City Exploration – Park End Colony, Karkardooma

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Exploration - Park End Colony, Karkardooma

Exodus from the Walled City.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The story goes that Old Delhi suffered just one exodus when Partition forced many Muslims to leave for Pakistan. But the slow flight since then seems to have gone unrecorded.

I have heard stories of genteel Old Delhi families leaving their Walled City mansions for Yamuna-paar addresses.

Isn’t that shocking?

How could you willfully renounce the thrill of living in Purani Dilli? So it is. I know the publisher of a legendary Urdu magazine who left his grand haveli near Jama Masjid for a bungalow in Noida’s Sector 21. From the historical quarters of Matia Mahal to the suburban sprawl of Noida!

Is romance dead?

To confirm the death of everything that is beautiful I’m now here in Karkardooma in East Delhi. Someone told me that a neighbourhood here called Park End consists entirely of Old Delhi gentry.

Really? It’s hard to imagine Mirza Ghalib’s brood in this part of the Capital. This is neither Old Delhi, nor New Delhi. No Pandava palace, no Mughal masjid, no British block.

Folks, this is new New Delhi. Here the Metro Rail construction is in full swing. Huge concrete slabs. Giant cranes. Commuters scurrying past like ants. The rush hour is not yet on, but Vikas Marg, already smelling of diesel, is getting more difficult to cross. I feel the dust settling on my lungs. But all is forgiven for I’m in search of a vanished city.

They say it is visible right from this crossing. I see a masjid. And mysterious it is. No minaret, no dome. The roof sloping and the gate shut.

Koi hai? Knock, knock. Imam sahib appears. He follows me into the prayer hall, and stays on the trail as I go up the spiral staircase. The view here is extraordinary through the green-tinted glass windows. Two ends of Metro tracks, about to touch. Imam sahib, now impatient, shoos me out.

“This is the first DDA-approved masjid in Delhi,” says 72-year-old Mr Muhammad Aslam, a retired Customs officer and former Delhi University football captain. DDA stands for Delhi Development Authority, the planning agency for the capital. Mr Aslam is taking a morning walk with neighbours – all, as I learned, came from Old Delhi.

In the beginning, there was a jungle in Karkardooma. In 1985, a certain Mr MM Zaidi, the principal of Anglo-Arabic Oriental College, at Ajmeri Gate, started a residential society here.

Back then the traffic was negligible, the air fresh and only one bus route – 201 from Kodiyapul to Ghazipur Dairy. Maybe that’s why the original inhabitants, all professor-advocate types, left the congestion of Old Delhi. “Our families were growing bigger and we wanted sukoon,” says Mr Aslam.

Is sukoon to be found in this smoggy slice of East Delhi?

“Oh, yes,” replies Aslam. “Here we have open space, large plots and lots of trees.” I look around. Such wilderness. Lots of gular trees whose leaves are much loved by goats.

No wonder, these men are happy with the choices they have made.

“Don’t you miss morning stalls selling niharis and payas?”, I ask.

“Yes, we do,” says Mr Aslam. “But in Old Delhi, we acutely missed DDA-approved bungalows.”

Got the point, sir.

Delhi’s first DDA mosque

City Exploration - Park End Colony, Karkardooma

View from the mosque window

Exploration - Park End Colony, Karkardooma

More view

Exploration - Park End Colony, Karkardooma

Happy & healthy in Trans-Yamuna

City Exploration - Park End Colony, Karkardooma