City Hangout – The Hill of Pahari Imli, Old Delhi
Trekking in the neighborhood.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Nowadays almost no one except some pedantic historian would describe Old Delhi as “hilly”. The vagaries of modern architecture mostly mask the natural hills (paharis), but exceptions happily remain.
Atmospheric Pahari Imli, for instance, is a sleepy sort of place exuding the sense of an isolated hill–even though the natural contours are lacking. Steep lanes contribute to the impression, while fine old private residences are firmly shut to the outside world. Only the occasional mosque reveals glimpses of courtyards and absolution pools.
Surprisingly, this hill is home to any number of Urdu language printing presses, some of considerable vintage. Entering any of these one-room printing establishments reveals lungi-clad labourers dealing with these amazing machines, including a venerable Heidelberg from Germany. “It’s older than Indian independence,” declares a proud printer.
Further wanderings lead us to old disappearing sort of domestic architecture, mainly consisting of huge homes that have now been divided up. But a few of these sprawling houses, complete with aangans (courtyards) and fluted columns, linger on. One of them is home to mnemonist scholar Naseem Mirza Changezi, thought to be more than 100 years old. A delightful library, made up of his collection of books, is also in the area.
These days several old homes and buildings are being demolished, to be replaced with modern apartments. Perhaps best to turn up and stroll about before it’s too late.
Up and down the slopes