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Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

Delhiwale: The collector’s dream rooftop in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti

Inside his home in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, a vintage collector shows us relics from India’s past

delhi Updated: Jul 30, 2018 17:57 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mohsin Siddiqui’s rooftop in his Hazrat Nizamuddin home.
Mohsin Siddiqui’s rooftop in his Hazrat Nizamuddin home.(HT Photo)

A courtyard with a swing. A roof overlooking a hidden graveyard.

And you thought these things now exist only in old novels.

To be frank, a practical-minded householder might have been obliged to roof up the courtyard and turn it into an extra room but Mohsin Siddiqui is too much of an aesthete.

His home, sweet home, is akin to an ersatz museum crammed with relics from India’s past.

But where to start? This jumbled drawing room is replete with everything from paintings to old ash trays.

“But see! There’s this porcelain plate that once belonged to the Nawab of Rampur,” explains the collector and vintage car-restorer, at his fine house in central Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. The heavy dinner plate has a hidden passage where boiling hot water kept food warm for the spoiled Nawab.


There’s no place to sit amid the clutter, so Mr Siddiqui instead leads the way up a leaf-strewn staircase to the roof. This may be one of Delhi’s most beautiful rooftops, with a luscious Neem tree bending over it. The tree takes up so much part of the roof that you may be forgiven for thinking that you have climbed the tree instead. It, however, cannot claim complete attention. The view also looks down on abandoned old graveyard where some tombstones have wild creepers growing out of them.

“You can see this qabristan only from this roof,” says Mr Siddiqui, explaining that that the little plot of beautiful tombs is otherwise nestled within walls, hidden away from the prying eyes of the street. He says that the graveyard’s permanent residents are probably Sufi mystics and notable nobles.

The other side of the roof is picturesquely pedestrian, offering dilapidated housing teeming with everyday life, including evocative scenes of kitchens and balconies.

“Simply being up here fills my mind with utter peace,” gushes Mr Siddiqui. His polite voice is laced with profound affection for a rooftop that seems suspended in a dreamland of its own. The collector then walks down, leaving the place to its trees and graves.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 17:57 IST

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