Bhavika: Bhaiyya, yahan par hi rok dijiye
Rohan: I think this’ll be really cool!
(Car stops, parks in what could be a dug up construction site, but is actually a parking lot)
Me: I can smell a source of methane!
(looks at the cowdung next to his feet)
And so we walked, from house no. 1A (4 floors,tacky painted plaster) to 173, Begumpur(wood clad, metal plated, furniture boutique, which we aren’t allowed to enter, because the doorman says “Aap kya hi khareed loge?!”)
Begumpur doesn’t strike you as a village. You would probably call it a dilapidated colony, with its closely packed 3-4 story RCC structures and ‘sanitized’ neighborhood parks. A sweet and talkative lady told us, that 10 years back this place was full of single story dwellings with arched entrances. She proudly showed us the ‘solitary arch’ that her family had preserved, unlike the others, sadly pointing out the cracks that had developed due to the metro passing under it. The population mostly consists of Jaats, Baniyas and Punjabis, and some Muslims too. What exists today is obviously a very heterogeneous society, unlike what had existed during the Tuglaq rule.
When we asked around about the famous Begumpuri Masjid, we were answered with perplexed faces, “Yahan toh bas ek qila hai!”. Due to the dilution of the original residents, today the old masjid, which was the prototype for most mosques on Indian soil, is not even known to the people who dwell around it.
Thankfully, the ASI has done its bit to preserve the monument. As we climbed up the awe-inspiring steps of the masjid, we all realized why people chose this over the Khidki masjid as the basis for subsequent mosque design. The shear proportions of this structure were magical. It wasn’t that big, but it looked huge. Multiple domes on the side cloisters added an element of detail to an otherwise plain design. I must admit, it probably looked even more charming due to the weeds and greens that had engulfed bits of the mosque.
We went on to see the Vijay Mandal, which is surrounded by overgrown greens all around, quite charming, till you see a man rising out of the greens wiping his posterior!
As we walked back to the car, I felt a tinge of sadness about the neglect and oblivion towards these spaces. And so I am writing about it, hoping that others too, go there realize how awesome these places are!