In the By-lanes of Nizamuddin

“The Tughluks have gone; Tughlukabad is a ruin; only Nizamuddin remains.”
― William DalrympleCity of Djinns: A Year in Delhi

William Dalrymple in his book The City of Djinns rightly said that Delhi has been build upon layers and layers with the iconic buildings of the past still standing in ruins and co-existing with the new. The past, perhaps a reminder of the battles, opulent architecture and a city which was always wanting to be conquered but couldn’t be.

As you walk by, the streets you may just walk into a lane filled with the history of the bygone era and if you’re lucky you may hear a few stories. Alas! that’s what happens to monuments in ruin, they merely become stories, in the end, but not the iconic building, still standing the test of time near Nizammudin Basti.

People come thronging to the Nizammudin Basti to offer prayers to the shrine of Sufi Saint  Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and closer to the relic you will also find the tomb of the great poet Amir Khusrau. Legend has it that Khusrau, the disciple wanted to be buried next to his beloved master. Worshipers make their offering and prayers first at the tomb of the poet and then at the shrine of the Sufi saint. On Friday evenings one can truly witness the mysticism in the air from the storytellers themselves, talking about brotherhood, love and true worship in the form of qawwalis.

An article by the Citizen. in quoted 

“It is said that Hazrat Nizamuddin abhorred any association with the rulers. As the story goes, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was constructing his capital of Tughlaqabad, at the same time when a baoli (step well) was being constructed at the Nizamuddin Basti. The workers of Tughlaqabad used to work at the Baoli during night hours. Miffed at having to share labourers with the Baoli construction, the Sultan ordered to stop the supply of oil to the Basti, which was needed to light lamps to do night time construction work. Nizamuddin Auliya then made the lamps burn using water. And the work on the Baoli went on uninterrupted. Following this episode Nizamuddin Auliya also became popular by the name Chiragh-e-Dilli.”

The basti is a charm on its own with shops selling flavors of the local cuisine, attar, perfumes, embroidery and much much,  but if you walk further away you will witness history in its true form, an archaeology site declared as a heritage monument by UNESCO, yes, we’re talking about the marvelous Humayun tomb.

Humayun’s Tomb was built in the 1560’s, with the patronage of Humayun’s son, the great Emperor Akbar. Persian and Indian craftsmen worked together to build the garden-tomb, far grander than any tomb built before in the Islamic world. Humayun’s garden-tomb is an example of the charbagh (a four quadrant garden with the four rivers of Quranic paradise represented), with pools joined by channels. The garden is entered from lofty gateways on the south and from the west with pavilions located in the center of the eastern and northern walls.

The tour of the Humayun’s tomb and the garden is breathtaking with acres of green open space, a plenty fountains and the spectacular designs which truly pave way for the artisans of that period and a score of artisans who’ve made it what it is today. A true play with a fusion of designs and the architecture of that era.

In a city which has been in the news for it’s worse air-breathing quality hardly qualifies for a green space in the city. Adjacent to the Humayun’s tomb, you will find Sunder Nursery, a sprawling 90-acre park dotted with historical monuments, 280 tree species, 36 butterfly species, two amphitheaters, a bonsai enclosure, a peafowl zone and plenty more. Literally, a fresh burst of air in the most polluted city which was made possible by the Public-private partnership with the help of the government and Aga Khan Development Network.

The Humayun tomb, the Sunder Nursery and the Nizamuddin Basti  have only recently been restored by the public-private partnership of the govt of India with the Aga Khan Development Network and with the initiative under care for culture by which, not only has the glory reclaimed to this monument but the people who live in the basti, their lives have changed too.

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure,” said Rumi.  The monument that was once a ruin is now a space that beckons stories of hope, pride, and empowerment for the people that build not just the monument the basti in itself.

