City Landmark – Blue Wall, Sheikh Kaleemullah Jehanabadi’s Sufi Shrine
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There is something gracefully fragile about the blue colour — especially in Delhi, where blue skies are more of a myth. In our city, every bit of blue, whatever its shade, depth and scale, can be seen as a mute testament to what we don’t have.
See this wall. It displays such an exquisite depiction of blue that it probably wouldn’t be out of place in a critically acclaimed museum. The color here is rendered in many fine gradations of decreasing brightness, as if a painter had, after playing on her palette with several shades of blue, harmoniously arranged them on a canvas of bricks. For that matter, red bricks also show up, in a long straight line running horizontally at the center of the wall, evoking a thunderbolt suddenly flashing across a blue sky, frozen still on the painting.
The wall’s beauty is particularly poignant because it is unintentional. It hasn’t been put up to attract admirers. A quick investigation reveals that the wall was painted blue by a couple of professional wall painters some years ago — and one wonders who picked the colour, and why. The irregular coating, though essential to the beauty, might not be voluntary. The passage of shifting seasons also left its layers of patina over the wall. Parts of the paint surface peeled off here and there, revealing the bricks underneath. This is an exhibit in which humans, atmosphere and time each played a role.
The wall lies at one end of a courtyard, snuggled inside the little-known Sufi shrine of Sheikh Kaleemullah Jehanabadi in Old Delhi, just across the road from Red Fort. The courtyard itself strives to be worthy of the wall’s melancholic allure. It is lined with a smattering of marble graves—one of which has a plaque announcing “physician to president of India.” Some of them have tulsi plants growing about. This afternoon, the littlest grave of all has a white skull cap tucked onto its headstone. This is all charming, but this charm is only secondary to the breathtaking blues of the aforementioned wall.
For maximum impact, visit on a day when the sky is nastily grey. But that is any day.