Some things never change and thank god for that—the walled city delights and frustrates, but it hasn’t got caught in the glamour of the 21st century, as a group of us discovered on a food trail with Delhipedia
Words and photos: Ambica Gulati
It’s a land I share with millions, and like most I can lay claim to seeing the change in culture and habits. In my four decades of existence on this planet, the walled city holds a special place. It’s where I was born—in Kasturba Gandhi Hospital—and I lived in an old haveli in Churiwalan, haveli no 3745. This is now a tourist lodge. My father owned two shops on Nai Sarak—selling sewing machine parts. I remember nothing, except that this is a place where my heart seems to beat a little more whenever I walk down the narrow, people-filled lanes, with their shouts, with the chaos, with the sweat of human life filling the air, with the cheap prices and with the people giving you space to sit on their stairs. They either care little about you or they want to know everything about you—their curiosity almost bordering on privacy invasion as they ask why you are there and what you are doing and who is going to watch what you are shooting. But this is Delhi-6! And its eternal pace remains the same.
It was a sultry afternoon but how could I miss the walk on the streets of my birth. As the Delhipedia team reintroduced me to my land, I shot with my tab and they recorded the trail on videos. One thing we have in common—the love for this land which has seen the reign of kings, where dwell the hearts of millions, where all come in the search of work and which loves to host with an old world charm.
The trail began at the Chandni Chowk metro station and the first stop was the famous Natraj Dahi Bhalla Wala. Be ready to shoot in seconds and be unceremoniously asked to move out as the narrow passage has space for movement of one human body only.
Some bargaining with the rickshaw walaand we were off to JB or Jungbahadur Kachori Wala through the kinari bazaar. We stopped to gaze at the sarees, the bangles, the jewellery. This was the place for silver and gems. Bottled water takes a backseat, as a young man offers fresh clean water to the thirsty with a shiny copper pot.
No place to walk and no time to breathe, the walled city doesn’t seem to care. It thrives and is a world of its own, uncaring about the malls, the air conditioned shops, the new furnishings, the clean roads. It needs sanitation, closed drains, more facilities for the shopkeepers, but nothing deters it from doing what it has to do—keep the spirit of Delhi alive, for it hasn’t forgotten who and what it is—the land of kings and queens.
Watch the trail at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhoVPV8r3oA&feature=youtu.be
The brainchild of Arjun Pandey, Delhipedia (Delhi + Encyclopedia = Delhipedia), is an audio-visual encyclopedia of the unexplored destinations and unexplored people in Delhi (with 3-8 minute videos on platforms like You Tube, Facebook and Instagram).