City Hangout – Shidipura Graveyard, Near Filmistan Cinema
A lonely planet.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The world is so much at turbulence. But here, all is at peace. Which isn’t surprising for this is a graveyard.
Shidipura Qabristan, near Filmistan Cinema in central Delhi, isn’t huge, far smaller than that more famous Muslim graveyard—Dilli Gate Qabristan in ITO. But within its limited geography, it exists like an isolated autonomous land, free of the constraints existing beyond its walls.
This morning, no one’s here. The only sound is of the cooing of birds hidden amid the thicket of tree leaves. While the hyperactive squirrels are playfully running after one another over the fallen leaves. Some distance away, a long tail slithers under a cover of crackling dry leaves—is that a snake?
A large number of graves have plants and weedy grass growing out of them. Some are so thick with this flora that they appear to be like flower pots. The stone slabs of a few graves show long undulating cracks, the surface of the stones have smoothened over the passage of several seasons. As in all cemeteries, it is fascinating to read the inscriptions carved on these gravestones. Quite a few of the buried people here are referred to as “waley”, meaning belonging to. For example: Haji Tajiuddin Tahir Papaiyye Wale. Another gravestone belongs to a woman. The carved inscription doesn’t give away her name. Instead, she is identified as “W/O Late Mohd. Aslam Culcutta Wale.”
The graveyard shows absolutely no sign of the life going on outside. While strolling along the narrow track dappled with the shadows of tree leaves, one feels so far removed from the world that coronavirus and all the other news headlines of the day seem like a rumour. But there’s one material exception to this utmost detachment —the colourful paper kites trapped among the trees. Indeed, if you look up, you would keep spotting more and more kites—perhaps they belong to the area’s kite players and drifted over unto the graveyard after their strings were cut.
And finally, a living human is sighted. The elderly man is alone. He is carefully sprinkling grains beside a succession of graves. “It’s for birds,” he says, explaining that he comes daily to the graveyard to feed the birds.
On stepping outside the cemetery’s gate, the road is clogged with auto rickshaws and cars.
Rest in Shidipura