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A walk into the past.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Up the alley; down the street. I’m in her quest. Razia Sultan was the first woman Muslim ruler in my part of the world. I always imagined that her tomb was in the neighboring state of Haryana. “Nahi janab, her kabra is near Turkman,” a bearded man corrects me at a chaikhana in Gali Jaaman Walli. Razia Sultan buried in Delhi! Thrilling. I take the directions and walk on.
(After around fifteen minutes...)
I’m lost. Old Delhi is like that. Confusing. This street is curving into another, it is now dividing itself, it is climbing up, it is sloping down, now it is turning to an alley and—oh--a dead end.
I stop, turn around, retrace the path, try to remember the landmarks I passed and continue my search. I ask the kebab-walla. “Turn right from Chitli Kabra,” he says. A bearded Romeo in fake Versace tee-shirt: “Razia Sultan…ummmm…go straight, don’t turn at the first right turning…skip the second, and turn in the third.” A mullah on a scooter: “straight, right, right, and then second turning from left, then right to Pahari Bhojla, and ask somebody there.”
It is mid April. The short spring is over. Delhi is getting warmer. Now, late afternoon. Street sounds have diminished. Creaky windows are being pulled back in anticipation of the dust storm. Meanwhile, the sunlight is pricking the skin. Troublesome thoughts are surfacing in the mind. Eyes are growing heavy and senses are shutting down. I turn into a shaded passage. It is dark, wet and cool. The intense light of the day has dissolved into a gentle blur here. This is Pahari Bhojla. I’m climbing up and now I’m in Bulbuli Khana. I turn left, walk straight and here’s the slab of the Archeological Survey of India.
Razia Sultan is believed to be buried here.
I walk into the iron gate. Two stone mounds. Once this was a forest. Today, buildings on all sides. Air conditioners jutting out from the walls. A narrow slice of sky above. A bird is flying. It disappears. I’m alone.
They say Razia Sultan was in love with a slave. A rebellion toppled her. Her beloved was killed and she had to marry a rebel. Later, the usual story: Razia’s brother has usurped the throne; she fights back; battles; wounds; and death--in modern-day Haryana. She was not more than 30 years of age when she died. However, how Razia ended up in Delhi (if this is really her grave) is a mystery I know not.
All that happened more than 700 years ago. Though now there is a mosque here, it is difficult to believe that anyone comes to read fatiha for the first Muslim woman ruler of South Asia. But no whining. People do die. Even sultans, women sultans, are not spared. We all are grounded and forgotten. It’s OK.
Where's the way to Razia's?