Under the Basti Urban Renewal Initiative initiated by AKTC as part of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme whose main ideology is to revitalize urban heritage centers across the world in ways to not only protect the sites and monuments but to also spur social, economic and cultural development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A toast to the rains

You wake up in the wee hours of the morning, the floor is flooded with water and you simply can’t make sense of how a little rain can flood the room when the windows are closed, the curtains are down and there is no chance of water getting in.

 

Then you pick up a mop and hope that everything just dries out quickly. This reminded of a  similar situation that happened in a different city. The floor was flooded and the cot that I and a roommate nested on was completely drenched and no, it wasn’t because of the rains.

 

Imagine the scene when you come home from a long Newsday only to realize you’ve got a drenched cot to sleep on. I tried sleeping on the cold floor, it was dry then when I had arrived, but I had a terrible cold and a runny nose and with that, I decided to bunk elsewhere. I didn’t even want to take a look at the soaked suitcase, that I was living out of.

 

I can’t put to words how the rains made me feel remorse when you had a call time of 3.45 AM in the morning while you were waiting in the rain for the cab to drop you to work, or the fact that one had to stomp your foot really hard when you made your way to the car because of rat infestation as the big creatures scurried about.

 

I’ve had my share of good times too, either when I was buying books in a tiny little nook on the road which was my safe haven when life felt overwhelming. Eating on the road and biting into a hot ghee roast with a spicy chutney or the times where I could watch the heavy clouds from the sea deck with friends on a lazy Sunday amidst the drizzle.

 

It’s almost as if years later, this situation was purposely put to remind me of my past. So I looked at the pool of water, signifying what happened 5 years ago in a dingy room that we called home and quickly mopped the area without much of a thought.

Did you get that Chilly Burn High ?

On any regular day, you will find crowds thronging to shops that dole out sandwiches every few minutes, but the secret ingredient that people come looking for is the burn in the mouth chilly coriander chutney spread generously on their sandwiches. You cannot surpass a piece of the sandwich without tears (I really mean it, I’ve tried one myself) but, beyond all that every time I’ve indulged in something spicy, I’ve felt immediate relief right after it, this had me thinking I should write one about my love for chilies.

The Guardian newspaper states that Millions of people actively seek out the pain of hot chilies as a form of pleasure. The burn features prominently in more than a few of the world’s great cuisines, with more than a quarter of the world’s population eating hot peppers daily.

The extended research about chilies shows that eating a chilly for many is like the thrill of either watching a horror movie. The sense of damage is a false alarm: a way to get the thrill of living on the edge without the risk of exposing yourself to real danger.

But before all that lets dig in to some details

  • The heat-causing chemical capsaicin in chillis is produced by plants to deter pests.
  • Capasin or capsaicinoids found in chilies are the receptors known for its heat and burning sensation, despite its burning sensation it does not cause any physical or tissue damage. (This point is debatable depending on how much heat you’re ingesting)
  • Capasin finds its use in low concentrates for pepper sprays and other deterrents
  • The compound that makes chili peppers feel hot in your mouth, is one of the main ingredients in pain-relieving creams. Yes, the balms that you use may contain capasin
  • Chilies are known for revving up your metabolism, relieving your stress and making you feel good

Why would anyone seek the burning sensation?

The burn signals the brain to release endorphins releasing the chemical dopamine which makes one instantly feel better or good. That reminds me of the one chilly variety known to tear anyone up instantaneously.

Bhut Jholika

In the variety of chilies, Bhut Jholika is really hot with over 1,041,427 SHUs on Scoville scale with most of the pepper being exported from Assam. Now the fact that you didn’t probably know was that this chilly was also used by the army to make tear gas to suppress rioters.

Apart from that, in the northeast, many people eat chillies to help to keep their body cool during summers, but hold on there is a chilly that has surpassed as the hottest chilly and that is Carolina Reaper

Carolina Reaper

Yep, if there is something that will probably put you on fire is Carolina Reaper surpassing as hottest chillies since 2017, and averages 1.6 million scoville heat units (SHU).

