Sunday, February 10, 2008

Opinion – Kill the Jama Masjid

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Kill the Jama Masjid

City planners to build an underground mall next to this historic mosque.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Municipal Corporation of Delhi plans to build a 4-storey basement mall just 30 meters away from Jama Masjid, the grand Mughal-era mosque that is the epicenter of Delhi’s Muslim heritage.

Rs 1,200 crores would be spent on building a secular consumerist paradise next to this 17th century Islamic monument. The mall would glimmer with 600 showrooms. Three-tier parking area for 9000 vehicles is to be another attraction. All underground.

While a few kill-joy ‘experts’ fear that the digging could put the foundation of Jama Masjid to danger, many feel a mall could be worth the risk. “I am happy to know about the plan. I support it fully and would want the work to begin fast," says Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of the mosque.

Who cares if a few saints too die in the process? Sufi shrines of Hare Bhare Shah and Sarmad Shahid, lying between the Masjid and the Red Fort, have no concrete prowess and it is feared they would certainly be destroyed following the underground vibrations produced during the construction. But bury the worries.

In these times of breathtaking boom where Delhi is frustrating mapmakers with new flyovers and new malls shooting up each month, the consumerist-city is in haste to roll out in all directions. It has taken over the quiet suburbs, invaded the neighborhood markets, and ‘renovated’ historic theaters. Nothing and no one is being spared.

Slums have been demolished and poor people banished. Showrooms glitter where once plastic-and-brick shanties despaired in darkness. It’s not enough. The lion has tasted the blood. We consumers want more multiplexes, more pubs, and more (exclusive) clubs. We desire bigger malls, taller malls, malls with apartments, malls with hospitals, malls with more foreign brands, malls with more parking space, malls with more of this, malls with more of that. The hunger for more is becoming fiercer.

To make way for more malls, time has come to sacrifice our forts, temples, mosques, bookshops, parks, benches, trees, streams, streets, and retreats. Luckily, the city planners have peered into our dreams. They are now rolling up their sleeves to make a new Old Delhi where we would go for Levi Jeans, Nike Shoes, and Benetton tee-shirts, not sherwanis, sarees and shararas; for Chetan Bhagat and Deepak Chopra bestsellers, not Qurratulain Hyder novels and Mirza Ghalib verses; for chocolate gelatos, not pista kulfis.

India is booming. Delhi is shining. Now we have money enough to kill our souls. Nothing matters once that’s done. Go, kill the Jama Masjid. Allah has his jannat. We will have our jehunnums.

You may also like to read Photo Essay--Time Out Jama Masjid.


Shaheen Sultan Dhanji said...

The rise of mass consumption is truly a sad sad thing. The riches of the globe are heading towards bankruptcy -of the soul. It is soul draining to witness everything is turning into commercial profit....globalisation and consumption.

'A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very strange thing.' -Karl Marx, Capital, 1867.

Anonymous said...

I bumped into your blog while searching for the phone number of Fact and Fiction. Loved the posts -the one on the bookshop and the one on malls. What of Khan Market? - (Talking of bookshops and chai shops) Been down the Yusuf Sarai road lately? Shocking!

Malls and a yankie accent - stamps of a globalized presence!

Anonymous said...

Khan Market's old shops could all close for all I care.
I have never experienced such bad service anywhere in the world like I do in Khan Market.
The shopowners are lazy and complacent, assuming that they will just keep milking the cash cow that is Khan Market.
Competition will change all that. Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

Much talked about resistance to a change is evident. So did happen with every single stage of evolving of our society - from start of women to do jobs which once men dominated to allowing of secular cultures among religious based countries.
Every single change has met with resistance - mostly due to human nature, partly due to political leverage. Lest we forget the mortal life of human. Ones who complain, majority of them grew up in a totally different setting. Time would allow the next generation to accept the things as they are because they grow up in those very conditions. Just like it happened in north american, europe and parts of asia. The whole number small individual shops, whhich raise prices as soon as they are affected being nicely replaced by efficient, organized and comparatively inexpensive under-one-roof substitutes.
Of all the places, Delhites must understand the need to go to one place to get everything than polluting and congesting the roads by going from shop to shop. Such big enough retails cater to mass consumption, that can't be stopped, well enough and absorb most of the price shocks that we get daily.
And all those who are against commercial profit and ever expanding globalized economy , i wonder what type of cell phone, pc, internet connection, bed, house, food they consume!!

Talk of yankee accent - wonder what people are doing by logging onto computers and typing in english!?

Anonymous said...

An underground shopping mall near Jama Masjid? Who has the buying power in the ghetto of Old Delhi and surroundings? That place is never going to change - it is a den of corruption, crime, ugliness, shabbiness, foul odour, mountain loads of garbage, lack of sanitation and complete lack of family planning. Maybe it was once a great place with the Mughals living luxurious lives in the palaces and the forts and the commoners living in shanties outside the walls. Nothing much has changed really since then in this area. Ahh! maybe they have illegal electricity nowadays. People who resist change will always be left behind. At least a modern mall may provide some employment to the educated and jobless youth in the locality.