Journey(s)

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And today is a special day. 1st March.

It’s been one year since I witnessed and experienced something magical.

I am talking about my journey to the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya.

Yes, I very consciously use the word ‘journey’ instead of ‘visit’. For I wish to draw home the point that there was no temporality attached to it. That brings me to another question- What is spirituality?
It is quite a broad concept, with room for a whole lot of perspectives to fit in comfortably. But to me, it is a sacred experience which touches you deeply, and makes you feel connected to something greater than your own being. As you might’ve read my post about the first encounter with the blessed place, today I stand tall with pride and happiness, as I feel I’ve managed to attain that magical level in my frequent trips to the dargah.
There is something about the Dargah that makes me go “I am here, I am here!” everytime I land up there. It’s the anticipation of something that makes me go alive there. I feel very peaceful just by being there, amongst other devotees. Not to sound pompous, but I feel the Mehboob-e-Ilahi has gladly invited me, as if wanting to see more of me in his home. I cannot say I have always wished for something or the other whenever I’ve been there, but yes, I do manage to have a ‘talk’ with the Auliya, discussing matters I am concerned about or the issues I am caught up with at the time. I just tell him everything and pray that he helps me see light at the end of the tunnel. And it does happen. He helps me everytime, in seeing the bigger picture, the broader perspective, something I feel I cannot, being a mere mortal.
Everytime I cross the Nizamuddin Basti when travelling somewhere, it happens automatically that my hands join in supplication towards the Auliya. I happened to read this somewhere on Instagram that “When God inspires your tongue to ask it, know that he wants to give.” And it’s upto us to believe that whatever his answer shall be, it’ll always be good for us. Allah tells us “I am as my slave expects me to be.” And borrowing these pious words to explain my state of connection with the Auliya, I tell you all that I feel the same for the beloved Auliya. There’s something else I want to tell you readers… If at all you visit the Dargah, do that with hope, love and lots of positivity. If you walk towards the sanctum sanctorum with doubts, fear and negativity, it won’t take you anywhere. Be full of trust. And believe in the magic of the place you’ve set foot in, for a few minutes vanish in a second there.

As a student of Literature, I might as well sound like I’m taking a cue out of Waiting For Godot (Haha!), but it is imperative I say what I am going to-

As a woman, I believe (or assume it’s safe to say so) that we womenfolk have a fancy world deep inside us and we all aspire to it (Be it the kind of life you wish to lead, or the soulmate you wish to spend the rest of your life with, or the occupation you see yourself befitting for, or be it anything else). Don’t ever doubt or question your creation of that pretty kingdom you’ve cherished in your head or on the basis of which you set your standards to choose, live and reject certain things around you, no matter what the world tells you. You have every right to keep close to that secret ideal, however unachievable or dazy it seems to be. All of us are waiting for something/ somebody to arrive. And that, I guess is a kind of waiting I’m referring to ahead. You don’t know when will “it” arrive, you might not know what it is exactly, but in the innermost chambers of your heart, you hope for it. You imagine and live your life for it. And for me, it is the Auliya and the Gods I kneel before to (for somewhere, spirituality and religion coincide for me), who have an answer to that.

And somehow, when I go to the Dargah, I pray my wait ends soon, and I come again and thank the Auliya for providing me with what I wanted fervently. And come again. And again.
May peace be with you all.
And if you have not set out on your journey to the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya, do so now! 🙂

Much like Trishanku

Trishanku. I see the word emblazoned on several pages in a diary where I took down notes during a lecture, drew doodles and wrote my name in different languages, a habit which is an unmistakable characterstic of self obsessed people, I hear. Well. Why does this word chug at my heart’s strings today? I bore down into the English and Hindi calligraphy shouting out the word aloud. I am Trishanku, I finally decide.

I am in a weird phase of my life when marriage proposals scare me. So does getting rishta-ed at social gatherings. And eventually, an irritation creeps up at times, when I’m not ready to accept the reality that the time has come, when the event you talked about as if it was too futuristic, is round the corner, peek a booing at you. And at times, I feel I am at that juncture, wherein I would love to share my life happily with a man I see capable of being my soulmate. But the very thought of leaving my parents, and settling in another house freaks me out too. For it’ll be a major change for a pampered only child like me. It is, for every woman, to be frank.

