City Landmark – Wali’s Hair-Cutting Saloon, Bazaar Chitli Qabar
The heart of the Walled City.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Old Delhi has all sorts of places you’ll visit when it’s high time to feel good about yourself. Perhaps the stone steps of a good old Jain temple?
Another choice is Wali’s Unisex Saloon in Bazar Chitli Qabar that literally exudes calm. Established long ago but renovated only a few years ago, its ambience is personified by the owner himself.
Father to a young girl, Waseem Ilahi is always friendly, never intrusive, whose skilled hands move steadily and discreetly. He draws you into quiet conversation without venturing into polarising subjects such as politics that could get patrons worked up.
“Seven generations of my family have lived in Delhi,” says the soft-spoken Mr Ilahi, 38, “and my forbearers started this shop.” His team of assistants hail from Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh; and sometime in the afternoon the staff sits down for lunch prepared at Mr Ilahi’s nearby home on Haveli Mahabat Khan street.
Old Delhi has other hair-cutting saloons as well that provide something pleasing. One unnamed barber shop has an old-fashioned cylindrical wood-fired oven for heating water in the winter. The stylist at Royal Saloon dresses in exquisitely embroidered kurta pajamas. Another choice is Life Style Hair Saloon with yellow and golden walls, while Big Boss Gents Parlour has red and blue panels on the white roof.
You could easily spend an entire day hanging around these establishments, each permeated in the flavour of its lane. Though, of course, there might be a limit to the number of haircuts you really need. But then you don’t even need to get one. The staff in all these places is extremely welcoming and you can just sit and hear the customers talk; the guilt-free eavesdropping bringing you close to the rhythms of the Walled City life in a way that’s not possible through any amount of guided walks or bicycle tours.
Lounging on the red rexine sofa at Wali’s is particularly relaxing. It provides a miraculous escape from the chaos of old Delhi, which continues to prowl on the other side of the saloon’s thick glass doors. Inside, the ordinary barber shop talk fills the area’s touristy dimensions with a homely intimacy. Wali’s opens daily from 9.30am to 10.30pm.
Wali’s cool vibes