Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gar firdaus bar-ru-ye zamin ast, ham-een-ast, ham-een-ast, ham-een-ast

The dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya, the 14th century Sufi saint of Delhi, is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the city, both in pious and touristic circuits. Apart from the tomb of the Sufi saint himself, the dargah complex houses those of several other religious and political bigshots from the medieval times, who chose to be buried here due to the religious halo associated with it. One of the most prominent ones is that of the celebrated Persian poet Amir Khusraw, a disciple and close associate of the saint. When I was taken here for the first time by my friend and fellow medievalist Kashshaf Ghani, he reminded me of a celebrated poem by Khusraw:

Har qaum raast raahay, din-e wa qibla gaahay,
Man qibla raast kardam, ba simt kaj kulaahay.
Sansaar har ko poojay, kul ko jagat sarahay,
Makkay mein koyi dhoondhay, Kaashi ko koi jaaye,
Guyyian main apnay pi kay payyan padun na kaahay.
Har qaum raast raahay, din-e wa qibla gaahay.

(Every community has a faith, 
a direction [Qibla] to which they turn [to pray],
I have turned my face towards the tilted cap [of Nizamudin]
The whole world worships something or the other,
Some look for God in Mecca, while some go to Kashi,
So why can’t I, oh wise people, fall onto my beloved’s feet?
Every sect has a faith, a Qibla.)

Three years down the line, my qibla is not more than 500m away from where the saint with the tilted cap lies now. (Not bad, eh Khusraw?) It's a small joint which goes by the name of Ghalib Kabab Centre. It derives its name from the street on which it stands. Turns out that Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, arguably the greatest Urdu poet of the 19th century Delhi, also wanted to be buried in the Nizamuddin comlex. However, the dargah authorities denied this last wish of the poet, citing his drinking habits as un-Islamic. Consequently, he had to be buried outside, though near, Nizamuddin's tomb. The road leading to his tomb has been named Ghalib Road. It is on this bustling, crowded and cacophonous road that sheek kababs having been rolling out of that sizzling oven for the past forty years and in absence of the Auliya saint, soothing many a thirsty heart and salivating tongue. 

Like every religious ceremony, our visits to the joint has a specific sequence of cullinary rituals. We begin with a few plates of beef sheek kababs. As they arrive in no time, along with the rumali rotis, our lust virtually gets out of hand and there ensues a mad squabble for the meat. There can be no words for describing these, so I will not try to find any. They simply melt in the mouth, and the tastes of the meat and spices simply dissolve into each other leaving behind a strong sense of sensual pleasure.

From here we graduate onto some beef tikka kabab. This comes to us as platefuls of meat chunks. Though not as tender as the sheek kababs, tikka kabab is equally generously spiced and grilled to an alluring dark brown colour. Lemon, chopped onions and the pudina chutney come as perfect accomplices of the delicious meat.

The dessert sessions usually consist of a flurry of firni. Again, best firni I have ever had. Stopping below two/three usually proves difficult. 

Then comes the real problem -- getting up. 


  1. .. and classy. Good hoyechhe. Aha, sei kabab!

  2. aah.. darun darun!! jetei hobe abar, ami eto shob khaini last time.