Posts Tagged ‘Nizammudin’


Tea in Mud Cups

   Posted by: aman    in Other

At the entrance to Jungpura from Hospital Road, Ram Jagrit Lal stands under a mud coloured tarpaulin behind a red cart. He used to be our neighbourhood’s favourite cigarette-walla. Then the police struck, owing to the Saint Paul school nearby he went out of business. “I will be back Sa’ab, just one or two days’, he assured all his customers those days, six months ago.

He stayed unshaven, unkempt. He did not know what had hit him. He would park his old grey Bajaj Chetak scooter near the stall, its glove compartment shut but not locked. On being asked for a cigarette he would dip his hand in and quickly pass out the pack, pocket the money without counting. All of this sneakily, not wanting the police constable to notice.

‘Why do you not shift 100 meters away?’ I asked him.

‘I have paid for this place.’

‘Paid whom?’

‘Government. They gave me this place for bijness.’


‘Yes I paid tax. In the MCD. I make regular payment.’

‘And police?’

‘They too.’ He did not pay the government any tax. He paid someone a bribe in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi but he did not care to know the difference. It was money gone.

‘So won’t they give you a new stand?’ He shrugs his tired shoulders. ‘What will you do now?’

‘Kuch karenge Sa’ab. This business was wrong. Even I don’t smoke. How can I sell poison?’

The two days stretched. I stopped going to him. The local, bigger, store started stacking cigarettes. It’s owner remarked, ‘Ram ji’s customers come to us. I feel sorry for him. But my business has picked up.’

Ram ji kept his place but changed his business. He started keeping a stove and a pan. ‘I will make tea,’ he said with a smile. But he still looked haggard. His tea too was no match to Mahender, the guy on the other side on Mosque Road or even the Chottu at the auto-stand. Ram ji’s son too stopped coming to the shop. A few months later, when I passed by his stall I waved to him. He looked much better, a clean shirt, hair combed. That evening I went up to him for a glass of tea. Just for old times sake.

His tea was so different! It smelled of cardamom, tasted of ginger. He looked at me and smiled. ‘Sa’ab, I had never made tea in my home. How could I make it here? But I learnt. Now tell me, how is it?’ It was the best tea on the street. Why? It is one of the finer teas I have tasted.

‘So, do people come now?’

‘Yes, they are coming back. See me in the winters.’

‘What will you do?’

‘Bring in an angeethi (mud fireplace), a mud vessel to boil the milk, even mud cups for tea.’


‘Yes, once one has four people standing near the angeethi in the cold, others will automatically come.’ He says assured. His business is picking up. ‘No wastage of milk now’.

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Dilli Dilwalon Ki

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Peak hour traffic on Nizammudin Bridge. Vehicles backed up. We inched closer. Cursing, honking, braking, guarding our priceless cars from the car, bike, cycle, tractor, auto-rickshaw next to us. I saw my watch: a one minute drive had taken twenty. I was in no mood to reconcile. Get to Ashram lights and speed out on the Ring Road. Gosh! I came to Delhi to escape Bangalore traffic. This is worse.

As I neared the point of the snarl I saw a battered, huge, old Delhi Water Board tanker in the middle of the road. The rest of the traffic was going around it. Behind the tanker were at least fifteen school kids, huffing and pushing. I saw it for a few good minutes. The cars around it were making a beeline to squeeze between the road divider and the tanker.

Suddenly, the tanker spurted to life, groaned. It moved a bit on its own engine. The delicate hands started leaving the tanker’s back. Its wheels started acquiring a life. Out, from the driver’s side, jumped a Sardarji. He had a maroon turban, was in a cream shirt and brown trousers. He was wearing sun glasses and had tied up his beard with a strip of cloth, to set its hair. I could hardly see his face, but his cheeks were shining, turning red in the sun. His lips were turned into a broad smile. His arms were raised above his head, his hands were folded in a Namaste. That is all he did, stand on the road, give thanks, while the tanker engine warmed up.

The children cheered and moved away; the tanker started and the Sardarji vanished into it. They moved away. The warmth of the gesture purged my frustration at being held up on the road.

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At the Khusro Urs

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Khusro darya prem ka, ulti wa ki dhaar,
Jo utra so doob gaya, jo dooba so paar

The river of love, flows in reverse,
he who enters drowns, who drowns goes across

Richa told me about the Amir Khusro’s Urs at Khwaja Nizammudin Dargah. I reached and, as is the custom, I went into the sanctum sanctorum. When I was coming out a lady handed me some rose flowers to place on the holy shrine of Nizammudin Auliya. I placed them and picked up a few petals to give to the lady but she had vanished. I took them to Amir Khusro’s mazhar and thought of it as pollination.

The quawalli singing was not too great.

‘After all,’ said Manas, ‘we have now heard Nusret.’

I befriended Rahim the bearer of the fan. Rahim’s body is wasted but his smile and eyes shine. He fans people and begs for their grace, in the form of money. When he came to me, I refused to pay. ‘You get food at the Dargah kitchen. Why do you need money? To inject yourself?’

