The sun was low in the sky when we pulled up outside the mosque. The shops lining the square hung the everyday needs of domestic India from its hooks and shelves. Heavy-eyed goats moved through the thinning crowds, the village young boys running after them. The sound of evening gossip filled the air as we trespassed the ordinary lives of these men and women in rural Maharashtra.
“Ha, ha, andar ja sakte hai, ladki!”
Ellora caves had left my mother and sister tired from a day in the heat, so my father and I ventured forth into mosque. The lazy breeze in the large courtyard reassured me, my anxiety of breaking unspoken rules quietening down with the sound of the local village elderlies guffawing under a tree, enjoying the last few minutes of daylight. We were pointed to a metal-and-paper banner, hanging precariously from two smaller minarets.
“That’s what you’re looking for!”
We entered the smaller courtyard, shepherded gently into the white marble enclosure on our right. The three simple white screens of marble, carved with the ‘jali’ work of the Deccan barely accommodated the twelve of us, shoulders pressed against each other and backs stuck to the stone. Before us, was a mound, covered with a white cloth and held down by make-shift paper weights of discarded marble. There were a few flowers, withered, and a cluster of a cluster of twigs, bound by thread at the head of the mound.
‘The tomb of the mogul emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir’
That is all four hundred years has left of a man who ruled an empire at its epoch. It is all that has been spared by the mutiny against every thirty-one million seconds of each of those four hundred years. Mere skin and fingers of his body mean nothing without the cities he built, without his name dotted in books and on signboards pointing to streets in a world that didn’t care to wait.
The mahgrib moans from speakers.
In a mosque tucked away in an unnamed town, lost in the ridges of the Sahyadris, maybe he knew that there’s an inevitability we fight while the rotting of our bones reduces us to the sparsity of this his dying wish for anonymity. The cawing of crows and endless violet dusk in the sky above are the only witnesses of our feet walking the earth.
We climbed back into the car and drove out, Pune waiting beyond the hills.