heritage walks delhi

It all started with a tring, a tring tring perhaps. Or maybe not, because mobile phones are not landlines. So, it must have gone ‘Mauja hi maujha’. Some of us then went on to say hi.

“Hi, I went through your website and read about the Delhi Heritage Walks that you conduct. Which one do you recommend I sign up for?”

“Have you been on the Qutub walk?”

“Oooh what all shall we see there?”

“Besides the architectural genius of all the dynasties that formed the Delhi Sultanate? A humongous number of love messages scratched on largely uncared for yet beautiful monuments, and some peacocks. Oh, and a few leering men, here and there.

“Only a few? Aaah, my lucky day.”

“Haha, do not worry. If we do not deliver as we promise, and there is no sign of anything that walks on two legs and is creepy and lecherous, I shall try my best to act as an able substitute.”

“Thank you, kind sir, you move my soul. Hey, listen, I am not an Indian.”

“With that sexy errr I mean husky accent, of course you can’t be. South American?”

“Close, Central American. Belize. I am not sure if you have heard of it.”

“Belmopan is the capital. Jes?”

“You know Belmopan!!! That’s the first time someone in India has known.. never mind, I mean will I be charged more?”

“Tch tch, you insult me now.”

“Haha, so I shall see you at ten am tomorrow?”

And so at ten, some Indians were cursing themselves for waking up late and were driving their bikes as fast as they could on Mehrauli Badarpur road, towards the towering edifice that is the Qutub Minar. And unbeknownst to them, some Belizeans were right behind in an auto, unhurried and unflustered, the wind in their hair, looking out at a fort’s ramparts and admiring the city where they now had been staying for the last one week. If only he would tell her then that this was where Delhi started in 731 AD when the Tomars came marching. Quila Rai Pithora, Prithviraj Chauhan had renamed it in 1180 after vanquishing the Tomars. Quila Rai Pithora – the first of Delhi’s 7 cities.

A few minutes later, they met (not Prithvi and the Tomars, I mean him and her) outside the Qutub, situated in Delhi’s second city – Mehrauli.

“Hello, Belizean girl!”

“Hello, Indian boy!”

And having greeted each other such, they ignored the tallest minar in the world, and walked down the road towards a little complex, outside which a board read “Mehrauli Archaeological Park”.

She stopped to click photographs at the rose garden just yonder off the entrance, and he gazed at a number of boys playing football on his left. And then they walked towards the first of the ‘sights’ – Metcalfe’s ‘Folly’.

“There it is, the canopy, on top of that little hillock.”

“Hillock. Nice.”

“I have a degree in Journalism, mister. Let’s walk up and stand inside. It does have a low roof though.”

“Exactly why I never chose to grow too tall. Knew there would be such problems cropping up in the world.”

“Such foresight. Not come to commit a folly, are you? Why would they call this arched building a ‘folly’ though?

“It used to be a British thing, this business of making a “folly”. In essence, it is a new building meant to look like old, set in a pretty landscape. Charles Metcalfe, he loved India. Loved Mughal palaces even more, apparently. There was a king called Akbar..”

“Akbar as in Jodha Akbar?”

“Drat, Bollywood seems to be doing my job better. Right, so yes Akbar had a nurse who had two sons – Quli Khan and Adham Khan. Quli Khan’s tomb was built in this area, and bizarrely Metcalfe bought it, maybe because it gave the best view of the Qutub, turned it into a rest house for honeymooners and charged them money. Added a little lake and boat house nearby. Should have been a businessman, I think, not a Colonial army man.”

“It looks like a nice place for a honeymoon. But I’d still prefer the sea. There is one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.”

“Herman Melville.”

“I love.”

“Haha, make that two of us then. See that huge tomb across the Mehrauli road. That is Adam Khan’s tomb also known as Bhoolbhulaiya – a maze where people often get lost.”

“And you being the savior bring them back.”

“Sarcasm will take you places, senorita”

“Aaah, a hint of Spanish. Well done, tour guide.”

“Only courtesy of Bollywood. Quite disconcerting too, that you know of Jodha Akbar and not DDLJ”

“It’s so pretty from up here. And what building is that yonder?”

We looked at Jamali Kamali, that lengthy red building of tomb and mosque, of Sufi saint and his friend, of pretty frescoes and damned vandalism. And then we set back towards the Qutub. But not before, we had run up the Rajaon ki Baoli, weaved through the Lodi Mosques and stared admiringly at Balban’s tomb – the tomb of a Turkic man who was kidnapped when he was a child and sold as a slave, bought by Iltutmish in Central Asia and brought up under the same man’s patronage in Mehrauli, slave to Delhi Sulanate’s Slave King and later King of the same land.

“I wonder why so many Indian men hold hands”

Up ahead stood two men, swaying their hands with great abandon right under the minaret.

“I wonder if we should do something about balancing the equation.”

“From leering to wanting to hold hands, up ‘folly’ and down tombs, it seems to have been as educational a journey for you as for me, Indian boy.”

And they stood there under a bright morning sky, looking at, the tallest brick minaret in the world, the legacy of the some of the finest dynasties to have ruled the capital of India, and a couple of men who were just happy to walk under the sun and hold hands.

—- The End—-

Neeraj Narayanan

At WeAreHolidays, Neeraj Narayanan is Head of the Content and Digital Media Team. He has a Masters in Advertising & Media Communication, has had experience as a Communication Consultant to the Government of Gujarat, and as a Brand man in the IT giant firm - Cognizant.

On weekends, he conducts Heritage Walks in Delhi.

Neeraj Narayanan – who has written posts on WAH Blog.