heritage

Writing from the Heart

15 March 2014

What a Lovely Review on my book “Delhi by Heart” published  in South Asia Magazine!

By Tariq Bashir

Delhi by Heart is a passionate rendition of a great city’s story steeped in history and rich traditions of religion, literature, music and cuisine. By all standards it delhi-by-heart-cover21.jpgfigures as an excellent first book by Raza Rumi who seems immersed in,and equally perturbed by, the violence and mindless massacre of Partition, as the book unfolds. His Apa’s unfulfilled longing to roam the streets of her Amritsar, and the charred remains of burnt houses in the Shah Alam area of Lahore when she returns after the wave of riots has subsided, paint a heart-wrenching scene befitting any good movie on 1947. Raza Rumi writes from the heart.

At times he sounds like a traumatized adult who is baffled and confused at the raison d’être that forcibly detached him from his history, his cultural ‘half’ when he sets out to find many unanswered questions and does find some of them.

His quest starts from the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi wherefrom emanates an absorbing and highly readable account of Delhi. The dramatis personae of Rumi’s excellent work include historical figures like Amir Khusrau, Nizamuddin Auliya and Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, to name but a few and the contemporary characters of Delhi like Qurat-ulAinHaider, Saadia Dehlvi, Khushwant Singh and many others.

Read full review on my blog “Delhi by Heart

Reviews on Delhi by Heart

17 December 2013

Fiction writer Intizar Hussain (DAWN)

“In his exuberance, Rumi started writing without planning beforehand, knowing not how his narrative will end. The narrative, however, came to an end by itself…”

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Asif Noorani (Daily Dawn)

“Raza Rumi’s Delhi by Heart is a research-based readable account of the city he fell in love with and its dwellers…”

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Yatin Gupta (Iyatingupta)

“Delhi By Heart was an eye opener for me in many ways and so much that I will definitely read it once more in future…”

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Dr Tariq Rehman (The News on Sunday)

“An authentic and readable social history of north Indian Muslim civilization…”

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Abdul Majeed Abid (The News on Sunday)

“A must read for prospective travelers to Delhi and fans of South Asian history”

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Madeeha Gauhar (Theatre Director/Activist)

“You cannot put Raza’s book into one genre, it’s a bit of everything, so beautifully organized that its a real delight…”

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Ishtiaq Ahmad (Daily Times)

“Delhi by Heart is a jolly good, multifaceted account penned by Raza Rumi of Lahore of his sojourns in the Indian capital, Delhi, over many years…”

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Shivani Mohan (The Khaleej Times)

“Breaking barriers: A Pakistani within the heart of Delhi…”

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Kabir Pundit (Flipkart)

“Raza has succinctly revealed the city’s past not just as a mere chronicle but also as the spiritual hub of Muslim Hindoostan. It came as pleasant surprise that Delhi was/is the Sufi Mecca of the East…”

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The Deccan Chronicle

“The book, a sensitively written account of Delhi’s “grand theatre of the past and present”, is sure to make many nostalgic about “the composite identity of India” that got lost in 1947…”

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The Reuters

Delhi by heart” is a kind of travelogue about a city that is the source of a shared heritage that spans hundreds of years…”

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The Indian Express

“Rumi calls this book Delhi by Heart and from the first page, you can make out that a large space in his heart is occupied by Dilli. The Delhis of the past and the present are as enmeshed in the book as they are in reality and that is its strength…”

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The Kashmir Walla

“Raza Rumi’s Delhi by Heart is an important addition to the literatures on Delhi…”

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The Express Tribune

“In candid tones, journalist and analyst Raza Rumi explores an Indian city, and indeed his own identity as a Muslim in the Subcontinent, in his first book, Delhi by Heart…”

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The Caravan Daily

“Raza Rumi’s in-depth research into Delhi’s abundant monuments and the forgotten, sepia-toned sagas attached to them, makes Delhi by Heart a compelling read.

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Amazon

“A sensitively written account of a Pakistani writer’s discovery of Delhi”

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Livemint

“Pakistani journalist and blogger Raza Rumi’s first book is an account of his travels in Delhi and his interactions with its people..”

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Tehelka

“Raza Rumi’s enthralling travelogue Delhi by Heart, is an attempt to rise above the hatred that has marred Indo-Pak relations…”

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The News

“A Lahori’s take on Delhi…”

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The Friday Times

Rumi’s book is not besmirched by preformed ideas or deeply ingrained prejudices, says Dr. Syed Amir

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An Indian Muslim

“It took me sometime before I could buy Raza Rumi’s ‘Delhi by Heart’. But the moment I got it, I just couldn’t put it down. I read the entire book within a day…”

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IBN Live

“The author has ensured that everything you read in this book stays with you for a long time..”

