Poetry at Fatehpur Sikri

Didi, aapko kavita sunaoo?” (Elder sister, should I recite a poem for you), pestered a little boy, who had started following us from the moment we entered the mosque complex of Fatehpur Sikri.

“Baad mein” (Later), I blurted in an effort to shake him off, and hurried after our guide.

We soon realized that our guide was only interested in preying on our sentiments, to make us shell out 5000 rupees to offer a chaddar at the durgah (tomb) of Salim Chisti.

This sufi saint, was the reason behind the founding of the historical Fatehpur Sikri, a walled city which lies 37km away from Agra.

The story goes that emperor Akbar had visited the acclaimed saint, who predicted that he would soon be blessed with male heirs. When his son was born, Akbar named him Salim (who later became emperor Jehangir), and and also decided to shift his capital to a location near the saint’s abode, in his honour.

However, due to strategic reasons, this new capital city had to be abandoned very soon after its completion.

Today, the complex stands as a remarkable example of Persian architecture, influenced by several local styles. And the dargah of Salim Chisti remains a place which Indians of all religions visit – believing that their prayers will be fulfilled if they tie a thread on marble jali windows of the tomb.

That the guides would misuse this faith to dupe visitors, angered me no end.

Whilst the claims are that the money from the sale of the (over-priced) chaddars goes towards helping the needy, it mostly ends up in the pockets of the guides and the peddlers. Offering a chaddar is by no means a necessity, and anyone can visit the tomb to pay respect and tie a thread.

Needless to say, the rest of our visit went downhill and we were neither able to appreciate the different sections of the palace, nor gain a deeper insight into its history.

As we were exiting from the King’s Gate, I felt a tug on my top.

Didi, ab kavita sunoge? Aapne kahaa tha (Elder sister, will you listen to the poem now? You had said so)

I handed him a ten rupee note and waited.

His poem went like this…

<Something, something, something, something>

Didi toh hai sapno ki rani (Elder sister is the queen of dreams)

<Something, something, something, something>

Didi to hai Katrina Kaif se bhi sundar (Elder sister is more beautiful than Katrina Kaif)

Haha! And just like that, the afternoon got a little better.

What about you? Has a bad guide ever “killed” a place for you? Which one? Were you able to salvage the visit? How?

P.S. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact words of the first and third lines of the “poem”. I can tell you though, that it all rhymed well 🙂