Swimming in the shallow layers of history, I have surfaced as miraculous incarnation as many as seven times. Born with the glimmering divinity as fabled Indraprastha in Mahabharata, my grandeur existence took shape as Tughlaqabad, gradually evolving into the pride of Delhi Sultanate, Ferozabad. My budding beauty finally blossomed under the Mughals as I emerged into Shahjahanabad or the youth of old Delhi. My life is an enchanting compendium of love, angst, hatred and other sea of emotions. Victimized by a subtle senility, I want to voice my experiences and seek my degrading beauty.
My appealing youth through the course of history dragged attention of pompous and intense lovers. Some razed my soul while some savoured its smoothness. Myriad of ferocious battles were fought by the Delhi Sultans, the rigorous Lodis and Royal Mughals to own my invaluable beauty. Overcame by the sense of possession, these lovers of distant lands started to adorn me with sandstone and marbles which accentuated my exotic beauty and I began to be identified with Qutub Minar, Alai Darwza, Purana Quila and numerous precious jewelleries of that sort.
Ever since my existence, I am imbued with the soothing fragrance of rich culture which is silently losing its aura. My veins are filled with the melody of Qawwalis of Amir Khusrau and the austere yet chaste faith of Nizamuddin Auliya. I am blessed with the brilliance of Ghalib and Mir, their poetry serves as an enduring serenity to my soul. My life is enriched with memory of the scintillating Chandni Chowk, the vibrant shimmer of its narrow lanes in the moonlit market which has concealed itself under the dark clouds of dust and heaped bundle of unpleasant rubble.
My nightmares come alive when nostalgia plunges my mind and I am reminded of the calm and Waveless Yamuna, I regret not saving it. I am also reminded of the unconditional harmony of my religious senses, humming together the song of life which now, in the present scenario seems to be an archaic treasure and as Mir say,
“Kya bood o baash pooche ho purab ke sakino
humko ghareeb jaanke hans hans ke pukar ke
Dilli jo aik shahar tha alam me intekhab,
Rehte the muntakhib hi jahan rozgar ke
Jisko falak ne loot ke viraan kar diya
Hum rehne wale hain usi ujde dyar ke.”
Continuing the legacy of attracting foreigners, I was victimized by the British colonialists. Awestruck by my royal character, they shifted the capital of India to me in 1911 from Calcutta which marked the beginning of a new phase of my long life. The colonialists triggered silent erosion of the court culture, the heterogeneous languages, and the old tahzeeb; it brought about erosion of my soul.
It’s painful to state that the realization dawned on the descendants of my lovers quite late. The aching memories are embedded in my mind, with the caged birds trying to smash metal rods, the birds dreaming to sing. My bones shiver to recall the cross border killing and annihilation of those birds for flying in their own sky!
The deep wounds can never be healed but I holding hands of Patel and Nehru persevered to stand up again looking towards a new dawn and a biased idea of modernity in a whole new way. It was blissful to submerge in the shadow of secularism, socialism, liberty, equality and freedom. New offices and hoardings was rejuvenating my senses and I was acknowledged as the heart of India which consumed blooming diversity and was central to the working of it but the political nexus and increasing intolerance once again broke my heart and scarred my identity with the bloodshed of 1984 riot. I was frightened of the deadly havoc and traumatized by the shattering of humanity and intolerance. My image is stained with its morbid memory.
But I was born with undying resilience so I managed to move on and rebuild my lost confidence. Slowly and steadily, I regained my expensive diversity shedding the past and consuming the western influence bringing new machines, ideas, values, altogether a new culture. People gossip that I have changed but I giggle at it because I know that different layers of my past still lay suspended, adjacent to each other.
A lot of time has elapsed and I am quite changed by now. Darlymple said, “Delhi is starting to unbutton itself”. Yes I have become pretty modern with metro lines drawn all over me, the shopping paradise enclosed in glass palaces. Taylor swift and Eminem thrill me more than any folk song or old ghazals and I am fascinated by the delicious cheese pizza though I sometimes hop in paranthe wali gali too.
Although I am known for my antique beauty, a certain degree of senility is shrouding me. I am corroding with the diminishing security of women, coughed with carbon monoxide and wrinkled with the shabby slums. I am exhausted by the hurdles which are hindering my flight, forcing me to give up.
But I am the heart, controlling the numerous Indian lives. I want my constellations to twinkle at night and my body refreshed without garbage dumps in sight. Engulfed in prayer I seek the help of my numerous admirers to bring back my lost harmony and respect women who are my priceless honour. I urge to beautify the sacrificed the lives that flourish here. I want to breathe in heavenly contentment and suddenly I am reminded of Zauq!
In dino garche dakan me hai badi Qadr e sukhan, kaun jaye Zauq par dilli ki galiyan chodkar.
Written By- Zainab Rashid