Autopsy of an Old City
Written by Aishwarya Roy
If Fitzgerald’s quote — ‘𝘞𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘴’ holds true, you must be having the soul of an eighty-five-year-old woman, lying on her deathbed.
You are the smell of meaty kebabs and red roses stained with the echoing voices of 𝘔𝘢𝘨𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘣 — the dusk prayer, near Nizam-ud-din Auliya’s dargah.
You are the great sandstone carcass of the Red Fort, where hushed voices of the Mughals and the British can still be heard, duelling and spinning a tale of broken empires.
You use the map from William Dalrymple’s book, 𝘊𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘋𝘫𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘴, and traipse around Shahjahanabad, as every wrong turn springs a new surprise.
You are the stacked rooftops, soaring vultures, twirling kites and children playing with old tires, in the spice bazaars of Khari Baoli.
You are the girl adorned in white, wearing heavy rusty 𝘫𝘩𝘶𝘮𝘬𝘢𝘢𝘴 her lover had sneakily put in her sidebag, dancing to an Amir Khusrau’s 𝘬𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘢𝘮 —
𝘒𝘩𝘶𝘴𝘳𝘰 𝘣𝘢𝘢𝘻𝘪 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘮 𝘬𝘪, 𝘫𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘬𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘪 𝘱𝘦𝘦 𝘬𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘨,
𝘑𝘦𝘦𝘵 𝘨𝘢𝘺𝘪 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘪𝘺𝘢 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦, 𝘩𝘢𝘢𝘳𝘪, 𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘱𝘦𝘦 𝘬𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘯𝘨.
You are the winters from Pashmina Shawls sold in the markets of Chandni Chowk. And the monsoons from Bahadur Shah Zafar’s ghazals.
You look like a protest. With dried nosebleeds, you wear a full sleeve kurta, to hide the secret of your love handles and colonial marks.
On a lazy afternoon, you smoke a cigar while lying on your couch. And look at young protestors crossing the street with hoardings, which say — ‘𝘋𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘥𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘐𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘢’, through your grubby, cracked yellow tinted window.
You are the Indraprastha of Pandavas.
You are the Lal Kot of Tomars.
You are the invasion of Nader Shah.
You are the city built, destroyed, and rebuilt several times.
You are Rehman’s Masakali.
You are the 𝘋𝘪𝘭 of 𝘋𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪.