City Hangout – Graveyard Watching, Jamia Millia Islamia Metro Station
The view of the dead.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
So much hustle bustle but for what when we all have to end up dead? One can’t avoid struggling with such a feeling while going up the escalators at Jamia Millia Islamia Metro station.
Tucked far into the south of the city, the station overlooks the sprawling Batla House Qabristan. This Muslim graveyard has thousands of graves including of the celebrated author Qurratulain Haider.
To be sure, the metro station in North Delhi’s Kashmere Gate too is in close proximity to a cemetery (Nicholson’s) but there one will only have a very distant view of those Christian graves. The Jamia Millia station is so close to the graveyard that not only the mourners and gravediggers are easily visible but you can even read the inscriptions on the larger tombstones.
The graves lie towards platform 1, the side where—very fittingly—the evening sun sets.
This evening the cemetery seems empty of living people. Most graves are mere mounds of earth marked by a metal slab bearing the name of the buried. Some are covered with chaadars and a few are sprinkled over with what seems like white chalk. A few graves are empty, but already dug up and waiting to receive the dead—the sight triggers mixed emotions.
But now an elderly man in white kurta pajama is slowly making his way down the cemetery, walks to a grave and sits down on his haunches.
While waiting for your connection, try spotting a giant Peelu tree in the graveyard. The grave directly underneath is of Allah Hu, the qabristan’s legendary gravedigger who personally buried thousands of people over a career spanning forty years. In fact, the grave in which he lies too was dug by him. He had passed away three years ago, leaving the legacy to his sons.
True that the station inadvertently gives the harried commuters a much-needed perspective on life (and dying), one is grateful that the rail network did not go too far in the endeavor by tunneling an underground track right under the graveyard.
Stationed between life and death