Place of Rest: Experiencing the New

Edited By: Aditi Jain (UG 22)

 

Going to college in a place far from home can be a daunting experience, especially if your university is near a city notorious for being unsafe. But, it can also be an exciting opportunity to explore, to become independent, and to learn about new things! In the near two years that I’ve been at Ashoka University, I’ve been to Delhi only a couple of times and always with a group of friends. We would haunt the same old areas—Hudson Lane, Connaught Place, Sarojini Nagar, Majnu ka Tila—and stay within our comfort zone. Last week, I decided to try something different. I set out on an adventure to the city, travelling somewhere I’d never been and I went on my own. 

 

When you hear Delhi, you immediately think of its political importance and rich cultural heritage. The usual sightseeing spots include Humayun’s Tomb, Jantar Mantar, the Qutub Minar, Lodi Gardens, and India Gate. When I went, I thought I’d go down the road not taken; I went somewhere not many people go—Safdar Jung’s Tomb. This is a monument in Jorbagh, a five-minute walk from the metro station. It isn’t as well known as the rest of Delhi’s numerous heritage sites and I’ve always been one to support the underdog. 

 

Safdar Jung was the ruler of Awadh and the viceroy of Muhammad Shah. After Muhammad Shah’s death, Mohammed Shah Ahmed Shah ascended the throne and Safdar Jung became his Prime Minister (aka the Vazir). As Vazir, he gained so much power that he started controlling the Mughal empire and turned the king into a puppet. He was cruel, so cruel in fact that the emperor himself enlisted the Marathas to banish him from Delhi. His tomb is the last Mughal monumental tomb garden. 

 

I rode the metro (in the women’s compartment, of course) to get to Jorbagh. When I got to the monument, I was in awe. It was nearing 3 in the afternoon and with the sun positioned directly behind it, the tomb’s imposing structure was awash with light. It had open gardens all around it and palm trees lined the walkway leading up to its entrance. It was like a red Taj Mahal. Mesmerized, I headed for the building.

 

The inside of the tomb was almost as beautiful as its exterior. There was a resting place for Safdar Jung, which was the most unremarkable part of the whole experience. The tomb had a large number of rooms whose architecture had been preserved. Arching above, the ceilings were engraved with beautiful patterns. Everything was open and I looked out at the sea of gardens around while the afternoon breeze swept by. A sense of calm pervaded the area—it truly was a place of rest, for the living as well as for the dead. 

 

After looking at every inch of the main structure, I wandered to see the other structures within the compound. In my search, I found another building with its entrances mostly boarded up. It was in a secluded part of the compound, with only two other people sitting in front of it. One of the doors, however, was open so I entered the building. The door led to a flight of stairs which took me to the terrace. Looking out from there, I was mesmerised beyond words by its heightened beauty.

 

My adventurous side pushed me to look around and I found a set of stairs leading to a ledge on the wall that ran around the compound. I sat down on the ledge and read a book that I had brought with me. The rustling of leaves and chittering of squirrels lulled me into a state of tranquillity and ease. After half an hour or so, I became aware of something moving in my peripheral vision. I realised that the two people who were near the building’s entry were a newlywed couple and they had begun to engage in PDA. I could also see that they were desperately trying to hide it from my line of sight but were obviously failing miserably. Saving them the trouble, I left them to it with a feeling of awkward amusement. These solo trips really do tap into a range of experiences and emotions! 

 

Once I had ridden the metro and was safely back on campus, I called up my mom and told her about my escapade. I got a sound thrashing for roaming the city alone, but you know what? If you take the appropriate safety measures (i.e. going during the day, making sure the area is sufficiently populated, sharing your live location, constantly checking in with someone else), then a day in Delhi alone can sometimes be exactly what you need. After all, what’s the use of living in a different place if you’re not going to explore and go in search of the new? So go out there and be amazed!