I visited the Dargah of Khwaja Garib Nawaz in Ajmer for the first time a few years ago. It was a hot dusty afternoon and I had no idea what to expect on my first visit to Ajmer. The Dargah fascinated me and in a strange way I felt very much at home.It made no difference that I was Hindu, I was just one of the many visiting the tomb of a great Saint, from different faiths and walks of life. Shortly after my children studied in Mayo College, Ajmer’s prestigious boarding school.
The magnetic pull of the Saints presence drew me to the Dargah again and again and I wanted to know more about his life, his teachings and the historical significance of the buildings in the Dargah complex. This has now culminated in the writing of this book. It also helped that my children studied in Ajmer and with Khawaja Garib Nawaz’s blessings, it was possible to satisfy my spiritual stirrings by visiting the shrine as well as my maternal yearnings by visiting the town that has fascinated me ever since.
Often, when visiting important religious shrines or holy places, the crowds, heat, dust and traffic overwhelms one. Invariably beggars get after you, and in the confusion and rush, one misses out on the spiritual and historical significance of the place. What starts as a pilgrimage, becomes an uncomfortable experience if done without some knowledge. The book the Sufi Saint of Ajmer was published in 2001 as a hardbound book, later published by Rupa in 2004 as The Sufi Shrine of Ajmer in a paperback.
After various visits to the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya in New Delhi I wrote the book “The Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya” published by Rupa & Co. The Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya is equally fascinating and the entire complex houses the cenotaphs of the Saint as well as his favourite disciple Amir Khushrau. It has been a wonderful experience for me to write this book.
Not written with authority, but a sense of discovery, the experience of writing was my journey into discovering the great sufi saints, known for their compassion for the poor and teachings relevant even today! The process of visiting Sufi Dargahs has led to collecting a large number of colorful photographs.
I have been invited to present several talks on the famous Chisti Sufi Dargahs accompanied with visuals in various cities. My presentations revolve around the history and lives of the saints and significance of their traditions, customs and rituals carried out even today.
Sufi Talks have been held on invitation at:
• Little Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts at Nariman Point, Mumbai.
• Nikko Hotel, Delhi for wives of expats/diplomats.
• Rotary Clubs in New Delhi, Bangalore, Nagpur.
• Book reading circle at Willingdon Club, Mumbai.
• Book release & talk at India Habitat Centre, Delhi, in the presence of New Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit & late Dr A M Khusro, President of Agha Khan Foundation.
• Crosswords Bookstores, in the presence of late Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, Mr M V Kamath, Mr Jaffar Imam, 2nd time in the presence of Mr Muzaffar Ali and Mr Jaffar Imam and 3rd time with Mr Sanjay Khan.
• Times of India Mumbai, talk organized by Spirituality Wing of the Women for Peace & Progress (WMPP)
• Tata Centre for Excellance, Jamshedpur
• Indus meeting for ladies , Mumbai
• WIN meeting in Pune February 2006