Sunday, March 21, 2010

Exploring Nizamuddin - Thanks to Intach

Well, this one is people who combine being history buffs and have no problems getting up really early on Sunday morning. Well I am neither and getting up at 6.30 am after sleeping at 12 am after driving to Agra and back on the same day was a teenie-weenie bit of a strain. But Dad was in town so off I had to go.

My sister is a whiz on finding out stuff to do via the Internet and she sent me a link for an article detailing INTACH and the walks the Delhi Chapter holds every Sunday morning. First a little bit about INTACH, in their own words - "The Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is a nationwide, non-profit membership organization. INTACH was set up in 1984 to protect and conserve India’s vast natural and cultural heritage. INTACH has made significant contribution over the years in conservation and protection of our natural and cultural heritage."

I went on the Intach Delhi Chapter site and was happy to see that there was a walk on Sunday the 8th of March. The fee seemed nominal too - Rs 50/- but like I said earlier, timing was the issue. There was link on the page for registering and I left my phone number as they had written about a callback. Suddenly, on Friday evening 4.49 pm, I realised that they hadn't called me and in all probability the office would shut at 5.00 pm. I frantically placed a call and got through to someone who gave me the name and number of the co-ordinater. She confirmed that the walk was very much on and to meet outside the Nizamuddin police station at 8.00 am sharp.

Dad and me reached before time and parked the car in the lane next door. We even found a newspaper vendor on the opposite side who sold Malayalam Manorama (that's me, a mine of info). We met our guide Sapna outside the police station and chatted for a few minutes while a couple and a group of three joined us. Sapna informed us that the purpose of these walks was not to visit well documented sites such as Humayuns Tomb, Red Fort etc but to show people who had a greater interest in history lesser known monuments. She was a volunteer and belonged to a group of people who were passionate about these monuments and their preservation. She informed us that we were going to walk into the Nizamuddin Basti and see the shrines of Nizamuddin and Amir Khusrow. She gave us a brief introduction on Nizamuddin and then the area that we were going to see. The basti is a bit rundown and there were lots of Muslim men who had gathered at the various shops or drinking tea. We entered the shrine through some winding alleys lined with lots of shops selling religious books, CDs and roses to put on the grave. As we entered the shrine, we were asked to remove our shoes. We first saw the shrine of Amir Khusrow and then on to the shrine of Nizamuddin. The good part of all this was that Sapna really knew her stuff. The fear I have of taking guides at historical places is a) do they really know their stuff b) they seem to be in a bit of a hurry and wont let you wander off but with Sapna there was no such problem. She calmly took us through the many people thronging around and answered all questions with facts or possible explanations. There were a few other graves next to these shrines of prominent people such as Jahanara Begum as this was considered holy ground to buried in.

After this we moved on to Nizamuddins Baoli or water tank, which the saint is said to have blessed. We also saw the tomb of Akbars wet nurse, Ji Ji Anga and her family. It was in such a dilapidated condition with walls all peeling off and kids playing cricket outside. On our way out, Sapna also led us to the tomb of Mirza Ghalib which is not normally open to public viewing but she resourcefully managed to get an entry. All this took us nearly two hours. I had enough by the end of it as my feet were feeling very dirty and we were standing for all this time but Dad was very satisfied. He had answers to a few questions that were puzzling him and he was impressed with Sapnas knowledge. So if you are interested in history and would love to walk around these grand old buildings steeped in lore, do head out. You'll have a good time, I promise.

p.s. - Check this link for more information

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