City Monument - Rain-Soaked Ruins, Hauz Khas Village

City Monument – Rain-Soaked Ruins, Hauz Khas Village

City Monument - Rain-Soaked Ruins, Hauz Khas Village

Stones of monsoon.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

A little tap on the window-pane, as though something had struck it, followed by a plentiful light falling sound, as of grains of sand being sprinkled from a window overhead, gradually spreading, intensifying, acquiring a regular rhythm, becoming fluid, sonorous, musical, immeasurable, universal.

it is the baarish. The season’s first true rain, yesterday morning, could as well have been penned by Marcel Proust. The top passage is from In Search of Lost Time, Proust’s great multi-volume novel. Once asked how he would spend his last hours on earth if he knew that a great calamity was about to end his life, the French novelist said he would throw himself at the feet of Miss X, go to the Louvre museum, and take a little excursion to India.

Proust could never visit India, but if he had, and if he were here in the monsoon season, then he certainly would have loved the rain-lashed monument of Hauz Khas Village, which is very much a Proustian locality wherein times lost are tightly entwined with times regained.

The stone gateway at the end of the village’s main street bolts out into a grassy expanse overlooking a welter of old walls, pillared halls, darkened corridors, and short flights of staircases some of which end in air. Pigeons flit from one chamber to another; at times flying onward to the facing lake, the hauz (with a bat island!).

Centuries ago,, emperor Allauddin Khilji excavated a water reservoir here for the people of nearby Siri, the second city of Delhi. The reservoir was eventually filled up with silt, and re-excavated by another ruler, Feroze Shah Tughlaq, who added to the site a mosque and a madarsa, and whose domed tomb today soars above the rest of these ruins. (Planes pop up all the time above Tughlaq’s tomb, at a great height of course, but the stone gumbad and the hawai jahaz always make a picturesque pair).

During intense spells of wind and rain, an Instagram reel maker is likely to run through a warren of chambers, pavilions and airy corridors, frequently teased by sudden slanting sprays of shower. No matter how intense the downpour, some spots in the monument stay totally dry, in which one can stand unstained by water, enjoying the comforts of a snug retreat even as the world outside is threatened by a catastrophic deluge.

One rainy day, the monument’s lawn was quickly emptied of people, except for an artist with an umbrella and a sketch pad—see photo.