City Walk – Choudhury Deepchand Ruheel Chowk, Shakti Nagar
A stroll into Small Town Delhi.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The groggy-eyed mithai seller at the Rewari Mishthan Bhandar is arranging dessert trays on the counter. The lobby of the Dr Sethi Panchsheel Maternity Nursing Home whose entrance warns against “pre natal Sex determination” is empty. Radhika Jewelers have not yet opened its shutters for business. The morning newspaper is lying unclaimed outside a closed door, rolled up in a rubber band.
A purposeless morning stroll in Choudhury Deepchand Ruheel Chowk, a traffic circle in North Delhi’s Shakti Nagar, transports one to the rhythms of a small town life. Fans of RK Narayan’s Malgudi Days must surely come for a walk here to gaze upon a tableau of mohalla life.
The sleepy locality seems cozily sleepy at this late morning hour.
Start the excursion by gazing upon the little garden fenced inside the traffic circle.The little diya has its flame bouncing around with much eager animation as if it is trying hard to make an impression–somebody must have lit the lamp earthen lamp just moments ago. The rest of the space is otherwise crammed with gods. The yellow marigold flower offered to the sacred Shivling feels fresh on touch. The garden’s centerpiece is an enormous peepal, its trunk wound several times over with the holy red kalava thread. Now a man appears pulling a yellow cart; asking people to donate rotis for “gau mata’, the mother cow.
Originally developed for the Partition refugees, Shakti Nagar is a living museum to large double-storey houses that came up during that era. Today more and more of those buildings–peculiar to the architecture of that time–are giving way to modern apartment complexes.
One such mansion has a little metal gate opening into a stately looking porch flanked by unusually massive columns. That and the gracious solidity of its steep staircase make the house appear like the trusted keeper of a family’s forbidden story–full of secrets, targedies and joys. But all of this world can be deleted so easily. Like a similar house, just around the corner, that was razed down some months ago.
Quiet and homely