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DNA India          

“Raza Rumi’s recent book Delhi By Heart is a first — a long detailed account of Delhi of the past and the present from a traveler from across the border…”

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Time Out Bengalaru

“The book works on many levels – as a travelogue, or as a potted (and selected) history of a city, and a way of life…”

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Frontline

“While we are familiar with the traditional representations of Delhi, a new book, Delhi by Heart by the Pakistani journalist Raza Rumi, is creating a stir in literary circles…”

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The Tribune India

“This book by Raza Rumi is much more than the “impressions of a Pakistani traveler”. In searching Delhi, the author is trying to understand his as well as the identity of millions of other Muslims of the subcontinent…”

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Time Out Delhi

“The book works on many levels – as a travelogue, or as a potted (and selected) history of a city, and a way of life.”

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HarperCollins

“Rich with history and anecdote, and conversations with Dilliwalas known and unknown,Delhi By Heart offers an unusual perspective and unexpected insights into the political and cultural capital of India… ”

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Rana’s Blog

“It is rare that one comes across a book with a soul and this is a book which is all heart. It is an outpouring of love by a Pakistani based on his visits here…”

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Raza Rumi’s Interview with The Indian Express

“I found myself as a split individual, because my identity and nationalistic pride was with Pakistan, but my entire history, heritage and who I am, is linked to this place — whether it’s cuisine, history or heritage. Lahore and Delhi are like twins…”

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Hundreds of decaying historical buildings across Lahore await Attention

21 August 2012

Third story for the Herald’s annual heritage issue:

Once renowned as a city of gardens and monuments, Lahore now manifests decaying cultural heritage, rampant urbanisation and unregulated commercialisation. The monuments of Lahore, whether great or small, suffer from lax conservation efforts, if any at all. In fact, the lesser ones are in a tragic state of despair. Among these, several old heritage monuments are nearly obliterated.

Lucy Peck, the author of Agra: The Architectural Heritage on a recent visit to Lahore said that “she found it very depressing” because she was looking forward to visiting a couple of historic mosques. The Chinian Wali mosque, which was once decorated with kashi tile work, has been resurfaced with modern tiles, done in a crude kasha style. And the Sheranwala Gate mosque has disappeared completely except for the mehrab niche,  which is still there.” Bhadhar Kali Mandar, a Hindu temple believed to be over 2,000 years old and situated east of Thokar Niaz Beg on the southern outskirts of Lahore, is facing decay and destruction. The temple has a central building with a huge pool in the centre that was once fed by 12 wells through an indigenous drainage system. Its walls had beautiful frescoes, some of which have managed to survive over the centuries. At one point in time, this temple would host the biggest Hindu festival in Lahore.

According to Haroon Khalid, a cultural researcher, writers such as Kanhiya Lal Hindi and Abdul Latif have mentioned this festival in their works. This temple is visible from Multan Road with its plinth six feet high from the ground and the temple structure itself rising to approximately 20 to 25 feet. When Khalid contacted the archaeology department office situated in the Lahore Fort, an office representative said he was ignorant about the temple, suggesting Khalid contact the Auqaf department which, in turn, said the temple was not within its jurisdiction. Since Partition, the old temple lies abandoned and its walls have become fragile. In order to ensure the safety of those inhabiting the temple, local residents have decided to demolish it and construct quarters without the permission of any relevant authority.

Adjacent to the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir is the tomb of Nadira Begum Bano, wife of the Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh, the ill-fated heir to Shahjehan’s throne and the crown prince of his Indian empire. Unlike other Mughal tombs which have been constructed in the midst of gardens, Nadira Begum’s tomb is built amidst a water tank without a dome, bearing a flat parapet on all four sides and appearing more like a pavilion. During the British Raj, the tank was dismantled and its bricks were recycled and used to build the Lahore Cantonment. During the Sikh period, the tomb was robbed of its costly marble and semi-precious stones. Today the building retains a simple and blank facade, shorn of all ornamentation.

