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.