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Umair Shah was seven when he had his first brush with history.

He met a coin dealer in his hometown, the Indian city of Kolkata (formally Calcutta), who piqued his interested in coins.

As his collection grew, he began reading about the empires depicted on these metal discs.

“By the time I was 16, I was overcome with a crazy longing for these places and people,” he said.

Mr Shah, now 27, lives in Delhi where he works in digital marketing for fashion brands. But he’s also Sikkawala, or coin collector – that’s his moniker on Instagram where he documents fragments of history.

To take to Instagram isn’t to reduce history to a mere snapshot. Mr Shah’s lyrical captions are steeped in facts and read like excerpts from an exciting story – where we learn about dead emperors, malevolent djinns and of rebellions that dissolved empires – in about 300 words.

“When I see a ruin, my mind tries to conjure the structure as a living memory of the times in which it was built,” Mr Shah said. “And I immediately want to share its story with everyone.”

For years, Delhi’s tangled history has been the preserve of academics. Now, the job is finding new recruits in people like Mr Shah, who are rediscovering the city and chronicling its exciting past, one Instagram post a time.

Mr Shah is not alone in his quest.

Rameen Khan, a 34-year-old MBA working with Snapdeal, didn’t move to the Indian capital for its famed monuments – he came for love.

But the city, he says, has certainly been “the start of something beautiful” for him, a passion that has since taken him to 10 states, which he documents on City Tales, his Instagram page.

Mr Shah and Mr Khan say want to make people fall in love with their past.

“Most people go to monuments to take selfies or dance on a reel,” says Mr Shah. “I want them to realise what more the place offers.”

They have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram – and have also earned praise from renowned historians like Rana Safvi.

“We need popular Instagrammers [like them] to connect the past to the present and to showcase all the research done by historians in an easy-to-read format,” Ms Safvi says. “I think what they’re doing is beautiful.”

“We all learn and grow, and I’ve seen them grow from strength to strength, learning from their experiences and past mistakes – if any.”

History dwells in every corner of Delhi, which is full of splendid forts and haunting tombs.

Winter adds to the charm, despite the toxic fog that envelopes it every year. If you are lucky, there are days when the soft glow of sunshine falls like powdered gold over the city – a time when the stunning mausoleums, many of which are surrounded by sprawling gardens, are a joy to explore.

It was on one such winter afternoon that Mr Shah and Mr Khan led two separate tours – something they started doing recently on popular demand – inside the city’s Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

Spread over nearly 200 acres of land and with some 100-odd stone ruins and mausoleums, Mehrauli is one of the seven cities that together now form Delhi.

“Most people don’t associate these monuments with the same level of grandeur as Taj Mahal or Qutub Minar. But they really should,” said Mr Khan. The Qutub Minar, one of city’s best known monuments, is just a few metres away and is usually teeming with visitors.

With architecture spanning centuries – from the Tughlaqs to the Lodhis, the Mughals to the British and even the Rajputs – the city, he says, is dotted with invaluable clues to its past.

But in Mehrauli, the only other visitors for the day are a group of men playing cricket, whose shrieks occasionally pierce the quietude of the afternoon.

MehrauliIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY

The signs of neglect here are evident.

The space is overrun with dense and wild bushes. Its common to see men huddled around a fire smoking and relaxing in ancient courtyards. And when you peak inside crumbling but gorgeous stepwells, the sight of piling garbage jars you.

Mr Khan says the poor upkeep is also due to the lack of interest and awareness.

“People think of history as a boring and dry subject, so they never bother [to learn,]” Mr Khan said.

He added that he was drawn to Mehrauli because he was interested in monuments that had been forgotten. And he wanted to search for more of these, so he could spotlight them.

Like a treasure hunter, he too uses a map, but on Google.

And it has led him to some unexpected finds. His favourite: a 15th Century mosque in neighbouring Haryana state that now serves as a public school.

“When I post about these [lesser known] places, people get excited and I hope it pushes them to explore.

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