My Nani once talked of how, she was a rocking bride as she didn’t cry at all. But after what they call the ‘Pag Phera Rasam’, when the time to go to the “new nest” arrived, did the feeling sink in and needless to say, she was inconsolable. She still makes up for her not bauling like a baby at her wedding by doing so at family weddings or a movie scene, even the overtly dramatic ones, I tell you. She even cried at her son’s wedding, the daughter in law sobbing being the trigger. My mother and aunt had to pat her, consoling her with a lame “she’s coming to your place only, don’t you worry.” dialogue. Hilarious, right?

I guess that’ll be me. Totally mawkish at my wedding. But for now, It’s like I’m hanging nowhere, feeling incomprehensible and foolish. Why doesn’t any man fit into my list of an ideal mate, I ponder. Does that mean I have a list? Well, only in my mind; the contents of which I myself am a stranger to. For it seems hazy and so like a hideous elf straight from the stories of Enid Blyton, who pitter patters around. You can’t see it, but only hear it and feel it, looking at you being perplexed with a sly smile adorning the face, for everyone loves entertainment. Even if it’s your own mind and soul, which have been made to confuse you. Forever.

And on top of that, my Ipod playlist is mocking me too. I am listening to ‘Unse Mili Nazar’, the classic from the flick Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan. I love how the lyrics describe the myriad reactions and feelings of a woman when she stands mesmerized by a man whom she’s encountered briefly. It brings me into an “OMG I would love it if it happens to me soon” mode.

And then comes in Sona Mohapatra’s ‘Abhi Nahi Aana’. I must share some lines from the song that nail my mood-

“Mohe Thoda Marne De, Intezaar Karne De.”

“Thodi Door Rehke, Mohe Tarsaana,

Abhi Toh Main Chaahoon, Sari Sari Raat Jagna”

“Abhi Naa Jagao, Bane Raho Sapna,

Abhi Toh Main Chahoon, Aas Lagaye Rakhna…”

Another favourite for days when I feel I need more time for myself as a single woman. The song speaks of the joy of waiting for one’s beloved. Yes, I totally feel like that woman sitting at the jharoka of a splendid palace, sipping tea and reading a book, occasionally peeping out, smiling to myself and at my enigma. Haha! Also at the good luck of the man who’ll be mine. For he gets me, after all. 😉

Perhaps, In a few years, I’ll just laugh reading my own post, contemplating if or not, my husband deserves to be enlightened about the flimsy blogger that his wife was (and would still be at that point, rather.) Whatsay, folks?

Down the mystical alley in Dilli

“Do come in, oh truthful soul, so that we may become close and become trusted friends.
But if you are ignorant and have no wisdom, then you better go back the way you came.”
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I don’t know if this turns out to be a “shuru karo lekar prabhu ka naam” post. But, who cares! I feel like writing my first post about a beautiful (spiritual) experience I had recently.
I must start by uttering ‘Bismillah’! Shall I? Hehe!
So, it was in the fourth semester of my graduation that I read about the Nizamuddin Dargah. Prior to which it was just another place in Delhi for me. I had opted for Medieval Delhi as an optional for that particular semester. Our professor made a quirky decision for our mid semester marking. He asked us to write about ‘anything’. It could be about a trip to a monument, or any such experience with history coloring the canvas in some way or the other. And it had to be fully furnished with proof and thorough research. The plagiarists that undergraduates can be sometimes, it would make sure we don’t just steal material off the net and vomit it out on the paper.
The announcement caught me in a fix. What was I supposed to do? For your information, I am always game for visiting historical monuments and places. It gives me a high. But I wanted my project to be absolutely different from everyone. So, I let my mind churn its wheels for a brilliant idea. On the same day, I was visiting some relatives in Delhi and on my way back home, I passed the magnificent Tughlakabad Fort. And there it lay, my subject! I had visited it years back. Had but faint memories of it and as an Army freak, remembered it as the site where the melodious song “Agar Main Kahoon” from Lakshya was shot (The instrumental of which is my ringtone). And I did possess some stray photographs of it with me.
So, I quickly got home and started my search to refresh my memories of it. In midst of that, the story of Nizamuddin Auliya and Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq caught my eye. I had heard the famous Persian saying- “Hanooz Dilli Door Ast” (translated in English, it means “Delhi is still far off”). And the reason behind it introduced me the larger picture. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was an erstwhile slave of the Khilji dynasty. You can well imagine the amount of intelligence, strength and cunning he must have possessed to overturn his fortune and become a ruler. It’s all about the correct strategies and planning, peeps! (Of course, sucking up to his master would have helped too!) Haha!

