City Monument – Anonymous Ruin, Mehrauli
A sad beauty.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is there. And it is not there. Both assertions are based on ground realities. This severely damaged edifice in Mehrauli is the very essence of contemporary Delhi, where relics of the past lie stranded and forgotten, like satellite debris in the space.
Nobody seems to know the name of this souvenir of stones. Most of it is lost to time, and yet the remains are sufficiently substantial to ship us into the past.
The monument is essentially left with a doorway, an arch, two tiny domes and a wall crisscrossed with long flowing cracks that resemble the long flowing rivers when depicted on maps. The remnants look very fragile, as if waiting to be disposed off by a real estate developer. Surely, a builder will soon demolish whatever is left of the monument to raise one more apartment block—the area is crammed with such blocks. That inevitability makes it easy to imagine the old exhausted landmark dissolve right in front of our eyes. But then it has been in this exact predicament for at least a decade. Perhaps its present derelict state will outlive our age.
The edifice stands on a raised muddy ground littered with garbage, and with huge chunks of stones, which are probably the monument’s collapsed portions. What was it? Who built it? Maybe it was a late Mughal-era structure. This portion of Mehrauli is home to many monuments of that era. Three men are silently watching a photographer snap photos of the ruin. One of them, looking amused, says that he lives nearby, and that “this khandahar (ruin) doesn’t even have a name.”
A multi-storey apartment complex stands just beside this stoney skeleton, almost touching. Here is past and present so enmeshed that it is impossible to untangle them from each other. (The multi-storey’s window panes are not of glass but of mirrors.)
Nearby is the office of the Delhi Jal Board’s “sewer complaint center.” Its wall is plastered with campaign posters of the forthcoming municipal elections. The candidate’s smiling face is gazing at the ruin.
Stones of Mehrauli