Photo Essay – Epitaph on Chandni Chowk, Mughal Delhi
The ruins-of-an-empire mindset.
[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is not our Chandni Chowk.
The Delhi Walla is in possession of some old photos of the city, which were taken after the downfall of Mughals in 1857. One of them is of the fabled promenade. It looks like a place of cold beauty. There is no crowd. Life lies still. The avenue is divided along its entire length by a row of trees. A few huts are clustered at the forefront. One side of the bazaar is taken over by a dense congregation of havelis, the residences of the nobility. The Red Fort ramparts stand forlorn like the boundary of an entombed paradise.
This quiet world before us seems to have been woven out of a melancholic dream. The sky is clear — there are neither birds, nor clouds. The few people seen on the road have the intangibility of ghosts. The buildings appear to be deserted of life. The capital seems sorrowful.
The myth-makers who are attached to the idea of living inside a coffin interprets this setting as the ruins of a great age which was beginning to end. Its lute is about to be broken, the sweet tunes would soon be forgotten. Trees would shed their leaves and dust winds would cover the city in yellow particles.
This Delhi would become a suburb of Troy.
Such centuries-old depictions of our cities carry the fragments of a collapsed civilisation. They contain the feelings evoked by a chandeliered hall that has been stripped off all its opulent carpets and divans. We are left with only the fleeting sound of our footsteps, certain hurtful memories and deep regrets.
And hundreds of years later from today, the future Delhiwallas will look at our photos in turn, and think of our time as the golden age, and then they will mourn us.
The earlier Delhi