrat Nizamuddin Area, Sunder Nursery
Text of The Delhi Walla’s speech delivered during the release of DK Eyewitness Guide: Humayun’s Tomb, Sunder Nursery and Nizamuddin on April 29.
[Photos by Narendra Swain of Aga Khan Trust for Culture]
Hello friends. You know, I’d like to buy all the copies of this book and keep them locked inside my closet. Seriously. Seeing the cover, the title, makes me feel super-possessive about the places in it. For this is my ilaka, my area. Every little nukkar, lane, park here feels a part of my private homeland. Sometimes I want to be reborn as a bird who can spend all its day flying upon this golden triangle of Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, Nizamuddin East-West-Basti, and the Humayun Tomb-Sunder Nursery complex.
Indeed, if I turned into a Dilli kabutar, I would definitely rent some rooftop barsati of Nizamuddin East. Maybe in the kachnar tree outside apartment no. C 32, where my friend author Sadia Dehlvi lived. She had no patience for kabutars, but she would certainly have been kind to me. From her park-facing drawing room, the dining table always had a place for friends.
As a Niz East chiriya, I would launch my morning by flying upon its many VIP rooftops. My first landing would be on the terrace of film maker Mira Nair. Just to enjoy a stunningly khoobsurat panorama of Humayun tomb on one side of the chhat and poet Rahim’s tomb on the other. Next, I would fly by the window of her neighbour, Vikram Seth. I would chupke-chupke peek inside to check if the world-famous novelist is at his writing desk or not, busy finishing A Suitable Girl or not.
I would continue to fly, heading straight to Humayun’s tomb, where I would sit at the prickly tip of its gold kalash—24 carat! But being at the top of Humayun’s Tomb is very unsettling. The surroundings look… how to explain… as if something—something very important—were missing. Oh yes, the view of Humayun tomb is missing!
I would set off again and fly to the so-called Barber’s tomb, a kebab’s throw away from Humayun’s. Nobody knows of the person buried inside. The tomb’s history is unknown. Its links with the barber are said to be mere fiction. And that is such a juicy fact for a writer-kabutar like me.
Next, I would fly over to Sunder Nursery — without the 50 rupees ticket, naturally. I would look for one of the many groups of Afghans who regularly come from nearby Jangpura to lounge in the lawns. Their picnic baskets would obviously have the yummy rotis from Jangpura’s Afghan bakeries. As daring as a sea gull, I would steal one.
I would lift off again, hover above the blue tiles of Subz Burj, and over the traffic circle around it. I would observe the cars and tuk tuks whirling about the Burj like an endless samundra manthan. I would flap my wings again, and fly over Ghalib Road in Nizamuddin Basti, slow down at Ghalib Kebab Corner to tweet at the friendly twin brothers who run the place, and fly forward, slowly descending down at Ghalib’s tomb, catching my breath by the poet’s grave.
Now, it would be time for some remembrances and respects. I would take off for the nearby Panj Peeran Qabristan, and sit beside the grave of Suhana Begum, the homeless woman who lived in the Basti and died two winters ago. I would think of other unknown homeless people of the Basti, who have their anymonous graves in the cemetry.
By now it would be night. I would again set off, fly upon the Basti’s cramped lanes, and land in the courtyard of the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. I would lie down on the marble floor and close my eyes. Because it is home. My ghar.
Photos by Narendra Swain
1. (from left: Aparna Sharma of DK Books in India, author Gillian Wright, me, Farid Nizami of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Sufi shrine, Archana Saad Akhtar of Aga Khan Trust for Culture)
1b. (conservation architect Ratish Nanda of Aga Khan Trust for Culture)
2a. (Venerable qawwal Ustad Ghulam Qadir Niazi Nizami and his esteemed colleagues)
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