To round off this series on Delhi, I come back to the beginning, and to my friend Roy, who works in the Delhi University. He has a real sweet tooth, and of late he seems to have given a go to the severe regime of physical exercise that he normally subjected himself to, with the result that his corporeal opulence suddenly started showing. In conversation about these and such, he spoke of his colleague, Shalini, a Jain girl, who was keeping upavaas (fasting), and managed to go whole days together, eating practically nothing. Speaking of her, he then went on to tell me some peculiar tales that she had shared with him, about her home in Old Delhi, and then seeing my interest, he got her to speak to me on the phone. Here’s what she said.
She said that her family has been in Old Delhi for at least the last five generations. And since 1901 they were living in this haveli just off Chandni Chowk. And in that haveli, in one of the rooms, there was a small shrine of sorts, without any specific markings, that was considered a shrine associated with a Pir, a Sufi saint. Well they paid no special attention to this shrine, and sold that part of the house to a printing press. Soon after that, things started going wrong with her father, and he was into one problem or the other. And then one day he had a dream. He dreamt that the Pir told him that he was not happy that the shrine had been disturbed, and that, in fact, worship should be offered here. Taking this to be divine direction, he decided to make amends, and went and prayed at that little shrine. From that day onwards he got relief from the problems that plagued him. Some fifteen years ago he sold the rest of the haveli, but he still goes there every Thursday to offer worship.
I asked her, how is it that the current owners allowed him to still use that place for this purpose. She replied – “Allow? Allow kaise naheen karenge? How will they not allow? Earlier they did object, but then they started having so many problems, which were solved only when they allowed worship to recommence. Every Thursday, they give the key of that place to my father.”
I asked her, “well your family had lived there for such a long time. Did you not know this house had had some special association with some saint?”
She said that they didn’t know anything specific. But there was one other mysterious thing though. There was this basement room that was always kept locked. No one dared open it. On my asking why, she said that the word was that anyone going in would do so at the risk of one’s life. She said that it was believed that there was something special in there, but that special thing was guarded by a snake. ‘A snake?’ I asked. “Yes, snake. Big snake. We can hear it.”, she said. “Have you seen it?” I asked. “Yes, once, when I was young. It was so big. I ran away in sheer fright. That snake comes out very rarely. We offer worship there on Naga Pancami day, and it comes out then.”.
A Jain, a Sufi saint, Naga Pancami – Oh, this moonlight magic of Chandni Chowk!
So went this story that she shared, conjuring this fascinating insight into Delhi, the city of djinns.
Signing off on this note, I leave you with a picture that a kind reader of this blog sent, on reading this series. This is the Rajpath – the road that leads to Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s palace), the Parliament and other blocks of “G” power.