Subhaan Allah! Meet the Fatehpur Sikri poets


Fatehpur Sikri! What a spectacular place! The grandeur of the structures aside, it’s an experience to be here- the architecture, the buzz of activity on the road that leads to the monument, the dimensions of the Buland Darwaza, the perfection and elegance of the red sandstone architecture, the tangewalas on their horses, the beautiful white mosque inside, the quawwals siting in the courtyard, singing their naats and quawaalis to the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti…and the guides that hound you, offering their services for ‘100 rupees only’. And pretty good their services are too- they make the tour of the monument interesting and evocative- are full of historical facts, myths and stories and will gently guide you towards vendors and shops inside, gently  and cleverly persuading you to spend some money!

To me, the most charming part of being in Fatehpur Sikri, were the young poets who will reel out shayari for you for 10 rupees. ‘Ek rupaye mein ek sher!’ and there are usually ten  shers that you get to hear. Right from the start of the walk towards the Buland darwaza where your tangewala has dropped you, little fellows will waylay you, and let me tell you, they are endearing little chaps, so it’s wise to carry a bundle of tenners to hand out to Bade Mians and Chote Mians after their performances!

Typically, the young, bedraggled shayars will come up to you, and speaking in English, will ask ‘madame, would you like to hear some shayari?’ Incidentally, the accent in which the solicitation is made could well be American or British but the shayari will be in pure Urdu. Don’t expect a great deal of quality in the poetry because its pretty pedestrian- aimed at the average tourist. Not just that, all of them tend to recite the same ten shers, so if you want to hear anything different, you have to ask for it. Here’s a sample of what you will get:

Neem ki patti tulsi se kam nahin; Hamai madame Katrina kaif se kam nahin

Neem ki patti tulsi se kam nahin; Hamre bade bhai Salmaan Khan se kam nahin


Sheeshi bahri gulab ki  sharab  nahin hoti, aur har ladki Mumtaz nahin hoti

It’s pretty obvious that there’s a style and  protocol to reciting the poetry, so the boys will strike a typical pose, holding two fingers together and punctuating the air with them while dispensing their gems; more often than not leaving their listeners in paroxysm of laughter!

Its really too charming and endearing!

Categorized as The Chronic-colour