In his early seventies, Abdul Sattar lives in Old Delhi’s Pahari Imli. The biggest room of his house is stacked with books. “This is my library,” he says. “I was born in this room. Here I read, eat, write and sleep.”
Mr Sattar says most of the books are in Urdu and Persian and are about Delhi’s Mughal-era history. Picking up a bulky brown hardbound, he says, “Pashanama deals with the reign of (Mughal emperor) Shahjahan. It was compiled by Abdul Hamid Lahori. This is the second volume. I’m still looking for the first.”
Mr Sattar retired from “government service” in 2005.
“Three years ago I started working on a book on Madarsa Ghaziauddin Khan… it was an Islamic seminary near Ajmeri Gate and now exists as a school… the book may take a few more years to finish.”
These days he leaves his house only to visit public libraries to research on his book.
Opening a drawer and taking out a wooden box filled with old ink pens, he explains that these are very expensive and will go to his children after his death. “My books will be donated to a library. My children can read in English and Hindi but not in Urdu,” he adds.
One of the most precious items in Mr Sattar’s library is a Mughal-era map of Old Delhi. Unrolling it on the floor, he places his finger on a black circle and says, “We are here.”