A Meeting Point

The first time my mother took me to the Chirag Dilli shrine.”

The first time my mother took me to the Chirag Dilli shrine, we were in a hurry. It was 7:45 pm, the gates closed precisely at 8. Incidentally, I was also in 8th standard, and my mother was going to ask Hazrat Roshan Chiragh to make my grades roshan (splendid). The doorman looked at us warily, letting us in with a shake of his head. My mother, desperate to earn sawaab (heavenly brownie points) for everyone, declared guiltily that she lost her way and traffic jams and stupid e-map @&%#!! He looked at me and said, “Woh to yahi chahte the” (this is exactly what he wanted), and I was spellbound.

Nasiruddin Chiragh Dehlavi, a Sufi of the Chisti Order, was notoriously asocial. The shrine’s caretaker explains, “Only those really in need of him find him…just look how peaceful the dargah is”. It is bizarrely empty; there seem to be only 5 of us here. The complicated maze of routes ensures that Delhi traffic can’t be heard. It’s serene. The architecture supports the myth. I always arrived there already belonging. There was no need to welcome because I wasn’t a guest, there was no khatirdaari (formalities’ around hospitality), no one fussing, I was allowed to be.

"It dawned on me that my way of life is not new."

Sitting in the corner of the hall with no walls, there is ironically so much privacy. I think about how Chirag-e-Dehli, never married, never took a lover. It dawned on me that my way of life is not new. I eavesdropped on my mother and gatekeeper conversing. They talked about how Roshan Chirag dedicated his whole life to being a mureed (pupil). All he wanted to do was put slippers on the tired feet of the dervish, how entire rivers would be left fragrant when he’d perform his wudhu somewhere upstream, how his skin would itch to leave civilization…so then when I see the shrine fully, I see it is aptly empty. It feels like a temple dedicated to punctuation; the halls are sleepy with meditative silence, the carpet under my feet flattened by solitude heavy sajdahs, prayer-full murmurs made flat and indecipherable by thick, palpable gloriously private love for Allah SWT.

"As the moon shone on the white marble...I felt no need to explain myself."

I felt not good, not bad, but very manageable in all its neutral connotations. Chirag Chisti lived and loved but not romantically; he found a way to worship and learn without changing his need for isolation. It felt so okay to me to be Ace in that space. It felt religiously sanctioned, finally legal, to not have loved romantically. Here, much after he was gone, there was such love, such indulgence, such striving hunger for knowledge of Allah SWT and the self. As the moon shone on the white marble, luminous rays bouncing on shards of iridescent, pearlescent mother-of-pearl accents, I felt no need to explain myself - sukoon. And I have a date tonight.

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