Wednesday, 16 January 2013

...and Dilli will Die (Story of my Midnight Tryst with the Djinns who Guard Dilli)

They came visiting last night, the Djinns guarding the crumbling walls of the old Dilli.

They were burning. I swear. I touched one of them - all white and icy to look at but, my fingers sizzled and scorched. They were charred within minutes. I thought I would never be able to write again, but, I couldn't have been wrong. My fingers regenerated themselves like phoenix rising from its own ashes or like Dilli rising seven times from its own debris.

That is when I knew they were the Djinn protectors of Dilli. The ones who built it every time it was razed to the ground - a grand total of seven times!

"Why are you burning up? All of you?"

All of them spoke together, as if their voices were joined together in a strange harmony. I thought immediately of Darth Vader but, stopped right there. This was no movie. This was real. These were the protectors of my city and they had something they wanted to share.

"It's time!"


"For sacrifice"


Realizing, I was repeating myself, I decided to shut my mouth and just use my ears.

"It's time for another resurrection and Dilli is ready to burn to be brought to life once more. The eighth time."

Shoot! I had to talk.

"Should I move, I mean, I could always go back to Bombay. I would hate to shift to Calcutta. But, I could also scope out Bangalore..."

An eerie silence greeted me. The eyes of the djinns burnt with repressed fury. It suddenly dawned on me that they were angry - at me.


"You need to pay attention and NOT ask silly questions."


"Listen, the residents have to die with the city to be reborn once more..."

I gulped. What? I HAVE to die!

"Is there no other way? You could take the politicians and the corrupt bureaucrats and the uncharitable socialites..."

"NO, everyone has to make the sacrifice."

"But, the citizens abandoned the city during Tughlaq's exodus down south..."

"Most died on the way and the rest on the way back when he changed his mind."

"I see..."

"It is inevitable."

Gulp, gulp, GULP!


They stared at my scared face for a long time. I'm sure it was a long time because, I wanted to break the eye contact and go pee.

"It is inevitable. We just came to tell you that you need to wrap up - for the journey into your next life."

"Wrap? You mean, pack... like a bag?"

"No. Only your Karma goes with you."

"Then wrap/pack what?"

"Your life. Wrap up everything before you go. We want all the citizens to come back reincarnated into the new city and not float around as ghosts. Nothing should be left undone."

"I see... Actually... I don't. I have no EMIs to pay and..."

"Don't waste our time with your unnecessary thoughts. If this is the average intelligence level of the city..."

They even shook their heads in tandem - right to left and right back. I was waiting for them to shrug together when a thought dazzled my head.

"Why are you here? To warn me? What is it that you expect me to do? Meaning what do I have to wrap/pack up  when I cannot carry anything with me? I thought of a few books, my digicam, laptop, my favorite bag, some shoes and a few dresses, lipstick..."

"Did you ever grow up?"

"I did. Which is why I am asking. If I'd not, I'd have launched my bag open and started throwing things into it already and scrammed - to the next city."

Their eyes said it all. So, I decided to change tack.

"OK, taking it from the top. Let me ask questions in order. Why is the city ready to burn/destroy/crumble?"

"Because it is overflowing with sin of its people. Everyone is self-centered, uncaring, debauched..."

"Alright got it. But, isn't that the norm everywhere?"

"Don't know and don't care. We are caretakers of Dilli and not this 'everywhere'."

"So, that means you decide every time when the city needs to be renewed?"

"Yes! Why does that shock you?"

"I mean, I am shocked. How can you decide without asking anyone if they wanted to be reborn? It is highhanded behavior. I think you need to rethink your strategy. These are not the Dark Ages after all."

I was shocked to see all of them flick their left brows in tandem like a well rehearsed drill and cross their arms at me. Now, I had alienated them completely. They thought I was some kind of a blithering fool.

"Ask? Whom?"

"People. Citizens..."

"They have no idea. They are too far gone. Look at yourself."

"Hey! what have I done? You guys turn up in my house in the middle of the night, uninvited and you want me to act subservient and start packing - nothing! Also, I have never stolen from or hurt anyone - knowingly."

A fleeting look of repentance passed their faces but, it was gone so fast that I probably had imagined it in all the stress that was piling up.

"We came to warn you. We picked you and some others who can let everyone know. We can't go to each and every person. We picked those who were 'active' on this Internet thing."

I took a deep breath and held it for a moment before letting go.

"Since I'm having difficulty believing you myself when you are here in my bedroom, how do you expect that others are going to believe ME? Why not tell the politicians or the bureaucrats? It is their job after all."

"That's not our problem if people do not believe. It is their problem. The politicians and bureaucrats will immediately quarantine us and kill the news."

"That was cold and calculated!"

The eyebrows rose in unison like the cadets saluting the President on Republic Day.

"Have you been living with your eyes closed? Do you think people in this city deserve to live and prosper - as they are?"

Going by the slew of crimes and scandals hitting the headlines everyday, I stopped short of making another heated speech.

"You mean, because a bunch of aggressive people who perhaps do not belong to the city are ruining its innocence, everything has to go?"

I thought about all the beautiful monuments and the gardens and the installations at the parks and a tear escaped my eyes. Will the Old Fort survive this time?

"See, even you do not care for anyone. It's only the monuments that worry you. And just who are these aggressive outsiders?"

I stared down at my blue polished toes and squirmed in embarrassment. I was no better than the haranguing politicos who always found fault with the 'others'.

"I mean, why everyone and yes, I do care for the heritage of the city - one of the most beautiful - a tapestry of past and present inviting the future. It will all be gone..."

"Don't worry. The monuments stay. They have stayed for a really long time."

I shrugged thinking was there really nothing else to save? Suddenly as if like a television montage, visual images of all the scams, rapes, murders and the daily stories of bribery and brutality flashed through my mind. I knew it was them. They had taken over my mind - I assume they were too tired of trying to explain things to me. No, we needed a reprieve. Dilli needed a reprieve. I had already changed my mind - I could come back and continue in peace once the city is revived for the eighth time.

"Even the children have to go?"


Their collective Darth Vader voice did not allow even an inch for me to try broker a deal for those who were below five years of age. No, they wanted all. The ancient djinns of Dilli wanted to destroy and resurrect and I could not think of even a single soul to save, not even mine, only the monuments and the gardens deserved to stay to tell the story of another lost civilization. They'd tell their stories to the same people when they came back to make it yet another supercity.

So, here is my bit of advice, straight from the Djinns, "please pack up, err, wrap up! It's time..."


  1. wish it were true for the earth plane shoma ... wish the prediction of Dec 21 had come true .. this world needs a fresh start from ground zero ...

    1. Don't know Mona but, I wish we had a clean slate to work on... Really!


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