Indians at Herod's Gate
Eight hundred years ago Baba Farid, the great Sufi saint of the Chisti order, visited Jerusalem, freshly wrested back for Islam from the Crusaders by Saladin, and meditated there for forty days in an underground room. Later, an Indian Hospice was born through a waqf endowment around that room and has welcomed Indian pilgrims—and soldiers—to Jerusalem ever since. For close to a century, through the tumultuous years of the British Mandate, the Second World War, the birth of Israel and the ensuing decades of conflict, the Hospice has been looked after by an Indian family—first by Sheikh Nazir Hasan Ansari, a police inspector’s son from Saharanpur, and then by his eldest son, Sheikh Munir Ansari.
Following in the tradition of literary travellers like Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux, the author wanders through the timeless narrow lanes of Old Jerusalem, sifting through fact and fable to tease out the unique story of a centuries old Indian connection to the ancient city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. A deeply researched but lightly told historical narrative replete with telling personal detail, that brings alive the story of the Indian Hospice in Jerusalem.