The sarcophagus chamber of many Sufi shrines in this city is barred for women. So it is pleasantly surprising to discover a dargah dedicated to a woman.
But Fatima Mai’s shrine, nestled amidst the Soviet-style residential blocks of Kaka Nagar, lacks a fitting setting — no narrow streets, slaughterhouses or kebab stalls. The area residents remain unaware of it. William Dalrymple skipped it in his City of Djinns.
Outside, housemaids were coyly flirting with big-car drivers. Inside, the marble floor, the whitewashed walls and the green chaadar on the grave together tried to compensate for the indifferent locale. Suddenly a sunken-cheeked man with a scraggy beard appeared — like a djinn. He said he was a Sufi. “Who was Fatima Mai and why did she come to be venerated as a Sufi?,” I asked. I only knew she lived during the time of Hazrat Nizamuddin, Delhi’s more tourist-friendly Sufi saint. Himself ignorant, the Sufi frowned before going out to sit under a neem tree.
Alone again, I desperately tried to feel soulful. But the tomb, revamped only a few years ago, was too DDA-esque to secrete any mystic sensuality. Bored, I stepped out to find the caretaker fiddling with his Motorola mobile phone. He looked up and shrieked that a djinn was standing beside me.
After calming himself, he offered a taveez (locket) that would make me rich enough to buy a flat in Kaka Nagar (I can’t, of course, since the government owns all of it). But maybe I looked interested, so he asked me to bring 5 kg mustard oil, 8 m of black thread, 1 kg rasgullas and a 100 rupee chaadar for the Mai’s tomb. The Sufi’s salesman skills were tiring. He also wanted a Rs 50 mobile phone card as the taveez payment.
I rolled my eyes and left, the Mai remaining a secret.