If you don’t believe me, here’s a story reported by the Independent

A man developed “excruciating” thunderclap headaches and had to get emergency medical attention after eating the world’s hottest chilli, the Carolina Reaper, as part of a hot pepper contest.

This is the first time a chilli has been described as causing this brain blood vessel constriction, though it can occur in response to certain medications, including some antidepressants, as well as illicit drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.

Eating intense cayenne pepper has previously been identified as a cause of “vasospasm”, where the blood vessels constrict in other parts of the body, and has caused heart attacks.

Who knew that chilly could actually cause heart attacks ? I think these hot peppers may find their way in the army or medical research to treat patients perhaps.

All that for the future, but for now I’m just going to hang eating my chilly cheese toast smeared with the coriander chutney, after all, a good cry can make anyone feel better.

Embrace the Fugly

April was one rollercoaster of a month,  so I decided it to just let it flow instead of policing myself. I am learning to embrace my ugly side and let the emotions surf through the tide of what I call funny+ugly: Fugly

  • On overeating mindlessly at everything that was crunchy, without realizing the texture, flavor or taste. At times I wanted to censor the eating bit but I couldn’t, all I ever needed was spicy food (Inserts teary-eyed face) (Yes, all that lump not gonna go away with a slim sauna belt, I know)

 

  • There were times I took the plunge, not because I wanted to, it sure didn’t feel within but it just happened and I learned to be okay with that. (Average is better than no sportsmanship) (Heck, no! I’m not saying be average, be the best you can but at times at least pat yourself for a handling a terrible day with an average attitude)

 

  • I learnt that people have priorities, and mostly it doesn’t have to do anything to do with you.

 

  • I learned that in every movement in every aspect, one needs to learn to breathe slowly.

 

  • Getting uncomfortable and awkward is the norm, the earlier the better.

 

  • One perspective doesn’t fit all that is, what is chaos to the butterfly isn’t to the bee logic.

 

  • Just be present at the moment and just do, that all that is required.

 

Just like any roller coaster, life is going to tumble you upside down and drop you from the highest level but since I’ve anyway signed up for it why the heck not just live it through and learn to embrace the not so happy, messy side equally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Poetry Writing Challenge

When I was endlessly scrolling through article after another looking for motivation to literally help me get out of my routine, I finally stumbled at one. So I read about this challenge, where a person writes short poems for a year.

A year is too far-fetched, I thought, so I decided on writing for a month on Notegraphy. Sometimes the words just poured, and at times I had to re-think restructure and sometimes even be okay with whatever I wrote, that looked rather average.

But at the end, I feel delightful not because of churning out one poem after another but for a fact that I could actually complete this task taking it one day at a time.

Here’s what a month’s short poetry challenge looks like

https://notegraphy.com/amreenmakhani

Writing

You can read more here: https://notegraphy.com/amreenmakhani

Things to do in Cuddalore (Visually)

My routines on Sunday is always juggling between being a clean freak or getting way too lazy there is no in-between. So when I signed up for a cuddalore trip I thought it’s just one Sunday being productive. And I use the word productive because we had to be on the bus by 4.30 AM.

I could hardly fall asleep because of the mundane thoughts in my head about why had chosen this over my extended hours of sleep or endless day of doing nothing. Sure, being home is awesome laze around in PJ’s read a book, watch a movie but I had chosen to spend this day productively with a lot of work the following day.

Once I was on the bus everything was alright, I had carried two books an MP3 player and with that, my entertainment was sorted. Once we were around ECR we stopped at a restaurant only to savor soft idly’s, crispy vadas and dosas with a dollop of ghee.

After a heavy breakfast, the bus moved through narrow lanes, no buildings in sight and pastures of greenery and after a few hours I couldn’t keep my eyes off the road. We had entered Cuddalore and the only time I heard about Cuddalore was when I was in school about how it was affected by the aftermath of Tsunami.