Photographer Saad Sarfraz Sheikh having documenting the tomb for years, says it was declared a protected monument in 1956 and since then responsibility for its conservation lies with the archaeology department. In 1956, a comprehensive scheme was framed by the department for its repair and restoration. Evidently, this scheme never materialised.  (more…)

Mughal era: Lahore’s neglected heritage is a sad shadow of its glorious past

3 August 2012

The second story from Herald’s annual supplement on heritage

As the second Mughal capital, Lahore was home to emperors and noblemen during the 16th and 17th centuries. Emperor Jehangir and his wife Nurjehan were married in Lahore and their legacy survives today in the form of several monuments.

Perhaps the finest remnant of that era is the tomb of Jehangir, located at Shahdara Bagh near the town of the same name. It is said that Nurjehan supervised its construction and sought her stepson Shahjehan’s permission to stay in Lahore after her husband’s death.

The hallmarks of Jehangir’s tomb are the embellishments of interiors with exquisite frescoes, the pietra dura inlay work and the inventive use of coloured marble. The garden around the tomb also houses the dilapidated tomb of Asif Khan, Nurjehan’s brother.

Situated to the west of Jehangir’s tomb is the neglected grave of Nurjehan. The epitaph on her grave, which some say she composed herself, reads: “Pity us, for at our tomb no lamp shall light, no flowers seen/ No moth wings shall burn, no nightingales sing.”

In the1980s, when the Punjab government ordered cattle-pens to be moved “outside” Lahore, many of them shifted dangerously close to these monuments. Consequently, the main entrance to Asif Khan’s tomb is an ungainly sight. For decades, the tomb remained neglected; initial efforts at serious restoration began in 1999, signs of which are visible with new tile work completed. But it is far from over: the overall appearance of the building remains dilapidated. Other great monuments – the Lahore Fort and the Shalimar Gardens – situated at a distance of seven kilometres from each other, are grand statements of artistic expression nurtured by the Mughals. Both the monuments are World Heritage sites but United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) missions in 2003, 2005 and 2009 noted that the Badshahi Masjid and the Tomb of Ranjit Singh, although located outside the Fort, form an integral part of the fort’s physical and historical context and may, therefore, be included within the heritage site.

The Lahore Fort or Shahi Qila, situated in the north-west corner of the Walled City, was rebuilt in the period of the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1566. Although the exact date of its original construction is not known, historians have noted that the fort was destroyed several times: starting from the 11th century, when it was destroyed by the Mongols. (more…)

Destruction of Lahore’s Walled City is rampant as restoration efforts remain sketchy

31 July 2012

One of my three reports published earlier this year in Herald’s annual issue on heritage

Lahore’s fabled Walled City is now a grand metaphor for the tragic neglect of heritage. Over the years, it has turned into a business district as residents increasingly head towards the anonymous suburbia. The population of the Walled City has declined during the last two decades: every passing day witnesses the undoing of a past lovingly built over centuries.

Created by the Sultans of Delhi in the 11th century, the Walled City soon emerged as a major centre for Muslim culture in the region. During the reign of later Sultans, Lahore suffered regular invasions and pillage until, after Babur’s invasion of India in 1526 when it was ransacked and resettled. Sixty years later, it became the second capital of the Mughal Empire under Akbar and, in 1605, the fort and the city walls were expanded to their present-day dimensions. Emperor Akbar spent seven years in Lahore and his son and successor Jahangir was a proud resident of the city. By 1662, Lahore was reportedly surrounded by a 15-foot high wall that had 13 gates for entry. Brick by brick, the wall withered away over the next three centuries. By 1947, it had completely disappeared.

Lahore’s 13 gates and the walls survived in their original shape until the 19th century. During the Sikh period, these city walls were repaired and maintained. An outer perimeter wall was also built. Much changed after 1857 when the British demolished almost all the gates in order to de-fortify the city. Some were rebuilt later in simple structure — except for Delhi Gate and Lohar Gate which were somewhat more elaborate. The Shahalmi Gate was gutted during the horrific communal riots of 1947 and the Akbari Gate was demolished for repairs but never built again. Out of the 13 gates, only six – Bhaati, Delhi, Kashmiri, Lohari, Roshnai and Shairanwala – survive. The majorit are in a sorry state of disrepair.

While the Pakistani state weaves fiction around Muslim ascendancy and proclaimed Pakistan a fortress of Islam, its ruling classes have displayed a callous attitude towards the country’s physical heritage.

Rampant, unplanned commercialisation has taken place I areas rich in architectural heritage. In 1950s, the Lahore Improvement Trust (now known as Lahore Development Authority) endeavoured to undertake well-planned commercial development projects but its attempts were far from successful. During 1970s and 1980s, nearly 29 per cent of the residents are estimated to have left the Walled City.

