Welcome to the home of fakirs

Delhi is full of fakirs, often spotted at its many Sufi shrines, attired in their robes, turbans, and with begging bowls.

But what’s their idea of home? These long-haired bearded men saddled with sacred necklaces and prayer beads.

Some of these ascetics living in deliberate poverty can be spotted at the south Delhi Sufi shrine of Hazrat Nasiruddin Chirag Dehlavi. A 14th century tomb tucked in the corner of the shrine’s sprawling courtyard serves as a kind of long-term dormitory for visiting fakirs who might stay for months at a stretch.

Their accommodation here is rustled out from within the tomb’s white chamber where any number of mattresses smell damp. This noon a washing line is strung along the facing wall, weighed down with lungis and drapes and even a track suit.

The chamber has a niche stacked with dinner plates and mineral water bottles. The presence of a rat trap suggests that even the otherworldly must suffer from the nuisance created by some of God’s creations.

Then there’s a small gas burner, along with a vessel filled with milk. Also spotted: a walking stick. And this all is a makeshift home for a fakir, a word that originated from the Arabic for poor.

Adjusting a mattress, one of the fakirs, a man in his 30s, says that “we people don’t belong to anybody…when we get together, we enjoy each other’s company but we are not dependent on anybody for comfort.”

He goes on to describe their scant material

possessions as objects of utility “to which we attach no emotions.”

Fakirs are solo souls, another gentleman clarifies, explaining that they have no family; an assertion that makes one of their bags hanging on a hook look poignant. It depicts a newly-wed couple.

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