Green pastures, endless skies, and breathtaking views. The farmers were out early plowing their fields, we passed a canopy of trees and views and finally to halt at a main road in the Chidambaram town.  The roads were filled with hawkers selling incense sticks, flowers, and earthen lanterns. With the whiff of the incense sticks and the voices from a blaring speaker that were perhaps chanting a mantra, we had Chidambaram Temple first on our list of things.

THE CHIDAMBARAM TEMPLE 

Nataraja or Chidambaram Temple was built in the 10th century, dedicated to Shiva, as the lord of Dance. The entire temple symbolizes the theme of arts, dance and the connection with spirituality. Intricate work pours out throughout the temple from the stone carved pillars to the endless paintings done with natural dyes on the ceilings. I was told that this was the only temple where the deity Shiva is also seen as Nataraja.

After the gaping visit to the temple, we walked further to sample the paneer soda, which had the subtle aroma and the sweet taste while others sipped on their filter coffee.

BOATING AT PICHAVARAM

The next stop was at Pichavaram, which is the worlds 2nd largest mangrove forests. The trees are deeply rooted in a few feet of water and there are more than 400 routes available for boating. You could easily spot birds if you go early morning via a boat. We hopped on to a boat leading us into very narrow water lanes where most of us either had to bend in our seats because of the branches, while the sun played hide and seek. This boating ride was a lot of fun and a quiet time with nature.

Rock Beach, Pudhucherry 

We were a bit tired but not so much so we ended up also visiting  the rock beach at Pondycherry, we spent quite a while at the seashore at around 3pm and then decided to head back home and also keep a lookout for restaurants serving north Indian meals at around 5pm which was again impossible and that’s a story for a different day. But overall not only did I have fun, I also got a good dose of architechture and nature all combined in a power-packed Sunday.

 

 

 

Wrapping up 2017

Dec-Jan is perhaps the most stressful as the anxiety of a new year kicks in. The anxiety of how it will turn out to be, or events you may have no control over.  I started 2017 on a not so positive note which kept progressing into an amalgamation of events, artists and people that I was truly baffled by, most importantly universe juice.

In February, the balmy skies took me to a Sufi musical concert. I was elated with music and contended with what life had to offer. Looking back I’m only grateful to attending this festival and listening to storytellers with their songs spun with wisdom.

For the month of April, I was unbelievably starring at an advertisement bearing a photo of Rashid Khan, I knew that moment I wasn’t going to miss the Live performance. I also learned to be more open to different experiences, even with music.

August came as a surprise to myself, as I went in for a play audition.(Note: I’ve never ever done this before). For someone who takes a lot of time to open up and express this was surely something off the hook. I had gone for the audition solo despite all the fear and anxiety and I took part in everything that was up for auditioning even if it meant feeling nervous, embarrassed and sweaty palms. Surprisingly theatre seemed to open me up a lot more and I had a lot of takeaway lessons, I didn’t think it could offer in a mere audition

October felt light and breezy as Three buddies boarded a government bus to Pondicherry. The trip was on a shoe-string budget and included random spurts of activity like sightseeing places that we weren’t aware of, doing random things and having woodfired thin crust pizza which was a pure delicacy along with a visit to book bargains. (Here is my visual journey of Pondicherry)

The Diwali time a friend and I took to Mahabalipuram to explore monuments on foot. I also had an opportunity to watch Mame Khan Live and be a part of a backstage interview (Thanks to a friend). If you’ve never heard of the artist I suggest you check out this track. The power of Folk music is just undeniable especially when it’s live

The month of December took me to the hills of Ooty, Avalanche and into a deep jungle which was packed with an adventure. I took to the trip with an injury I had a day early. It was truly a thrill-packed experience with the leeches and the rains.

I’m utterly grateful to the universe for having so many things aligned for me. I’ve met incredible artists, gone to amazing plays, found the healing power of theatre and traveled and experienced life as much as I could.