Wednesday, September 22, 2010

City of Djinns

In 1993, William Dalrymple published a book I greatly treasure: The City of Djinns. It was at Feroz Shah Kotla that this Cambridge narrative historian met his first Sufi, the weasel eyed Pir Sadr-ud-Din. The mystic told the author that when the world was new and humans were created out of clay by Allah, he also manufactured another race from fire. These were the djinns, ordinarily invisible but capable of being seen after a substantial period of ascetic abstinence and prayers. Delhi is a city of many secrets, a city resplendent with the brilliance of untold chronicles but a city cursed to repeated catastrophes by the deeds of imperious vanity. From the stretched history of Indraprastha, through the medieval exuberance of magnificence and treachery, the rise and fall of the good, the bad and the ugly both white and dark skinned, Delhi remains an enigma beyond the understanding of historians and scholars, poets and journalists. It may only be revealed by the djinns. After all it is the city of djinns.

The newspapers this morning carried the headlines of a overhead walk-way collapse, embarrassingly just twelve days before the start of the Commonwealth Games. Earlier there have been other stories, big and small that has made non-thick-skinned India run to opticians for sun glasses. The djinns need to be appeased. Every day for the next twelve days, I propose all those that call themselves lovers of our dear country, find poky corners in the city of Delhi: old monuments, under flyovers, the garbage dumps in non-metropolitan Delhi, slums with dogs but without millionaires and light earthen lamps while whispering a small prayer for India. In an unobtrusive Sufi sort of way. Quietly, in hushed baritones. After all the common citizens of the country can't make televised speeches on Rajpath.

1 comment:

  1. And in 2006, Bill Dalrymple wrote of the last, feeble, indolent, tragic emperor who couldn't keep his wives and concubines in check but who was made the leader of a doomed 'exhibition of national pride' ... and Sing is King, Sing is King, Sing is King, and I'm not refering to Allah Rakha Rehman here