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Nizamuddin

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Travelogue (final) Entangled destinies

Contrary to the Mall culture booming across India, Khan Market is a high street experience. I am claustrophobic in Malls and therefore a place like this was a godsend. I hopped across various points: Bahrisons for new book titles and informative books for children, Shahnaz’s Store to buy a present for a dear friend and a chemist run by Sardarjis to procure cheaper medicines. Yes, the consumers pay much less for the same drugs we buy

A beatific vision – Nizamuddin Auliya

There is something unique, almost magical about this place. Otherwise a tiny space in the sprawl of urban Delhi, Nizamuddin’s shrine means a lot to […]

July 12th, 2010|Arts & Culture, History, India, Personal, Religion, Soul, SouthAsia, Sufism|4 Comments

Southasian Sufism: a new victim of communalist brigade

After everything Muslim has been trashed by the rejuvenated Hindutva across the border, now Southasian Sufism is also being highlighted as an Islamist-supremacist project. What utter ignorance to write about the syncretic mystics who were not part of power games nor were they parts of the armies. They were wandering mystics who found India’s spiritual landscape exciting and endearing and chose to stay and die there. The saddest piece that was forwarded to me by a reader is linked below by someone who holds forth – rather fumes – on Sufism and makes sure that he is introduced as “IPS (Retd)” – a scion of the Indian Police Service, an abominable legacy of the colonial state and its naked exploitative nature. Small wonder, his communalised veiw of the world is what the architects of his proud service wanted and achieved with much success.

False, pretentious and ill-informed. Alas.

Dark side of Sufism: Reappraisal of the Role of Sufis Working as Missionaries of Islam, R.K. Ohri, IPS (Retd)

For centuries the Sufi creed and Sufi music have been tom-tomed as great symbols of spiritualism and promoters of peace and harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims. The cleverly marketed concept of Sufi spiritualism has been unquestioningly accepted as the hallmark of Hindu-Muslim unity. It is time we studied the history of Sufis, […]

February 27th, 2009|India, India-Pakistan History, Sufism|2 Comments

We shall overcome the trap of violence

As clouds of war hover in the skies of Lahore, I am missing Delhi and lamenting the relatively difficult venture to visit the city The December of . 2008 was a month of promise. I was meant to visit the Jawaharlal Nehru University, read a paper, participate in a conference and enjoy the environs of the campus that would have glowed in December sunshine. Not to forget that I was meant to pick up two books on Gulzar, the great modern poet and lyricist of India whose links with Urdu and Pakistan’s Punjab are as intractable as the nine centuries of our South Asian past. How keen I was to walk around the bookstores of Delhi and try out the unfrequented eateries hidden behind the mayhem of the urban life. Above all, I wanted to finish the book that I have been writing on Delhi. For that I have to do a little more exploring of its myriad moods. Alas! Certain things are not meant to be. My trip was scheduled right after the tragic Mum bai events which were equally mourned in Pakistan. But that terrorist event has now become a bone of contention, almost a drumbeat for war, between India and my country . […]

Delhi by the book

Writing about the textbook enemy, the ‘other’, is but a daunting task. Facing the grandiose Humayun’s tomb on a chilly January morning this year, I decided to write a book on Delhi.

It was not before I had visited the ancient city that I knew what it symbolised. In Pakistan, we were influenced by the glories of Lahore, my beloved city. Reconstructed histories had kept Delhi invisible. The seat of the Sultans, Mughals and the Raj, precursor of the modern united India and originator of the Indo-Islamic civilization was a mere phantom, best ignored.
Over several visits to Delhi, I realised that invisibility was also a shared curse. A good number of Delhi wallahs I met, had no clue where they lived or crossed the streets. Erasure, blank spaces in textbooks had rendered their own city a mythical other-world existing only in erudite books, rare cultural soirees and among the fading memories of old-Delhi.
When I looked for the house where Urdu’s legendary poet Mir Taqi Mir lived, no one knows it. Those living in Hauz Khas are unaware of what it was. There are thousands, perhaps more, who have never visited Nizamuddin Bastee let alone the dargah there. Tracing history through books resembles a two-dimensional vision. Lived histories add other dimensions to the inner kaleidoscope. But there are so few who can help me.