During the last two decades, the Walled City has become even more commercialised, polluted and damaged. (more…)

It is time to engage with the Baloch nationalists

21 March 2012

There seems to be a serious dearth of imagination while searching for solutions on Balochistan

As Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy recently wrote, “Men like Rohrabacher are no friends of the Baloch. But what can stop their meddling? The answer can only come once we dump the myth of Pakistan being one nation, one people”. The continuous undermining of Pakistan’s pluralism, citizenship rights and quest for self-rule has led to a situation where Pakistani flag is not welcome in many parts of its largest and most neglected province.

This is not the first time that the country has faced a dire situation. In 1971, we were faced with a similar dilemma and the civil-military elites of West Pakistan bungled. Their mishandling was exacerbated by an external intervention and for years we have been fed with stories of how all was hunky dory in the more populous wing of Pakistan until the evil ‘Hindu’ India destroyed the ‘Muslim’ Pakistan.

It takes a questionable resolution tabled in the US Congress by Dana Rohrabacher, an extremist republican with a dubious past, to alarm the mainstream Pakistani politicians and media about the plight of Baloch people. Yet again, a “conspiracy” to disintegrate the land of the pure has been reiterated. The good part is that Balochistan issue — something that the media was afraid to talk about — has become a subject of prime-time, and sometimes ill-informed, discussions on national television.

We cannot absolve ourselves of the decades-long discrimination that the province and its people have faced due to a variety of reasons. Whether it is the misuse of its natural resources such as natural gas, gold, etc, or its leverage in the federal power structure, the scorecard is pretty grim. In real terms, the issue of provincial autonomy has only been resolved recently via the 2010 eighteenth amendment. But even that seems to fit the clichéd description of being “too little and too late” given how the Baloch nationalists view it. (more…)

Book review: “Lahore -Topohilia of Space and Place”

25 February 2012

There is no city like Lahore/ Everything that is wrong is set right here

It is a mystery as to how a layered city such as Lahore has attracted little scholarship in the past few decades. This is why Anna Suvorova’s book “Lahore -Topohilia of Space and Place” is a major book of our times. Suvorova is a distinguished scholar and currently heads the Department of Asian Literatures at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. Her earlier works on Urdu, Sufism and numerous translations of Urdu prose works are well known. This book, while a work of formidable scholarship is distinctive for its personal dimension. Like countless others, Suvorova is an ardent admirer of Lahore and tells us why Lahore has survived historical vicissitudes and also why its memory is so lovingly remembered, invoked and reproduced.

Lahore – Topohilia of Space and Place
Anna Suvorova
Hardback, Nov 2011
Price: Rs.925.00
Oxford University Press, Pakistan

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Suvorova begins the book following the style of an oracle and explains why she chose to explore the topophilia, literally ‘love for a place’. This apparently simple term, as we finish the first very chapter, becomes a kaleidoscope to view the boundless affection that many across the globe experience vis a vis Lahore. Suvorova is one of such Lahore-philes, if one can be excused for inventing such a term. Her fascination for Lahore, as it emerges in her book, is evident throughout the narrative as she takes the reader into the labyrinth of history, cultural memory, urban geography, and sociology of the city.

This affinity for an intriguing city therefore places Suvorova in a unique position as she documents Lahore’s myriad facets, not as an orientalist outsider, but asan enchanted scholar and a traveller who has developed an uncanny empathy with the topophilia that defines Lahore as a construct of memory and consciousness. Thus follows an eclectic narrative employing an interdisciplinary approach, which successfully attempts to undo the academic tone while avoiding populist, market driven cliches that comprise many contemporary travel accounts. She describes this rather well: “When we visit Oslo, Dublin, Paris, or Lahore it is difficult, at first, to separate the living images of the new places from the “mental maps” that we have drawn up in the footsteps, and along the routes, of literary characters…It is topophilia that overcomes our eternal fear of space, and emotion dumbness and gives us a living feeling of longing to a place- the sense of city.”

The book is divided into eight chapters, which tread on the various cultural nodes of Lahore’s past and present. The epilogue entitled Lahore vs. Lucknow, is an outstanding inquiry on these two cities famed for their topophilia. Suvorova tells us how Lahore’s topophilia is different from Lucknow. She is also quick to note the similarities between these two great cities, but she admits that she fell inlove with Lahore in 1997 during her first visit despite her intense familiarity with Lucknow. (more…)

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