Around 8.30 am on Monday, Mohammed Zubair set out from his house in Chand Bagh, in northeast Delhi, for an annual ceremony at Shahi Idgah. Built in the seventeenth century, the Idgah is now located in Old Delhi’s bustling Sadar Bazar neighbourhood. Zubair, who is boyish-looking despite his 37 years, had been going to the Idgah ceremony called Ijtima—which draws anywhere between 150,000 and 250,000 people each year—for nearly two decades.
From the beginning, his day was full of strange lapses and lucky breaks. First, he forgot his mobile phone at home, which would prove to be a near-fatal error. Then, while struggling to find transport at the Kashmere Gate bus stop, a stranger on a motorcycle stopped in front of him and offered him a lift. Perhaps deducing his intended destination from his crisp, white kurta-pyjama and skullcap, the stranger asked Zubair if he was going to the Idgah. “I thought it was a gift from Allah,” he said, of the unexpected free ride.