I recently moved from one of the filthiest serais in South Delhi ‘neb serai’ to a decent one - lado serai. This new serai is quite peculiar in its own special way. Maybe it’s because its age old structures are still safe from being razed to the ground by the notorious Delhi builders who are afraid of the ‘Jaat’.
The ‘Jaat’ is a well built farmer with far less thinking abilities than an average school kid and an unpredictable behaviour pattern that can put any sociological expert to shame. He used to own huge tracts of land around Delhi but is now slowly selling them off plot by plot. It’s he and his brethren who mostly inhabit the serais of Delhi. In lado serai each four storied building belongs to a ‘Jaat’ family with single guys like me fearfully residing on the floors above. There’s a reason to this fear – the ‘Jaat’ himself.
The Jaat women of lado serai are the most mysterious characters. You can’t say whether they are beautiful or not because they have their faces mostly covered. Even when their faces aren’t covered, there’s an unwritten law (jaats hate writing) in lado serai which is implemented in the most ruthless manner and all outsiders follow – do not look at a female faces. No one knows the reason but assume that it’s a matter of honour as it is with the Arabs. This can be accepted as the most logical explanation.
Lado Serai is a very ancient locality with not many ancient buildings left. The only thing ancient that is left is the shadow of Qutub Minar. It’s the first thing you look at when you wake up and get out into your balcony. There’s another structure you notice in another direction. It’s a strange tomb. The blackened walls are a testimony to its age and the architecture doesn’t pretend to be outstanding. It stands on a small rocky hill in its own quiet way never seeking attention. I’ve never spotted any tourist, foreign or Indian, visiting the tomb.
A few days later I discovered something new about the Tomb. I spotted someone coming out of the tomb. I followed that someone’s path from when it was a speck in my sight to when my eyes signalled my brain to register the image of a woman. She crossed the main road and walked right into the lane entering lado serai. Just then my eyes travelled all the way back to the tomb and I saw two women entering the tomb. ‘The women of lado serai sure are admirers of medieval architecture’ I thought for a moment.
In a few days time it became a familiar sight watching women in traditional gear, with their veils covering their face, walking in and out of the tomb. Still I could never notice a tourist or even a street kid around the tomb. Except for the days of these strange visits by the women, the tomb stood there alone, quietly, looking even more mysterious and alluring in its silence and abandonment. I never once saw the Jaats enter the strange tomb.
There was one I particularly liked. Not because she was pretty, I never dared to look at her face. I just watched her walk to the tomb on a moonless night and realized that something was different about this one. Maybe it was the way she walked or the way everything seemed to get mysteriously dark as she crossed by. Or maybe it’s common to get attracted to whatever is unusual.
One day, the heavy chains of fear just loosened and I approached her and did what I wasn’t meant to do. Looked at her face, and there was nothing unusual about it. In fact, it was one of the most stunning faces I had ever seen. Regaining my senses I managed to utter my first few words.
“Hey what’s your name and why do you go to the tomb?”
“Our kinds have no name and at the end of the day everyone has to return to the place one belongs” she said and smiled.
Her sharp pointed teeth were the last thing I remember before I lost all sense of reality.