The famous haveli at Gali Qasim jan at Ballimaran, whose resident at one point was the epitome of Urdu poetry, is one of the many mute witnesses of the Mughal tehzeeb. Like with many, Delhi have made Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan also its own, to an extent that ‘Ghalib ki Dilli’ is a common phrase now, even though technically Ghalib is not from Delhi. The way Ghalib and Badshah Zafar used to live is usually referred to as the true Dilli’s tehzeeb…. Love for poetry…. Witty prose….. complex flavored food….. an amazing language….and much more including nawabi shauks like shataranj (chess), Chausar, kabootar bazi etc. After the mutiny of 1857 everything fell apart, many fled the city or were killed…. Major portions of Old Delhi were erased to ground to be rebuilt with new residents…. The patron badshah was kicked out of his of his own city… This was the start of an era, when the living patterns of few elite would be recognized as the culture of the city, which holds true even today.
Post 1857, the revered tehzeeb started to fade out, so much so that Old Delhi was notified a slum!…. The next wave of change was the 1947 partition led migration…. New cultures came in to merge with Dilli’s tehzeeb, but the colonial instigated ‘intellectual’ custom of calling rich man’s life style the culture of a city prevailed. As Khushwant Singh says “At one time Dilliwalas were known for their courteous speech and interest in poetry, good food and clothes……all that went with the Muslim elite, who migrated to Pakistan in 1947. Their place was taken by a flood of Hindu and Sikh refugees from West Punjab. Understandably, these new entrants were eager to rehabilitate themselves, make a fast buck and show everyone how well they had done for themselves. Hearty eating, good living in a large bunglow with a fleet of cars, an ostentatious display of wealth became the culture of Delhi’s rich”.
Few rich migrants started living in a way that is now falsely called the Delhi Culture. Too loud outside and completely hollow inside; the sober and classy Dilli wala has now become flashy Delhiite. If one stays long enough in Delhi, will realize that this new breed called Delhiite is a demographic minority, but due to its loud and glary presence many mistake them to the stereotype of a present day Dilliwala. As Sadia Dehlvi puts it “Today, Dilliwalas are a minority in their own city, and butter chicken and dal makhni are the delicacies associated with Delhi. It breaks my heart to see my son relishing on burgers, for he will never know the glorious traditions of food which are now memories of the past.” I assume that here she is just referring to the perceived minority.
Delhi has a unique quality of absorbing the foreign particles and still be intact and true to its soul. Mughals were also foreigners, so were the British and so are the bright color clad Delhiite. What results is a true cosmopolitan metropolis. By cosmopolitan I don’t mean that everyone leave their identity and become one as is happening with many of the so called cosmopolitan cities in India, but more so I like to believe how Lawrence Liang puts it “One of the underrated pleasures of living in a city is anonymity—guaranteed not by the fact that you look the same as everyone else but that no one really cares that you look different. And a truly cosmopolitan city is one in which everyone looks different.”
The loudness of the Delhiite, the rude roads and the vulgar language overshadows the true Delhi. The loudness, rude roads and vulgar language is just a small part of today’s Delhi, one has to be persistent in seeing through this to see the real Delhi, which many refers to as ‘Ghalib ki Dilli’ and in no way this means only old Delhi, it is a term referred to mention about a culture…. A culture where people still smile at strangers, the sufi baba who don’t mind you sitting in the mazar reading a book, a food culture that still values the complexity of flavors, a mohalla where still kids are taught to be soft spoken, all this and much more spread across on the maze of historical monuments that have many stories to tell.
Delhi is not to be taken on its face value…. There are much more, many more layers …. And if you can’t see it then probably you are not trying enough… and if you still can’t love Delhi then probably you are not worth it…
न था कुछ तो खुदा था, कुछ न होता तो खुदा होता
डुबोया मुझको होने ने, न होता में तो क्या होता?
When there was nothing, there was God; even if nothing existed, God would still be
I was destroyed because I existed; how would it have mattered if I did not exist.