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Bhajan for Krishna Kanhaiya at a Sufi saint's shrine

September 27, 2013 08:17 IST

Bhajan for Krishna Kanhaiya at a Sufi saint's shrine

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Aseem Chhabra

The day I arrived in Delhi recently for a short visit, a friend took me to a post-evening prayer qawwali performance by the Nizami brothers at Hazrat Imayat Khan’s dargah in Nizamuddin (best known for the grave of poet Ghalib, and also the location for the qawwali Kun Faaya Kun in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar).

We got to the dargah, part of a beautifully constructed library of books on Sufism around 7 pm.

The qawwals -- three singers, one dholak player and a young boy who clapped throughout the evening -- got there about 10 minutes later.

For the first two qawwalis my friend and I were the only two people in the audience.

It was such a special moment to have a private qawwali session, starting with the haunting Allah Ho.

Later, eight more people, including a Caucasian couple, joined us.

The qawwals were not affected by the small audience.

My friend mentioned that this was one of the hidden secrets of Delhi.

For the next hour-and-a-half we sat around a Sufi saint’s grave and listened to one magical qawwali after another in an intimate setting.

It was a lively and satisfying evening where the performers sang one popular qawwali after another -- Main To Piya Se Naina Laga Aayi Re by Hazrat Amir Khusro and the evergreen hit Damadam Mast Qalander.

Just before the session was about to end -- the qawwals had to go, pray -- the lead singer asked if anyone had a request.

A young man, who seemed be a regular at the dargah, requested a bhajan.

And what a pleasant surprise it was to hear the singers perform a bhajan for “Krishna Maharaj.”

There sitting in a Sufi saint’s shrine in a very Muslim neighborhood of Delhi, I heard the qawwali singers sing Arre Kanhaiya Kuch Yaad Bhi Hai Kuch Hamaree?

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Image: The Nizami brothers performing at Hazrat Imayat Khan's dargah in Nizamuddin


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Aseem Chhabra

On my visit, it seemed the falling value of the rupee was on everyone’s mind in India.

The moment I mentioned to two cab drivers in Mumbai that I was on a short visit from New York, they wanted my opinion about the situation -- as if I had any answers.

A television journalist friend joined me for coffee at the J W Marriott Hotel’s Lotus Cafe in Juhu and he seemed surprised by how empty the eatery was.

“The economy must be affecting people,” he said as he looked around the cafe.

A cousin in Delhi asked me, “What are you Americans doing to our rupee?” I smiled since I had no response.

On Sunday morning I went to my favorite eatery in Delhi -- Bengali Sweets.

A few years ago a journalist had commented how expensive the Papdi Chaat was at Bengali Sweets. This time as I ate the Chaat, immediately after breakfast at home, all I could think was that it was the best $1 I had spent.

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Image: Papdi Chaat


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Bhajan for Krishna Kanhaiya at a Sufi saint's shrine

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Aseem Chhabra

One can only get the sense of how a big a Bollywood film is by looking at the billboards on the streets and highways of India.

On my visit, it seemed as if all of Mumbai was abuzz about Rohit Shetty’s Chennai Express.

Bigger than life images of Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone were plastered all over the city, almost reminding us that the stars are certainly not human like us.

They belong to another world where their giant images almost touch the sky.

By the middle of the week, the film’s gross had crossed Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) and Khan hosted a huge party.

The party was held in the hotel where I was staying. The entire hotel had been turned into a fortress -- the sort of security one would imagine for President Obama, and the traffic was a killer.

I did not have an invite for the party, but I did get a sense of how big Bollywood affairs can be, with giant beam lights.

Hollywood always does it this big. So I don’t see why Bollywood can’t be equally big, flashy and grand!

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