City Hangout – Jama Masjid in Twilight, Gurgaon
The magic of changing light.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is possible to travel by staying still.
One way to do this is by lingering long at the Jama Masjid in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar. The small edifice isn’t close in grandeur to its more famous namesake in Old Delhi. But being here towards the end of the day, as the amber shade of dusk slowly turns into darkness, this enclosed but open space fills the visitor with a sense of journey. Alll you have to do is step into the courtyard in the evening, and stay motionless for a couple of hours.
The courtyard has an ablution pool at its center, and is lined on two sides with an arched gallery, whose balconies look to the congested market alleys. In the evening, the setting sun comes directly above the courtyard, and depending on how smoggy the air is, it might look as shiny as a gold coin or as pale as Dilli ki aakhiri shama. The rest of the sky is drenched in various versions of blue and pink, each layer trapped within blurry boundaries.
With the sun’s departure, the sky matures into pitch blackness. The mosque’s courtyard gets cloaked in a sheath of semi-darkness. Everything and everyone in the courtyard appears a little vague. As if the world were still being created, and its elements yet to be fully moulded into their definitive patterns.
This evening, a few boys are sitting on the courtyard, and one of them is lying on the floor with eyes closed. A bunch of elderly men are sitting by the balcony, quietly looking at the bazar lights. The scene appears like a centuries-old painting on a museum wall.
The facing gallery looks to a deserted part of the market, with an eatery lit up by a jhalar of red bulbs.
In this changed light, the world in and around the mosque is looking different from what it was just an hour ago. You feel you have traveled far without moving an inch, as if sitting by the window on a train or a plane.
Twilight in Jama