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Delhiwale: Ode to the unknown

A tomb in Pragati Maidan is seeped in anonymity, resisting all efforts to be pinned down to a name. In the age of cyber immortality, it seems to assert its right to be forgotten.

delhi Updated: Aug 22, 2017 15:04 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,Delhiwale,Pragati Maidan
An unknown person’s tomb near the grave of poet Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil in Central Delhi’s Pragati Maidan.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

The tomb is covered with a white silk cloth, which is torn. The paint on the headstone has partly peeled off, exposing the bricks underneath.

One afternoon, we come across an unknown person’s tomb near the grave of poet Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil in Central Delhi’s Pragati Maidan.

A small earthen pot, filled with water, sits on the grave’s dust-covered platform. There is no one around. Perhaps the water has been kept for birds.

Since there are no inscriptions on the tomb, there is no way to know who lies buried here. Delhi has a great number of unknown tombs. Our city’s guidebooks are filled with descriptions of monuments that contain one “unknown tomb” after another. Large parts of the city were once home to the dead. The Oberoi Hotel and the adjacent colony of Kaka Nagar, for instance, were built over a sprawling cemetery.

Some of Delhi’s unknown tombs have grown to become shrines for people seeking solace. Others remain forlorn and abandoned, like this one in Pragati Maidan. In a world oppressed by billions of gigabytes of information, such rock-hard anonymity stands out.

Dry leaves, from the tree above, are dispersed around the grave. A white flower is lying upside down on it. The tomb’s silk cover is lined with a gold-coloured embroidery. It looks more like a shroud. Bricks are placed on all four sides of the cloth to prevent it from being blown with the wind.

A few minutes later, a fresh green leaf falls from the tree above and settles into the water pot, which already has a yellowing leaf at the bottom. The new leaf floats on top.

As the circle of life continues, this mausoleum seems to celebrate the right to be forgotten.

First Published: Aug 22, 2017 15:03 IST