Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Nizamuddin 00: Prefatory Note

Surprising how self-styled custodians of Delhi's cultural heritage tend to ignore the uniqueness of Nizamuddin. At best, they harness it into a backdrop for Sufi Music Festivals. Or club it with Tughlaqabad, the Old Fort and the Qutub Minar as remnants of the city's Glorious Past.

No doubt, Nizamuddin's contribution to our culture is immense. A staggering proportion of the finest philosophy, literature, polemics and music ever produced in our country has its roots here. But it is much, much more than that.

In a city pockmarked by violent upheavals and discontinuities, Nizamuddin stands out for its uninterrupted, unbroken eight hundred years of existence. It comprises Delhi's last living link with its past, right upto the Khilji era. It embodies a living culture, a living spiritual tradition, where the past merges seamlessly with the present. And this is the point those custodians miss.

Any living entity must grow organically, or die. Other parts of the city could not manage organic growth. So they sprang up, and then died. A recurring feature of Delhi's history involves a strange, savage violence perpetrated by the present on its own mute past. Encroachments in Tughlaqabad, fountains near Darya Khan's tomb, modifications to Lutyens' bungalows, we seem congenitally incapable of coexisting with what we once were.

Nizamuddin, on the other hand, has evolved organically over the years. It has made its peace with its past. The old and the new coexist, both flourish in equal measure. The Nizamuddin Dargah neighbours the present-day shrine to Hazrat Inayat Khan. Poets Amir Khusro, Rahim and Ghalib, born in the 13th, 16th and 18th Centuries respectively, lie interred within furlongs of each other; for good measure, the modern Ghalib Academy is also situated nearby.

Respect for life, peace and coexistence finds expression in commerce too. Prêt-à-porter outlets; crafts shops; bookshops; perfumeries; little kiosks selling compasses (for devout Muslims) and
Chinese toys; travel agencies; florists and abattoirs all thrive cheerfully cheek by incongruous jowl. As do eateries of various descriptions.

And yes, the food! Nizamuddin has on offer Kababs and Tikkas that rank among the finest in Delhi. I have also encountered indifferent Nahari, downright inedible Haleem, varying grades of Biryani, Korma, Shirmal, Ishtoo, and much much more. Political and economic developments have led to the introduction of new cuisines. I remember a short-lived Afghan shop, an odious little place that seemed to specialise in leftovers. Presently, Kashimiri and Rampuri shops appear to be doing decent business.

In this series, I seek to explore in its larger context Nizamuddin's culinary wealth. As with the Street Food and the Law series, this prefatory note
will also feature a list of articles. Other articles, as and when they are posted, will be hyperlinked to it.

List of Articles
  1. Political Economy - I
  2. Political Economy - II
  3. Political Economy - III
  4. Ghalib Kabab Corner
  5. Moradabadi Biryani
  6. Nahari at Moniskda Hotel
  7. Rajdhani Hotel
  8. Parvez Grand Restaurant


Swati Sengupta said...

I wish u wrote all these before, when i was in Gurgaon... would have explored myself... wonderfully described... will surely keep all these info in mind next time i visit delhi... :)
and ufff... my mouth is watering even at this hour :D