City Neighborhood – Tihar Village, West Delhi
Not the famous prison, if you please.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tihar Jail hardly needs any introduction. It is, after all, the largest prison complex in Asia, tending to thousands of inmates in various stages of “correction”.
Behind its concrete walls in west Delhi you find the grim gamut of the incarcerated — from murderers and rapists to perhaps a few unhappy souls who shouldn’t be there at all.
The huge prison has only been around since 1958. Meantime, The Delhi Walla is checking out something far older, wandering the rutty lanes of Tihar Village — from which the prison derives its name.
It’s like any of the other 247 villages in Delhi. The lanes are lined with tiny grocery shops while the barber at the salon is fast asleep. And yet, it is a thrilling experience to be in the heart of a place named, well, Tihar.
Midafternoon in Tihar (village) is best described as ho-hum. Scarcely a soul stirs, except for a lone bull slowly rumbling past. Languid locals are chatting outside their homes: The Valmiki Temple won’t reopen until evening.
Further along, members of the Bobby Dhol Master music band are getting their act together, minus any dhols (drums). There’s a sweatshop where shoemaker Muhammed Nafees is sewing a sole onto a well-trod shoe. Behind him, the blue wall is decked with dozens of leather footwear awaiting his ministrations.
His radio doles out old Hindi film songs which somehow seems perfectly natural. I pause to take in a Kishore Kumar number while reflecting upon this village: A far gentler version of the other Tihar.
Life inside Tihar