I am pained when I am taken to the tomb of India’s first female ruler Razia Sultana (1236 – 1240). Only centuries later another woman Indira Gandhi was to rule the Centre. Razia’s grave languishes on an abandoned, filthy cul-de-sac. Many don’t care. I wonder, should I?

As I have ventured out to write, the enormity of Delhi — the idea — haunts me. Where do I start? The layered construction of Indian, and Muslim identities in the subcontinent emanate from the ridges and Hades of Delhi. The saints buried under […]

The sanctuary

Nizamuddin’s shrine and the dergah complex is a source of comfort. Each time I have been there, I have felt uncanny sense of comfort and solace. Found this terrific image here –

April 24th, 2008|Arts & Culture, Sufism|2 Comments

Journeying into mysticism (noted as one the best articles of 2007)

Indian Muslims Blog is now two years old. The IM team have compiled the best articles published at the blog in 2007. Shameless as it sounds, one of my guest articles – Journeying into Mysticism is included in the category. As the editor Mohib, said the “colorful downloadable pdf file is worth reading for the diversity of views and opinions. IM blog team has been most kind to allow me to occasionally contribute to the space. In the process I have learnt a lot about the country and its Muslim population. But most importantly, I have found a few good friends from Lucknow, Kakori, Bhopal, and Bihar among other places. wah wah, kiya kehnay blogosphere ke…

To blow my own little trumpet in this seamless and infinite blogosphere, here is my piece for those readers who may not have read it earlier.

Journeying into mysticism



I turn my face towards the monsoon breeze and lament that I’m in Delhi for work. How will I manage the sightseeing agenda? The faint scent of champa flowers seems hauntingly familiar and I am reminded of Lahore. Despite my efforts, visa hassles and my non-Indo-Pak-peace-brigade status have prevented this journey from materialising for years. Driving through Delhi at night, I almost start the litany of superficial judgments but stop for fear of falling into the abyss of cliches. Nevertheless, I cannot help but notice the images of exotic India, or the official Incredible India. Yes, incredible is the word.

The Maurya Sheraton hotel is a haven of comfort totally removed from the real Delhi world. This is what I resent about luxury hotels in developing countries: the sense of disconnectedness, the ultimate denial of what lies beneath. Maurya is packed with party-hoppers as there is a huge weekend bash at the hotel. The Delhi party-goers are far more free-spirited than the Pakistani lot. They appear at ease with what they wear and do, and conduct themselves in a remarkably unselfconscious manner. The hotel driver, Uttam Ram, warned me that the ‘real’ India is different, that this crowd is too Westernised and the influence of Bollywood is to be blamed. . . but how can I agree? I live on Bollywood myself. The journey has been too long and that first night in Delhi, I crash on the huge four-poster bed. I am not a party boy after all!

Sunday morning passes in work – yes, I work on Sundays and have often thought of killing myself for accepting such terms in my mortal life. After an afternoon nap, I wake up to a sense of regret for having wasted a day in Dilli. I get in touch with Sadia Dehalvi, hoping for her company during my visit to Nizamuddin Auliya’s tomb. She is already planning to go there and we plan to meet a little before sunset.

I reach Mathura Road in an hour and soon find myself wading through its distinctly medieval ambience: labyrinthine alleys, crowds of beggars and street-vendors, a bazaar mood. To my delight, I spot a sign pointing towards Ghalib’s mazaar . This is a traditionally Muslim area: there are several signs offering Umra packages and most signs are in Urdu. The stereotype of suffering Indian Muslims gains currency here. I try not to notice all that and walk around until I find Ghalib’s mazaar . Having being fixated on Ghalib and his poetry for the better part of my life, I am a little disappointed by the matter-of-factness of the place. Even though the tomb has recently been renovated after a court order, it is quite low-key. Nevertheless, the area retains a unique atmosphere and the building itself is somewhat alluring. Near it is the Ghalib Academy, but I rush to Nizamuddin’s dargah and follow the scent of desi roses until I find my way to the tomb. […]

January 15th, 2008|India, India-Pakistan History, South Asian Literature, Sufism|6 Comments