A tourist getaway with hardly any tourists

This could be the poor man’s Jama Masjid. The Walled City’s third largest mosque, circa 1650, has no big domes. Guidebooks don’t go gaga over the place.

Tucked into one end of Chandni Chowk, Fatehpuri Masjid lacks the flamboyance of its counterpart at the other end — Lal Qila. Its history is bloated with drama queen pathos — damaged by the British following the 1857 rebellion, sold to a Hindu banker, returned to Muslims only 20 years later.

It was Nawab Fatehpuri Begum, a wife of Shah Jahan, who had this mosque built. But if Fatehpuri Masjid were a woman, it would have said, “Nobody loves me, nobody cares.”

No flight of stone steps leads to the courtyard, which in turn cannot offer any spectacular Old Delhi scenes. But the mosque’s seeming weakness is its strength. In a city where most monuments are too ‘great’, its simplicity offers a refreshing contrast. It is a touristy getaway with hardly any tourists and no touts.

Come during the twilight hours. Then the sky over the courtyard is pale blue, the moon newborn. The prayer hall begins to look unearthly against the blue-pink-orange of the last sunrays.

Before the approaching night swallows the shade of the courtyard’s giant gular tree, the muezzin’s call starts echoing from all sides. Devotees stream into the prayer hall. As the men pray — kneeling, bowing — the courtyard becomes as quiet as its 21 tombs clustered next to the vazukhana. Calmness descends. Existential banalities are stripped away. Delhi disappears. Removed from the world, you feel closer to your self. Of course, the illusion vanishes the moment you step out into bustling Chandni Chowk. No worries. There is always the next evening.

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