Friday, December 14, 2007

Keep it to yourself…

Uncovering a bit of medieval history amongst the Monday morning madness can safely be termed an achievement. Yes sir it is, when your name is not Howard Carter, haven't discovered King Tutankhamun's tomb and it’s not your raison d'être.
Three times in a row, I had been on the same spot, waiting in the morning for my friends to pick me up for office. It stood there, hidden from my view by the unusually dense foliage of a shrub and I missed it thrice. But then I happened to chance upon it - an epitaph erected on the footpath, just after the Chirag Delhi flyover. It read:
The tomb of the Chishti saint Roshan Chirag Dilli (14th Century) is located on the bank of the canal flowing from Nizamuddin, where the dargah of his teacher Nizamuddin Auliya is located. Chirag Dilli’s dargah became a shrine for devotees and a settlement developed near it. In the 18th century, a high wall was built around the village with four gateways. Though little of this remains, and the village is now densely populated, traces of old settlement can still be recognized and a sense of medieval township be understood.

Just as I had gone through the engraving, my phone rang and my friends broke the news that they were stuck in one of those colossal traffic jams that have become as much a part of Delhi as the ubiquitous auto-rickshaw that gets trapped in these jams. I do the math and determine that it would take them at least fifteen minutes to reach me. I look for another essential ingredient of Delhi that is ubiquitously sprinkled in its topography, the ‘chai-wala’. Tea break awaits me only fifty feet away and I am being served a hot cup by a dwarfed old man who has two fingers and an eye missing. Hands covered in soot from the kerosene stove and head covered with a grimy monkey-cap, he uncovered a secret while I reluctantly sipped the brew he had concocted.

“Aap uska tasveer kheench rahay thay naa. Usay chhupaane ke liye pauda maine lagaya hai.”

I got a little amused at first but then he said something that had me all ears. The old chap has entered into an accord with the Djinns that live in the reeking rivulet. He devises ways to hide the epitaph and in return gets to do business on the banks. The MCD erected the epitaph with the intention to provide a historical insight into the place and enrich the knowledge of the tourists and the locals alike, much to the dismay of the Djinns. And since it reveals the history of Chirag Dilli, the epitaph also starts serving as a marker to evil people practicing the occult. They can come scouring the place for the Djinns if they get a whiff that once there was tomb in the area. The Djinns cannot uproot the epitaph because the authorities will come down heavily on them and drive them out of the place. So an unannounced, mutually sustaining symbiotic association thrives on without meeting many people’s eyes.

I go on and ask my storyteller the reason for the benevolence he has shown to me.
“Aapne tasveer kheench li hai na! Aapko bataana zaruri tha. Kya pataa aap kis kis ko dikhao. Aur phir log unko dhundne aa jayein. Zara soch samajh kar kisi se iss baaray mein baat karna. Unki na dosti acchi aur na dushmani.”

1 comment:

deshu said...

dude dis is exactly d kind of story this blog ws intially started for..though al gud stuff is welcome...i hope u write mor of such pieces...n ill go n c dt epitaph myself 4 sure...