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Hotel table snuffs out candles

delhi Updated: May 28, 2008 10:30 IST
Sarat C Das
Sarat C Das
Hindustan Times
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Overlooking a red-ochred Humayun's tomb located in Nizamuddin east, the Oberoi hotel in Delhi is situated on an immense lush-green vastness near Delhi Golf Club. Once upon a time the land, where the hotel is situated, was the heart of Slave Dynasty. The vast expanse was under the stronghold of KiloKheri Fort which was the capital of Sultan Kequbad, the son of Nasiruddin, in late 13th century. The founder of the dynasty, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, was a Turkish ex-slave of the Aybak tribe who rose to command the armies and administer the territory of Muhammad Ghori in India. After Muhammad Ghori's death without an heir, Qut-bud-din prevailed over the rivals to take possession of Muhammad Ghori's Indian empire. Many heir apparent of Slave and Mughal Dynasty died and buried in Nizamuddin east.
See video - I

Today, the heartland of Slave Dynasty encompasses the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun, which is a complex of buildings of Mughal architecture, as well as numerous others. Since the Oberoi hotel is at the heart of this huge necropolis, the huanting stories of the souls of previous ages are naturally associated with this place.

Before Oberoi hotel was built there was a restaurant known as "Taj" in the same site. It was a restaurant of the old world charm and prominently known in its neighbourhood for its delicacies. The hotel attracted attention of many for a mysterious table in its food court on which no candle would light. It is said beneath the table was the grave of a sufi saint which diffused all the candle light. It remained as a shadowy corner of the hotel till the whole place was ravaged by new construction of Oberoi. See video - II

The tale appears to be similar to New lucky restaurant in Ahmedabad. Unknowingly Krishna Kutti Nair built this café four decades ago over a Muslim cemetery, and prospered. The green-colored shin-high graves are adorned with flowers every day, and surprisingly the customers don't pay much attention to graves between their tables.

Today, it is difficut to locate the sufi saint's grave in the Oberoi hotel which has a spacious oblong lobby, Chinese and Italian restaurants, wine cellar, spa pool, spa therapy and aqua therapy rooms, business centre boardroom and lounge, chandeliered ballroom, wine cellar, open-air pool and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The labyrinth of Oberoi architecture seems to have obliterated the location of the mysterious table. Is the grave under its the Durbar Hall, a regular conference venue or the "All Day Dining Restaurant" which offers the best of sushi cuisine that include a Yakitori grill?

I wandered into "Enoteca Bar and Lounge" which offers a wide range of both classical and new world wines. Sitting on a high bar stool, tipsy, I shiveringly felt I was profaning the peaceful lying of the holy sufi saint. Probably lighting a matchstick could have proved it!