Mission Delhi – Shahji, Fatehpuri Mosque
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
As an ascetic, Shahji—as he introduced himself—has but one main mission in life: meditating alone in an Old Delhi mosque, hours on end.
The 80-year-old, dressed in spotless white, spends his days sitting cross-legged at historic Fatehpuri Masjid in Chandni Chowk—as much a part of the mosque as its domes and minarets.
Doesn’t he sometimes get bored?
Shahji smiles, shaking his head. “I never feel lonely.” Come dusk, and he heads for his brother’s home in nearby Ballimaran.
Having long retired as a “government servant” in a Unani medical dispensary, he says he never considered getting a wife. “Marriage is not for people who have opted for tapasya and living in solitude.”
Shahji falls silent, murmuring a prayer, his fingers rapidly passing over a prayer bead. A young man is sleeping on the floor beside him, but the “fakir” is completely oblivious. He seems to have found a unique place for himself in this city of noisy millions.
Now he gestures with his arm, taking in the entire scope of the mosque. “This is my gufa (cave).” In the same way that “sadhu-sanyasi”, he says, in times ancient would spend their days meditating in mountain caves.
The 17th century Mughal-era monument where he quietly sits most days figures prominently in guidebooks but is usually empty except during prayers. Or, almost empty. Shahji is there.
[This is the 236th portrait of Mission Delhi project]