Gandhi’s Delhi: A vivid piece on Gandhi Ji ties with Delhi in a span of thirty-three years

A reader’s review

Coverpage of the book

Do you know when Mahatma Gandhi first visited Delhi? How many visits did, he made in all those years & how long he stayed there? On his first visit, he reached the Kashmiri gate by Tonga. His friend Hakim Ajmal Khan’s Sharif Manzil offered generous hospitality.
For all these answers & narratives do read Gandhi’s Delhi. An account that narrates all the lesser know connections of Gandhi Ji with Delhi from his first visit made on April 12, 1915, till January 30, 1948, when he was shot down at Birla House by Godse. Research & compilation by veteran Journalist Vivek Shukla & published by Anuuyga books in 2018. The book started from the first visit of Gandhiji & continued sequentially covering fine details, narratives & rare events of his seven hundred twenty days of stay in all those years. In between, he cited the interviews & narratives of the resource persons whom he explores & interviewed for this research. The first four chapters of the book provide in-depth insights into Bapu’s connection with Hakim Ajmal Khan, role in the building of Jamia & Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce. A succinct chapter articulates on Dr. Ansari as a champion of Hindu Muslim unity & one of the great admirers of Gandhi Ji in Delhi.

The book covered in detail event happened during his last 144 days stay in Delhi. It was during these days his presence played an important when the city was burning with communal riots. The tactics of Bapu’s always worked as one-man army. In the cold days of Delhi’s winter, the emissary of peace paid a visit to the shrine of Qutub Sahab that was surrounded by the small villages in those days. This was with an intent to console the Muslim families who were harassed due to recent demographic shifts following the partition. Viveks account talk in detail of his last fast, & visit to All India Radio, an attempt to quell the wave of Delhi’s communal heat. Heart-wrenching last hours & journey to the next world was discussed in detail by the author’s journalistic style of writing. A moment when the apostle of peace was laid down by the forebearers of hatred.
The concluding chapters provide a description of Gandhi Museum & dotting his murals in India’s capital. A glossary at the end gave a brief description of all personalities that came up in the book “Gandhi’s Delhi

Divine Mercy is for one and all

A readers review : “Song of Dervish: Nizamuddin Auliya, the saint of hope and tolerance”

Cover page of the “Song of the Dervish”

Background: In contemporary Islamic world, the mystic dimension of Islam was largely misinterpreted both by the followers & opponents. Core values of mystic Islam lies in Ihsan (favors, helping others),Ikhlas (Sincerity/purification), & adherence to the human values that stood above all the rituals, practices & institutions created in mystic world of Islam during last twelve centuries. From early figures such Owais Al Qarni up to the founding figures of Qadriya, Chishtia & Suharwadi orders down the centuries, they ruled the hearts of the masses inhabited in vast dominion of the Almighty God. It was due to high level of Ikhlas & Ihsan that was embedded as an innate trait in their souls. All these virtues were passed from one generation to other through the golden chain of spiritual successors  like a beads in a string connecting them finally with  Prophet ( Peace be Upon Him). During the eight & ninth centuries, the far off central Asian territories lying beyond the river Oxus up to the North African Berber provinces, the foot prints of mystic Dervishes can be found everywhere in vast dominion of Abbasid empire & also in remote Iberian peninsula ruled by Ummayads. It was from Trans-Oxonian branch of Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) family members, the blessed ancestors of Nizamuddin were born at Bukhara. Nizamuddin is the fourth generation successor of  Chishti Tariqa (Path) in Indian Subcontinent. The benevolent Nizamuddin made traits of Ihasan & Ikhlas as a part & parcel of his life that gave him a title of “Mehboob Ilahi/beloved of God“.

Book review: The “Song of Dervish: Nizamuddin Auliya, the saint of hope and tolerance” is a book authored by Meher Murshed & published by Bloomsbury, India in 2017. A preface is written by Dr. Bruce Lawrence, a professor of Islamic Studies, & scholar on Sufism who had translated a worthy account of Nizamuddin from Persian in English. His account gave vivid portrait of Mehboob Ilahi by connecting  real stories of twentieth  century  centered around the living saint with the historical accounts of thirteenth & fourteenth centuries.  The book started with a contemporary narratives of Nizamuddin followers who love & revere the saint as he was followed by his disciples during his life time. Sanjiv Malhotra, Kamwal Nain Sharma, Bauji ( Om Prakash Arora) & Dr Bruce Lawrence belonged to different faiths, background & enthicities. An explorative accounts of Murshed draws one common trait in all these human souls, the love & faith in Mehboob Ilahi.