Anyway, the construction of his “dream fort” started on an inauspicious note, inviting the wrath of Nizamuddin Auliya, the powerful sufi saint, with a massive fan following, so to say. Now the story goes like this-
“Ghias-ud-din is usually perceived as a liberal ruler. However, he was so passionate about his dream fort that he issued a dictate that all labourers in Delhi must work on his fort. Saint Nizamuddin Auliya, a Sufi mystic, got incensed as the work on his baoli (well) was stopped. The confrontation between the Sufi saint and the royal emperor has become a legend in India. The saint uttered a curse which was to resonate throughout history right until today: Ya rahey ujjar, ya basey gujjar which can roughly be translated to “either remain inhabited or would live gujjars”. So, after the fall of sultanate, Gujjars of the area captured the Qila and till date village Tughlakabad is situated in it.”
(Source- Wikipedia)
Now, I felt agitated. I felt for the ruler. The son Mohammed Tughlaq is often held responsible for the murder of his father, while he was on his way back after a victory at Bengal. Look at the ruining of a man, who rose from the ashes to end up with nothing. He was a prototype of what we see in these quest narratives as the alpha man! But a simple curse changed the course of his life. Having a discord doesn’t lead one to wish death on the other party, does it? But I guess, the antagonism the sufi saint harbored for the materialistic and self centered rulers, just exploded on one man. How fair was that, I thought. So, I wrote extensively against the Sufi saint and saw the monument as testimony of defiance, and won an excellent grade for the paper.
That, I thought, was the end of the story.
But, during the first year of my post graduation, I met this woman, who’s now a close friend.  She came from the Nizami community, the clan which looks after the Dargah. It was from her that I often heard about the Dargah, and about the peace and positivity it supposedly gave her on regular visits. I was mesmerized. I thought, maybe I was too harsh in my judgement and gave a one sided view of the story. Adding to it, the accounts of the famous qawwali of the Dargah, and of the pilgrims prayers being answered miraculously added to my excitement.
So, after many plans failing to materialize, the Mehboob E Ilahi summoned us finally on the First of March. We had a two and a half hour gap between lectures that day. And an impromptu plan was made. The dargah was just 20 minutes away from us. We set off quickly, without wasting a second. And there we were, after all those moments of wanting to visit it! Something about that place was so different. No jostling for space, at least that day. It was full of energy, enthusiasm and devotees thronging all over the basti. I could spot little girls wearing hijab, along with their mummyjaan’s for a quick visit to the dargah. After waking some distance, dodging shopkeepers who were adamant on selling us flowers, incense sticks, chaadars, ittar, lockets and what not,  we finally reached the last shop before the entrance to the Dargah and dutifully kept our shoes outside for safekeeping.(One tip-unless you don’t care about your feet getting soiled, leave your footwear only at the shops right next to the dargah. They don’t charge you for it. Sweet folks, I tell you!) So, one of my friends (thoughtfully) bought a rose ittar from the shopkeeper as a thank you gesture.20160301_130144

And I expected some security cover, and frisking before being allowed to enter, but was surprised to find none. I guess, it’s too blessed a place to be provided protection. Anyway, one friend from our group of five exclaimed- “Oh god, so this was where parts of the movie Rockstar were shot!” Hearing which we giggled, constantly taking care not to let the dupattas fall off, leaving our heads uncovered. (Tip two- they only expect you to cover your head there as a mark of respect. There is no strict dressing code. But I somehow feel wearing traditionals looks proper.)20160301_125919.jpg