He smiled mischievously. When I was leaving to take an office conference call he gave me a full hug.

I anyway wanted to leave. The eyes I had seen all evening were getting to me. They were so familiar. They reminded me of the two pairs of eyes I had seen until a few years back. One full of search, other full of mistrust. Both looking for acceptance, the kind the quawalli listeners perhaps find at the Dargah of Nizammudin Chisti. Ulti is ki dhaar. The river of love flows in reverse.

I took the call from my car. Behind it were a couple of transgendered people arguing about something. I could not go and tell them to stop chattering. That I was taking part in an important meeting. During the call a group of drunken men came and parked their wobbly car with a screech. I thanked my stars my phone was on mute.

When I was finishing I saw two men approach a group of people sleeping on the roadside and search for money on them. My call was more important than the robbery. I stayed put in my safe car.

When I finished the call I again went in to listen to more singing. A big, burly man was being teased by small children. He obviously could not afford to chase them away and was shouting loudly. When I neared him he put out his hand in front of me. I held it and gave it a gentle squeeze. He smiled and patted my shoulder.

Chhaap tilak sab chin re mose naina milaike
Prem bhati ka madva pilaike
Gori gori baiyan, hari hari churiyan
baiyan pakar dhar linhi re mose naina milaike
Bal bal joon main tore rang rajva
Apni si kar linhi re mose naina milaike
Khusro Nijam ke bal bal jaiye
Mohe suhagan kinhi re mose naina milaike
Bat atham keh dini re mose naina milaike

You’ve taken away my looks, my identity, by just a glance.
You’ve intoxicated me by just a glance;
My fair, delicate wrists with green bangles in them,
Have been held tightly by you with just a glance.
I give my life to you, Oh my cloth-dyer,
You’ve dyed me in yourself, by just a glance.
I give my whole life to you Oh, Nijam,
You’ve made me your bride, by just a glance.

I left the Dargah past midnight, full of those eyes I had seen all evening: searching for forgiveness, for kindness, for being able to rise above their mistrust, for love. I hope I can go to the Urs again next year.

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Rats on Railway Tracks

   Posted by: aman    in Other

All through my childhood and teenage, our small family used pass through Nizammudin Station. It was our halt between trains, from Rourkela to Punjab and vice versa on our way back. Sometimes it would be bright summer at Nizammudin, the hot sun roasting Mamman, Baba and me; at other times it would be freezing cold, with us layering ourselves with as many clothes as we could, but still chilled to the bones. The Rourkela to Punjab wait was a long evening, the Utkal Kalinga Express came in at afternoon and Chattisgarh Express left late at night; the Punjab to Rourkela wait was a long morning, Chattisgarh Express came early morning and Utkal Kalinga Express left late afternoon. On both those halts Mamman would sit on platform chairs and Baba would take me to Delhi to show me monuments and places. My discovery and understanding of Delhi started from Nizammudin.

I must have been seven or eight years old when one cold morning we got down from the train. It was foggy; we could not even see the banisters of the steps we were taking from one platform to another. On Platform One we warmed our hands on the hot tea cups. The fog intensified, as if thick cotton had engulfed the station. We put our hands on our suitcases which we could not see. Someone could have walked away with one. That morning my Delhi trip to Jantar Mantar was cancelled. The fog rose with the sun. Suddenly the shining railway tracks winked at us. Those were days of low platforms. I went to touch the tracks, planning to place a rupee coin on it to see how the next train flattened it. As I neared the track, a huge black demon appeared to approach me. Baba pulled me by my hand, away from the tracks, and the engine rode by. The carriages followed it. The train stopped, people got down, people climbed, the small business hawked tea and biscuits and bread pakodas. The train left. With it went the fog. As if the train had pushed it away from the tracks and adjoining platforms.

I looked back at the tracks. It was full of disposed food, eatable and from toilets. The tracks no longer winked at me; instead they were covered with black rats that came up from beneath them to devour the goodies. I guess they did not distinguish between the two kinds of food. Or maybe they did.

There was another black form amongst them. Bigger. A man. Fighting with the rats, pushing them away from a half eaten piece of bread, a smeared with curry paper plate to lick. Picking morsels that rats would have eaten and putting them in his mouth. His eyes were sharp. Astute, penetrating, looking where no rat could look, on either side of the track, lining him up for the attack, where he was a rival to the regular contestants. He had a black pyjama on, maybe it was white once, he was wearing a torn banyan, this must have been white once, his hair was matted, and his beard was unkempt. He was a human being. No, he was a rat, a scavenger. His eyes stayed with me ever since. Eyes that searched for the meagre remains from moving trains. I had never seen a contest go as basic as that. Hunger can make rodents out of humans.

Now I live in the National Capital Region. I often go down to Nizammudin Station at nights and sit on the platforms. Later I heard of someone brilliant from advertising who used to spend long hours doodling at Nizammudin Station. I hoped one day I would live near Nizammudin Station and write. My hunt for a house has narrowed down to the localities Nizammudin and Jungpura, from where I would not have to drive back an hour to reach home at night. Which are not more than ten minutes by walk from Nizammudin Station and Ashram.

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