© 2013 Diana

What to do on a date during a Lodi Garden heritage walk

Author: Neeraj Narayanan



A few days earlier, I got an email notification from Couchsurfing.com about some people searching for a host in Delhi. Out of this, one was a Swede who was missing his girlfriend, enough to want to go visit her in her Nepal University. Not just that, this modern day Romeo wanted to ship his bike to Delhi and ride onto Kathmandu from there. There was a Frenchman asking if there was any place he could bunk for a day before he set off in search of spirituality (and dope) in Dharamsala , and then there was Seema born and brought up in South Africa, later  a community activist in California, and now travelling by herself in India.


When I emailed him, Henri, the Swede, replied sorrowfully saying that his motorbike was lost somewhere in the way, so I decided to hide my bike if he ever landed up at my house.  The Frenchman had already got a host, and Seema, she asked me if it was my way to attract Couchsurfers, by calling myself a travel guide.


“Of course, since being a travel guide is the new Axe Deo, and must necessarily and instantly make people want to eat me up.”


She vowed that she would try her hardest to not fling herself at me. And I asked what all she had already seen in Delhi, if she would like to see some of the unsung monuments.  “Can we go to the Lodi Gardens? I could get my frisbee, and we could play,” she quipped.  Play with a frisbee? It is during such trying times that a man must show what he’s made of, totally forget that he played pithoo with the kids in the neighbourhood the previous evening, channel all his  suaveness and convince the other party that playing with frisbees is for little kids,  bring out his sophistication and declare that they could instead play much manlier games. Like Chain-chain.


Also, dear Sikandar Lodi, I feel for you. It is bad enough that for years, youngsters have used the bushes near your tomb to express their enthusiastic physical affection for each other,  sometimes lying right right on top of you because there were ants near the bushes, and your tomb was a better, flat bed-like structure. And now here’s an American girl who wants to toss a frisbee and jump all over your resting place.


We, err I mean Seema and I, not Lodi and I for that would be quite odd, agreed to meet up around noon.The Lodis were the last of the five Delhi Sultanate dynasties.  The Mamluks  (Slave Dynasty)  were the first. Remember Qutub-ud-Din, the fellow who built Qutub Minar? Yes, his dynasty. The Khaljis were the second; followed by the Tughlaqs and the Sayyids. And last came the Lodis.  These dynasties had mostly Turkic, Pashtun or Persian origins and those when mixed with the indigenous Sanskrit and Prakrit gave rise to the beautiful language we all know as Urdu.


It was a nice Delhi winter noon when we entered Lodi Gardens. Earlier, my co-passenger had dug her nails into my skin while we rode on that faithful Yamaha Fazer.  I would have liked to believe that this was due to my Axe-like appeal but unfortunately intellect insisted that it had more to do with a foreigner’s absolute terror on seeing Indian traffic behavior.


Lodi Gardens has four main monuments.  There are the two Gumbads – Sheesh Gumbad and Bara Gumbad sitting right next to each other.  The Bara Gumbad can be easily identified as it is a gateway to a three domed mosque.  Then there are the tombs of Mohammed Shah – the last of the Sayyid rulers – and Sikandar Lodi, after whom the park is named.


Sikandar, as the name would hint, was arguably one of the better administrators of all those who held the helm in the Delhi Sultanate.  A strong willed ruler, he expanded his kingdom till Bihar and the frontiers of Gwalior, brought the local Afghan nobles under his control, and commissioned the building of the city that is present day  Agra. But kings have their quirks, and Sikandar was particularly cruel to his Hindu subjects, razing temples to the ground all over his kingdom.

We walked to the walled enclosure that houses Sikandar’s tomb. The gardens are lovely – tall trees, manicured lawns, a small canal flowing under a bridge. For someone who loves to watch birds or butterflies, these gardens are an absolute haven, probably Delhi’s best. We settled down on the grass, and I asked Seema of her Indian adventures. And just like so many other Westerners, her travelling patterns were the same, landing at Delhi, cooing at the very sight of the Taj Mahal in Agra, buying trinkets and cholis in Jaipur, then moving to Rishikesh and spending long afternoons in Israeli cafes with other foreigners and babas, hearing about ‘this place in the Himalayas’ – Mcleodganj – and moving and staying there for a month doing a meditation course, meeting hippies, smoking and generally being altogether content with life.


I asked and just like other foreigner girls who had said the same, she declared that she had not found travelling alone in India unsafe at all. I have begun to accept their theory that if you travel with an open mind and look at the world positively, it is not as bad as one would have us believe. Of course, there will always be a thousand gory stories but those are the only ones that make news, nobody wants to report that people strolled through the hills and had fun doing so.


Sikandar, however did not exercise too much, or any, of his energies in the noble pursuit of backpacking around the globe. Instead, he preferred jumping up onto his horse and ambushing neighbouring lands. Gwalior, he attacked five times but was thwarted every time by King Mansingh and his wife Mrignaini. Our chappie then proceeded to attack the nearby kingdom of Narwar and waited at its gates for eleven months, at the end of which the city had to open its gates and surrender as they had no food left. Sikandar finally died in 1517, and his son Ibrahim built the tomb next to which a large Punjabi family was playing cricket right now, and another man was expressing his affection for his ladylove by chalking the words, Rahul hearts Sheena, on a wall. Ibrahim would be the one Babur fought and defeated in the Battle of Panipat, thereby bringing to India one of the greatest dynasties to ever rule it – the Mughals.


A little later, we were joined by another Couchsurfer (Himanshu), an enthusiastic traveler who’d soon be giving his UPSC exams. It was a nice afternoon, sitting there amidst so much history, under a warm winter sun, chatting about life with two strangers who did not exist at all in my life, till a few hours back. The Punjabi son was swinging his bat at every ball his father threw at him, with the same ruthless abandon as must have Sikandar, Ibrahim and Babur once upon a time.


And then Seema took out her Frisbee and asked us to take vantage points yonder. How Himanshu and I bumped headlong into tree trunks in our enthusiastic pursuits to catch that dratted disc and pretended to act nonchalant while younger kids all around played much manlier sports, is an embarrassing tale that should not be shared on this respectable blogging forum.


Neeraj has a Masters in Advertising & Media Communication, has had experience as a Communication Consultant to the Government of Gujarat, and as a Brand man in the IT giant firm – Cognizant. When Neeraj Narayanan is not hitting an imaginary six over long-on, playing with his dog, or telling women why and when exactly they will fall in love with him, he likes to write. He also takes people on Delhi tours and Heritage walks, and you could go with him if you like deluded, outrageous men and a history lesson on Delhi’s finest.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>