We just sat there for a while, absorbing the atmosphere. People were busy praying all around. We went ahead and bought the mannat ka dhaaga from a shop in the compound.(You’ve got to pay for that, fella!). And one of my friend suddenly asks- “Can I get some black string for protection against the evil eye. The panditji here might bless it, no? Hearing this, we laughed. So used to going around in temples, she had forgotten we were at a sufi shrine. Anyway, we called our very own Nizami Bandhu, (my friend, the classmate) who sadly couldn’t join us, for the dargah prohibits entry of menstruating women), and she told us, we could just take a black string, rub it on the main wall of the sanctum sanctorum, while reciting a holy verse from the Koran Sharif, and that will do. Post the query session, we tied our Mannat ka Dhaaga and clicked pictures of the place.(They allow that. No problem there!)  Two of my friends recited holy verses and prayed silently, while I did a secular, silent prayer, for the saint understands you, your desires and language, no matter what. Ladies aren’t allowed inside, so we could spot them occupying the place right outside the four walls.


The best time to visit is in the morning, before noon. It is fairly less crowded. Thursdays and Fridays(Jumme ka din) are the days when they get the maximum footfall. My friend though visits it during the wee hours, that is, at the time of fajr. Suits her, as the Nizami community lives at a stone’s throw from the shrine. Coming back to my experience, I found it to be calming, just sitting there, doing nothing. I felt ashamed of writing the Sufi saint off in my assignment. And apologized silently. I felt one with the devotees. I felt blessed, loved and the air itself was magical. It was spiritually enlightening and a positive experience, where I felt, as mere mortals, we cannot fathom the ways of the mystique. We need to be acceptive, rather than rebellious. An aunty sitting beside me was teaching another kid about the merciful character of the saint, who loved and cared for his followers, being a benign paternal figure to them, in addition to speaking about the cruel sultans. And somehow, I felt the lesson was being meted out to me, never to read a one sided account of any tale, and look at both sides of the coin.
So, post the enlightenment and a successful darshan, we reached the Ghalib Academy and thereafter the Urs Mahal.

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Ghalib Academy. You need a membership in order to browse their collection, which lies on the first floor.

There we found some kids playing cricket. And amongst them was this munchkin- a pretty girl, less than five years of age. We were clicking a group picture when she just photobombed cutely, and sat close to me. I was enamored by her love and friendliness. She had that beautiful smile, which touched me.
As we were moving out from that compound, reluctant to wave goodbye to that cherub, her father called out to her from his house above. And her name turned out to be Iram! I was stunned! Being a Hindu, I just love this name of all the Urdu/Persian/Arabic names I have come across. It means “a garden in Paradise.” I felt as if it was God’s sign, telling me I was blessed on my maiden visit to the dargah. The girl was my lucky charm, I sensed. I wanted to share our pictures with her, but I don’t want her daddy to find and strangle me for posting his daughter’s photographs on a public forum. Hehe! Moving ahead after experiencing this epiphany, I joined my friends for the famous Nizamuddin ki phirni. (The non vegetarian fare holding no attraction for a vegetarian like me!) 

 

Having an enormous sweet tooth, I relished every bit of it. It was only after a friend squeeled after looking at her watch, did we realize we had to rush back for the important, impending lecture. And with heavy steps, we paid our respects to the Auliya, with promises to come back soon, with a belief that our prayers will be answered and the mannat ka dhaaga shall be untied. (Inshallah!)

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They often cut the threads if an enormous amount prevents new ones from being tied. Hence, you see the locks all over, ensuring no one touches them before the individual comes by to unlock them after fulfillment of a wish . Worried? Don’t be. Even if they cut your thread, you can go back and untie the one at the place where you tied your own one. It’s just a act of saying thank you. The Auliya won’t judge you for that. 🙂

Psst…
I was tempted to visit the Chilla Khanqah too! It’s still a well kept secret, despite my yelling about it down here. But my Nizami Bandhu advised me against it. She maintained it was okay if married girls paid a visit there. As it’s considered to be a little haunted, she was convinced some evil might befall us unmarried females. And, this time, instead of rebelling, I quietly accepted it, choosing to respect her beliefs. (The spirits don’t harm men, be assured! So much for Freud’s theory of Penis envy. Sigh!) 😀
And, oh yes, do listen to the song on the sufi saint from the hindi movie ‘Black and White'( a brilliant movie and a beautiful song, I tell you!).

So, this was me penning down my first memorable ziyaarat of sorts.