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Playing the game with a halaal touch.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Besides its Sufi shrine, Thursday qawwalis, and Karim restaurant, Hazrat Nizamuddin has another attraction – Islamic Volleyball. Each evening young Muslim men collect in an open courtyard called Urs Mahal to play this American game. Many of these players have long wiry black beard; some are clean shaven with chocolate looks; all have strong arms, powerful fists, quick feet, and deep voices.
Their sports attire is most unusual. Most are dressed in shalwar-kurtas; few prefer lungis; and only one man, Raahat, likes to show off his Salman Khanisque body in blue-colored jeans and body-hugging T-shirt. No one is ever in shorts or even bare-chested.
As the match starts, the skullcap-wearing audience starts trickling in through the ancient stone doorway. Unknown tombs, littered here and there, are the coveted seats. Kid-missionaries from the nearby headquarters of Tableeghi Jamaat, an Islamic organization that preaches austerity, are the noiseless fans who remain standing during the course of the evening. Paan-chewing non-Jamaati men, sitting on the stairs, are the noisy ones who cheer or hoot their teams passionately with every point scored or lost. An armless beggar, a daily fixture with a yellow-teethy smile, has a permanent corner with excellent view. Though there are no women, the neighborhood windows hints of them.
During the game, the brick walls of the surrounding houses echo with the cries, shouts and exhortations of the players. Their spirits frothing out with youthful vigor, the players hit the ball, run around, trip and fall, curse each other, laugh frequently, and sometimes even answer their mobile phone calls - without interrupting the game!
Once the sky goes dark, and the battle is lost and won, the courtyard empties out. The silence returns and the Sikh guard locks the gate. Till tomorrow.
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Break from Allah
High Tension Moment
No Arm, Will Watch
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Where Urs Mahal, Near Ghalib’s Mazaar, Hazrat Nizamuddin Timing 6 pm to 7 pm