This January end we do a John Denver. Our destination on this journey is Indore M.P., for the periodic appointment with our dhanwantari and we lament the neglected looks of the roads and दरिद्री looks of the spaces which are almost clad with discarded plastic carry-bags. Indore is a pathetic and poor city inhabited by rich people because of the fondness, not just tendency, of the public to look the other way when bureaucrats and politicians pocket public funds meant for civic facilities. Agra Bombay Road cannot be widened on account of a temple, a masjid and a gurudwara coming in the way. Kyaaaa bhiyo...?
But all said and done, the Mother of all Homes, that is Mother’s Home is @ Indore and the gutsy lady is quite cheerful. Lot of furniture work got done by her. She’s 80. Missus asks us to delve into the piles of paper, says थोडं मंथन करा त्या कागदाचं ....परत तो घोटाळा नको , return ची कॉपी इंदोर ला राहिली कि बंगलोर ला कि गुवाहाटी ला कि पुण्या ला , .... वगैरे वगैरे ..
We discover something startling, which we thought was lost treasure- a yellowing envelope from ‘Bennett Coleman and Company’ which yields tidings of a Rs. 1,000.00 (Rs. one thousand only) cheque ...and a 1999 newspaper cutting from the Sunday Chimes of India, an article written by Carl von ‘Bailiff under the pseudonym Sanjiv Bokil, God bless him- the context is a PIL filed in the SC by none other than Fali S. Nariman, a closet shair, just like YT, and bears repetition:
THE TRAIL OF TWO TOMBS
It is heartening to note that the Supreme Court has turned its attentions to historical monuments like the mazaars of Mirza Ghalib and Zauq and one hopes their greatness will be resurrected form the dead. Godspeed to the SC. And here, hangs a tale.
It was about a decade back. My friend Najmi Haidri was visiting Delhi, our home-town. Alone at his hotel on a Sunday, he called me over the phone. Let’s go sight-seeing, but added, not the usual places. Since he happened to be a history and shayari buff, my choice fell upon two sites unseen by me- the tombs of Razia and Mirza Ghalib. My companion being holed up at Hotel Ranjit,, Razia’s resting place was naturally the first port of call. In those winding lanes of Old Delhi, you would ride only a cycle-rickshaw, or a bicycle or a two-wheeler. So armed with that giant map of Delhi published by the Surveyor General of India, astride my rickety blue Vijai Super, we left on what turned out to be a little voyage of discovery.
Our journey began opposite Hotel Ranjit, at Turkman Gate, one of the 14 gates to the old walled city and literally a gateway to History. The map showed a meandering road leading upto Empress Razia’s tomb. Reality, alas, it turned out, was vastly more complicated than that excellent map. Sitting on the pillion, Haidri had an issue with the map which was aflutter like a wayward dupatta. “Hum to janaab in cheezon se katraate hain”, I still remember the words so aptly chosen, “aap hamaari taaz poshi karen aur lagaam hamen thaamne dein....”. So the helmet was placed on his head, and the map fell in my lap. And “maps tell you everything except how to fold them back”, someone had said...
Our scooter sputtered along steep narrow lanes, filling them up with metallic decibels. We were quite a sight we suppose, two prim gentlemen, the one on the pillion, with head buried in the giant map. It was a hopeless mess, and even getting out of the tangle of lanes would demand a lot of direction. So we parked the scooter and started with pooch-taach. “isse aasan to jannat me unse milkar aana hota..” said Haidri...”wahan se waapsi ki koi tikat nahi hai huzoor” was the obvious reply.
With his chaste urdu my friend struck instant rapport with the public. There was no kabristan in the area, we were informed. And who was this Razia ? She was a historical figure we said. Razia Sultan and her mazaar did exist somewhere around here, at least according to this map. We were taken to a senior citizen who told us and our local guides that the place was behind bulbulkhana which was a stone's throw away.
I would advise Delhites to really go and see the place. It is a stark courtyard paved with grey stone. A blue Archaeological Survey of India board stands sentinel at the narrow entrance, followed by a short stone inscription. The rough hewn tomb stands forlornly though with an unknown companion, in the middle without even a tree for shade. She was on the wrong side of the ulema when she was killed, my friend explained. It was a tale in stone which spells despair.
How the past brushes shoulders with the present in those narrow lanes of the walled city! Children had drawn three wickets on the platform below the tomb and a regular cricket match was in progress, God bless Razia... Of course the children didn't know whose tomb it was or indeed, who was Razia Sultan. Hema Malini's film had not been made by then...
Our next destination was on the other side of the city. There was a wager between the two of us- how tough will be Quo Vadis? The map was folded back into its original folds with great difficulty and put away, for after all we had simply to reach the dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia and anyone would show us the way to mazaar of the greatest of shairs or so we thought. But we, the bhardralok, it seems, live in a world apart. We parked our scooter at the entrance of the dargah but no one was able to tell us where the mazaar- which we were dead sure was only a minute away somewhere –lay. Of course everyone had heard of Ghalib, he had starred in a number of movies. His mazaar was at Agra one lad in skull cap informed us much to the chagrin of our shair. “shakl-o-surat se tum Muslim bachche dikhte ho, itna to urdu shayari ke baare mey maloom hona chahiye...!” he exclaimed. A few steps away, fortunately, we spied a board saying ‘Aiwan-e-Ghalib', and entered its precincts. The mazaar was beside the building, but was locked. By the ‘Government' we were told. Of course we were free to look over the gate and pay our respects.
My friend sadly surveyed the decrepit tomb and the dilapidated structure, vegetation appearing from every crevice. Fali S. Nariman had quoted the ‘huwe mar ke ham jo ruswa' couplet in the petition to the SC. The one uttered then by my pensive friend was just as apt, written by the great shair with foresight and characteristic impishness:
“Ugg raha hai dar-o-deewar pe sabza Ghalib, hum biyabaan me hain aur ghar mey bahar aayi hai!”
Greenery sprouts on the walls, on the doors Ghalib, we trudge in the wilderness and spring it is at home...!
(PS: 1999 vs. 2012: minor changes in style noted, foremost, sun sets over first person singular)