In retrospect, perhaps there would have been more romantic places to take Chris for our first real date night in India than a neighborhood mosque.
We had come to watch the Sufi religious men dance, a must-see for Delhi that supposedly happens every Thursday evening at dusk in Nizamuddin.
I’d been waiting for months for Will’s level comfort with our housekeeper to coincide with the darkest days of winter, hoping that if we rushed over to the mosque right after work we could watch the dances at nightfall and be home before Will’s bedtime. My plan may have worked, had I not accidentally chosen to visit on the same day as Milad Un Nabi, the day celebrated by Indian Muslims especially as the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
There was a palpable whiff of celebration in the air. After aimlessly wandering the Basti, a neighborhood where tourists come for guided tours of a rather colorful but easy-on-the-eyes version of poverty, we wandered bare-foot through a seemingly endless maze of smooth marble hallways past whole families of beggars and vendors selling religious trinkets by the glow of naked lightbulbs. We found out later that while we were exploring, our driver passed the time warily watching parades of drugged-up teenagers danced around the car and “exercise with large stones”–thus ensuring that the night would be remembered as a very interesting experience for everyone involved.
We entered the central courtyard of the dargah (the term used for Sufi mosques, if I’m not mistaken) to find it packed beyond room for navigation as families and friends greeted one another excitedly, men handed out bags of sweets to anyone whose hand could reach them, and young women snapped photos on their cell phones, wanting to capture the mosque lit up with lights and green flags and the overhead grids of silver tinsel that I’ve begun to associate with celebrations here in Delhi. Standing out amongst the revelers we saw small pockets of white foreigners in make-shift head coverings all looking around as bewildered as we were, as if to say “ummm am I in the right place?”
The atmosphere was nothing short of amazing. Joyful and jubilant and generous. There were smiling people everywhere we looked, sharing their food and their space with whomever happened to be sitting down next to them on the woven mats covering the ground. A group of earnest looking young men pressed English-language booklets into our hands, urging us to convert but darted off happily when we handed them the strings of roses we bought accidentally at the entrance to the dargah.
After a few minutes of hopeless wandering, trying to find the dancing Sufis, we finally sat down and hoped that they might magically appear before we’d have to leave to make our 7:30 curfew.
They didn’t. Who knows, we may have missed them by mere minutes or they may not have danced last night. Maybe next time.
Either way, you can tell its a couple’s first night out sans child in awhile when, given alternatives, they instead spend a large portion of that night out helping a pack of roving children pick the English letters out of a prayer book.
A few more photos from the evening below. The light was low so most of my shots came out blurry and/or grainy, but I hope they give at least a tiny taste of the lovely atmosphere at the dargah. Looking back at the shots I took outside the dargah, it occurs to me that perhaps I was a little bit hungry…