Devote your life to God, serve the poor & the needy to realize the Maker” the life long learning of Nizamuddin from his master Baba Farid.  Murshed’s  account draws two contrast pictures from fourteenth century Delhi. At one end, the Palaces of Sultans showered extravagance on skank nobles who lauded the temperamental monarchs for their vices & virtues. On the other hand, the humble court of Nizamuddin at Ghyaspur offered robes to the disciples who offered food, love, service & devotion to the poor souls of Maker. The  integration of Nizamuddin biography with the contemporary accounts of his lover assimilates the belief “The saint never die”. The book presents an alluring amalgamate of the rare accounts on the predecessors & immediate successors of Nizamuddin. The stories from the life of the early jewels  of Chishti order were revisited. How the prayers of Nizamuddin & sugar from his bowl made his beloved disciple Khusro, a celebrated poet. Murshed’s account sketched the bipolar world of Khusro & his friend Amir Hasan Sijzi. Both of them finally submerged their souls in love of divine leaving behind rubies, & Gold. They find solace with Nizamuddin instead of worldly gifts from treasures of maniac sultans. The Dervish took the message of Prophet (Peace be Upon him): Divine mercy is for one & all. Lyons, Lawrence, Gita, & Rahman finds a common bond between them, the love for Nizamuddin. At the point of time when hatred & intolerance is on its height, the “Song Of Dervish” iterate the stories of love & compassion centered around Nizamuddin, a saint whose blessings crossed the lines of caste, creed, gender & religion. Poetic translations, simple language, citations of “Fawaid Al Fuad” & extensive research on real life narratives spoke of its rigour. The enchants of “Man Kunto Muala‘ that echoed on the ears of Murshed during childhood days became a prime stimuli to start a journey of “Song of Dervish“. A distinctive account on Nizamuddin, it will be a soul enriching experience for the readers who carried an interest in Mystical Islam & medieval history of Delhi. I would like to thanks Meher Murshed who blessed the lovers of Nizamuddin & motivated readers by offering “Song of Dervish“.

The Forgotten Cities of Delh: A reader’s review

Dil o Dilli dono’n agar hain Kharab

P’a kuch luft is ujde ghar mein bhi hain’

Both heart & Delhi may have been damaged

But some pleasures still remain in these ruins

The  Forgotten Cities Of Delhi” a treatise by a noted author & historian Rana Safvi, photographs by Syed Mohammad Qasim, and publication by HarperCollins India was launched at Amazon on 04 May/2018. I was among one of the early readers who booked it on the same day. The beautiful front cover has an endorsement of art historian Catherine Asher & abstract on the flap commenced with the lovely couplet of Mir Taqi Mir cited above. Chapter one started with the title  “Siri” covering twenty-four known & unknown monuments located in the premises of Sultan Alauddin Khilji late thirteenth and early fourteenth-century capital built to defend it from Mongols. Every section within the chapter started with the name of the monument, its picture and contextual poetic verse of Urdu/Hindustani & Persian with its English translation. With an architectural description, the text includes the succinct historical accounts, narratives from locals and descriptive citations from nineteenth-century sources “Asar Us Sanadid “& “Archeology and Monumental remains of Delhi”. More or less the similar pattern was followed for all the subsequent chapters in the book. From seventh century Suraj Kund up to the nineteenth century Mirza Ghalib tomb, the manuscript covered a diverse range of monuments located in the five cities of Delhi that came up after Mehrauli. A book two in the trilogy of “Where Stone Speaks“., it’s an outcome of hard work, research, exploration and passionate Journey of more than two years in form of historical trails conducted by author & fellow photographer. In the recent talk with Indian express, while telling tales of Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin & Sultan Ghyasuddin Tughlaq Shah at Tughlaqabad, she recalled her journey for the exploration of one hundred sixty-six monuments depicted in the account.

A book excerpt articulating mysteries and stories on the resting place of the 18th-century Persian poet and Sufi Saint Abdul Qadir Bedil published by the  @iamrana in @DailyO_.

Similarly, in one of the chapters, the author marked a location as “Mehdiyan” on the site of Maulana Azad Medical College where a fourteenth-century Nawab built an iconic structure to commemorate “Urs” of the Saint of Baghdad, Shiekh Abdul Qadir Gilani. In a similar manner, many unknown monuments and the stories built around it has been recollected in the book.

The last chapter historical trails are the great addon to the book. Its a reflective account of fifteen historical walks in a concise manner depicting the monuments in relation with important landmarks. It will serve as a guidebook for anyone who wants to reach the monuments described in the book. In the changing landscape of growing Delhi, the author also reflected the plight of many monuments ruined by encroachment, illegal human settlements and ignorance of civic authorities. Other than interested readers, the accounts in the book can be used as one reference for the bodies volunteering the monumental protection in addition to ASI. The serene and awesome pictures by Syed Mohammad Qasim (@EvolveLeadLove) gave an enlightenment from the visual perspective to the readers. Short accounts within the sections of the chapters, easy language, and integration of stories made it more interesting while the usage of standard oriental and English reference reflected its scholarly rigor. 

The Full Circle Bookstore, Cafe Turtle, and Harper Collins India organized a book launch for “The Forgotten Cities of Delhi” at Greater Kailash I, New Delhi on 22 June. I would like to deliver heartiest congratulations and thanks to Rana Safvi and Syed Mohammad Qasim for the great compilation and upcoming launch. 

Note: The translation of Mir Taqi Mir cited above is taken from the account of Rana Safvi “The Forgotten Cities of Delhi“.

My review for the “Where Stone Speak: The first City of Delhi“: