City Neighborhood – Choudhury Deepchand Ruheel Chowk, Shakti Nagar
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The groggy-eyed mithai seller at the Rewari Mishthan Bhandar is arranging dessert trays in slow motion. The lobby of the Dr Sethi Panchsheel Maternity Nursing Home whose entrance warns against “pre natal Sex determination” is empty. The staircase of an apartment complex whose nameplate has the word Om drawn on it in Hindi is submerged in partial darkness. Radhika Jewelers have not yet opened its shutters for business. The Times of India is lying rolled-up outside a closed door.
The Delhi Walla is wandering in Choudhury Deepchand Ruheel Chowk, a traffic circle in Shakti Nagar. The north Delhi locality seems sleepy at this late morning hour.
However, the little garden inside the circle has an earthen lamp that is burning – somebody was here recently. This cramped space is filled with gods. The yellow flower offered to the sacred Shivling feels fresh on touch. Flowers are also arranged in front of the miniature statues of Ganesh and Parvati. Durga’s portrait is lying on the ground. Radha and Krishna are standing upright. Among these gods and goddesses lie a framed black & white portrait of a married couple.
The garden has electricity department’s transformer at its center but its true centerpiece is an enormous peepal. This tree, too, seems to be a god. Kalava, the holy red thread, is wound around its giant trunk.
A man appears on the road with a yellow cart; he is asking people to donate rotis for stray cows.
Originally developed to house the Partition refugees from Punjab, Shakti Nagar has a number of bungalows and mansions dating from the 1950s. Today more and more of these are giving way to the tinted-glass windows and tall iron gates of modern-looking apartments. One such bungalow is home to the offspring of Deepchand Ruheel, after whom the circle is named. The elderly guard inside the house describes him as a social worker.
Close by, an old building has been demolished and the foundations of a new one are being built.
While leaving, I walk past the house where I’d seen the unclaimed Times. The newspaper is no longer there.
Quiet and homely