Spring 2010, Columbia Undergraduate Journal of South Asian Studies, Vol. I, Issue 2
In the midst of the historical monuments and posh colonies of South Delhi, the dense tangle of streets known as the Nizamuddin basti is an anomaly. As one approaches from Lodhi Road to the West, the basti presents a worn but determined face of crooked brown houses, pushing out over the dried up nallah, or storm drain, that forms the Western boundary of the neighborhood. From this vantage point, the crowded assemblage of narrow buildings appears no more penetrable than the locked, gated, and guarded walls of the wealthy colonies along Lodhi Road. That the Nizamuddin basti is its own, self-contained world, something apart from the Delhi that surrounds it, is obvious at first glance. I embarked on this project in the hopes of discovering how the dargah at Nizamuddin has remained one of the city’s most-visited holy places. This investigation led me, perhaps inevitably, to an examination of the neighborhood that surrounds it. How does a place like the basti survive in the heart of modern Delhi? What has produced it? What holds it together?
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