Onion City

My romance with Delhi began precisely a year back. Before that, I hated the place.

When I came here almost 4 years ago, all I knew about the area were the great infrastructure, the swanky malls, the office spaces and the food courts in Noida and Gurgaon. Life revolved around getting to office and back…punctuated by regular visits to the cinema and shopping malls. And dealing with the traffic snarls and rowdy auto-wallahs and the scant respect for anyone of my sex. Of course there were the Red Fort and the Qutb Minar and the Lotus Temple, but those splendid structures meant nothing to me. They were meant for the tourists.

Then, last January, a chance mention of Begumpur Masjid by a friend changed all that. I hadn’t even heard of the place before, let alone see it. When we visited the semi ruined structure and I looked out over the Delhi skyline from atop the Bijai Mandal, I realized what I had been missing so long. Here I was seated in the very lap of history and didn’t know it! All I was doing was lapping up the luxuries of a rapidly modernizing city and ignoring its very soul.

Next I read up about the Begumpur Masjid and Bijai Mandal (which we cover in this quiz). Faint images of a child’s history lessons crept into my mind…a mad king, a great visionary, first building a great capital in Delhi and then, on a whim, ordering the entire populace to move south to Daulatabad, only to return again a few years later. So it was all true! That history lesson, till now confined to a boring text book and an even more boring exam paper, was suddenly alive with color. So this Bijai Mandal must have been the spot where Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq stepped out to greet his subjects every day. And this Begumpur Masjid a grand mosque where the faithful went to pray in the fourteenth century…

And so began my quest for the real Delhi, and after a whole year, it is still on. In the course of my wanderings I have realized how quick and how silly I was to dismiss it all as an unimaginative modern city. Every walk, every ruin, every stone I uncover reveals another layer of this city of cities…and I wonder how many more there are still to peel.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Soubhagya says:

    I have started loving Delhi myself when i see this city through your eyes πŸ™‚ … Thanks for making me aware of how the rigmarole of daily life stops you from cherishing the small wonders .

  2. trisha says:

    thankyou for making me look forward to a loooong trip to the Onion City and all the forgotten wonders it beholds!

  3. priyadarshidutta says:

    Beautifully written…I hope this encourages a lot more of us to explore these less known monuments of Delhi.

  4. Sulata says:

    Beautiful Written…. In delhi there is many thing that we are not aware…. wish to know all these things & places …..
    keep it up….

  5. threeplease says:

    I’m so glad you found my blog recently – because it has led me back to yours! And it’s making me even more excited to return to Delhi in the future. Until then, I’ll just discover it along with you:)

    1. wanderfool says:

      thanks threeplease! and the next time you’re here, do look me up…will be glad to show you around πŸ™‚

  6. purplechild says:

    onion city seems to be an extremely apt name for delhi.i confess i somehow still hold your former views about the place….it does seem too loud and fast.but then again, the fact that it remains one of the oldest cities of the nation does make it interesting…

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thanks for reading, purplechild. I know exactly how you feel. And somehow the newness of this ‘loud and fast’ city often camouflages the beauty and the sensuality of its age-old culture, language and history. I am surprised at myself when I see how my feelings for this place could have changed so much just by wandering around and peeling layer after layer of this ‘onion’.

  7. I am glad your friend took you to the old monuments that day, otherwise you might not have fallen in love with Delhi, and we wouldn’t have had this lovely blog and lovely pics to see. πŸ™‚

    I had this feeling too when I visited Delhi – that it is an Onion City, that there are many many more layers to it than what I saw in the little time that I was there. I would really love to come back and explore more of the city sometime.

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thank you, your comments just made my day πŸ™‚ I am so glad, too, that I went ruin-hunting that day…to think now that I there was a time I knew nothing about all these monuments and stories is unimaginable to me.
      I know a single visit is too little a time to really know this city…hoping you get a chance to come back for more πŸ™‚

  8. Sivan says:

    When u are on the roads of delhi, either u r walking under the history or walking over the history.
    The only thing matters is whether u are ready to embrace that beauty, to succumb to its glory.
    I have known to the city for a couple of months, mostly on foot, and i am so mesmerised with what lies beneath its layers.
    Great Blog.

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thank you Sivan, you spoke my mind πŸ™‚
      Enjoy your explorations…if you’ve loved it during these hot summer months, imagine how wonderful it will be in winter!

  9. Dear Wanderfool,

    Greeting from a fellow Delhi lover. My romance with this city began when I was in primary school. I used to come to this city on school trips from a small town in UP. Since then, it was my dream to live in Delhi and experience this city. And now, I can say that I am living IN my dream. My father was a history buff and so he filled me with all these stories and anedotes about Delhi, its history and its culture. Maybe he talked about this city so much because he was born and raised in Chandni Chowk himself. How he ended up in that small town of UP is a different story though. But thanks to him, my love for this city and its stories is still afresh as it was back then. Unfortunately, not many people know what real Delhi is because their lives do not allow them to see beyond their job, hectic travel and other personal issues/preferances, but for me, this is my most fav city in the whole world. Tonight, I fortunately stumbled on your blog and instantly fell in love with it. Your posts reminded me of the excitement I had when I first visited those places.

    I cant thank you enough for filling my heart with joy and hands with goosebumps. Though, I dont know where will I end, but I am glad that my father who was born and raised here, breathed his last in the same city.


    1. wanderfool says:

      Hi Swapnil, so good to receive this comment from you. I am not even from this city and yet feel so much joy listening to its stories galore…so I can only imagine what passion you feel, having been closely associated with Delhi since childhood.
      And it’s you who gave me goosebumps with your words πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for reading, will look forward to your views here.
      And it was especially beautiful and touching to read about your father, a true Delhi lover…My prayers for this soul.

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