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Delhi has always made an impression on me, I have been drawn towards it, and every time I visit Delhi, my love affair with this city grows stronger.
I am particularly fascinated by Old Delhi, where every building, every road, has
a story to tell. This time, a visit to the Haveli of Mirza Ghalib that has been recently restored and turned into a sort of museum in memory of thegreat poet, was at the top on my agenda.
I made my way into the alleys of Ballimaran, Old Delhi, to reach Ghalib’s haveli and it was heart-warming to see it restored to some of its past glory. I was also longing to see the tomb of Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zauq (1789–1854), also known popularly as Zauq, which was his nom de plume.
During his times, Zauq was more popular than Ghalib and was a Royal Poet in Bahadur Shah Zafar’s court. Ghalib stepped into his shoes as the Royal Poet, only after Zauq died.
I tried to find out about Zauq on the internet but the only information that I got was that Zauq’s tomb was discovered a few years ago to be under a public urinal in the alleys of Paharganj Delhi! The government has now demolished the public lavatory and restored the tomb, yet there were no pictures or even a proper address where I could locate this historical place. The only information available was that it was in a place called Kadam Shareef.
I gathered myself and took a cycle richshaw towards Paharganj. Once I reached Paharganj, I asked for Kadam Shareef. It turned out to be a huge slum, predominantly Muslim, yet with many Hindus also.
I kept asking the locals for the location of Zauq’s tomb. Very few people actually had a clue about Zauq, leave alone his tomb, yet I kept getting deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of Kadam Shareef. I felt it was like searching for a needle in the haystack. But fortunately, I found an old Muslim man who guided me towards my destination.
I kept going, often getting lost and again finding my way.
I finally found the tomb in one dark and dirty alley. The tomb itself is, thankfully, restored a bit but there were gamblers and vagabonds sitting on the premises. Seeing me, some of them disappeared yet I was surprised to find a representative of the Archeological Survey of India present there. He was a bit alarmed, but when he realized that I was a tourist he relaxed. I took some pictures and I also got to know that the place is known as Chinot Basti -- this information was not available anywhere and could help others who would like to pay homage to this legend of Urdu poetry. I made my way back once again, negotiating the puzzling alleys towards Paharganj.
I can only hope and pray that more people not only get access to such priceless historical monuments that are lying in neglect at many places in Delhi but also that all of them are restored to the glory and respect they deserve...
-- Sameer Khan is deeply interested in the arts and issues related to multiculuralism. He lives and works in Pune.