Friday, May 23, 2008
There is Ghalib’s tiny, unassuming tomb. Almost perpetually locked unless you can find the care taker to open the gates. It’s the same with the gorgeous structure of Chausath Khamba, the tomb of Mirza Aziz Kokaltash, a Mughal official and son of Akbar’s Prime Minister Atgah Khan. The pure marble structure is very different from the usual sandstone architecture of Delhi and is a strange oasis of white in the middle of chaotic, colorful Nizamuddin. It’s under the ASI but all that means is that the structure is kept under lock and key. Maintenance and restoration seem to be too much to ask for.
Atgah Khan is buried in Nizamuddin too - in a most gorgeous structure that for some reason brought back memories of Agra Fort. The tomb is crumbling and falling apart, on the ceiling you can just make out wonderful arabesque patterns that must have been vibrant red and blue and one time but are now fading into the red sandstone.
In the midst of the dead is also the Ghalib Academy – trying to keep a dying language alive. In the academy library old men from the basti spend their afternoon read the Urdu newspapers. I made my way through rows and rows and rows of books slowly, painstakingly reading aloud their titles from the Nasta`liq script much to the librarian’s amusement.
After an afternoon spent among ruins of people, buildings, languages I caught an auto back to Khan Market only to alight in the middle of a mad crowd of cars and yuppies and frenetic cosmopolitan commercialism. It couldn’t have been a more different world.
*I am not in Delhi anymore and have missed out on the crazy rains. Quite amazing that it is raining there - in May! Real life has been well, unfortunately, weighing on me a bit too much and I have decided to deal with that by burrying myself in photographs and memories of distant places. Also - I really want to go on vacation. Gah.