City Walk – Chirag Delhi Village, South Delhi
A small town stroll.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Ladies standing by a corner, murmuring to each other in low voices. Idle shopkeepers silently watching the street life outside.
Small town vibes are evocative of slow living, letting one experience the passing of time so intimately that it is almost like touching the very minutes with one’s bare hands.
Delhi is blessed in having neighborhoods with the character of small hamlets. An aimless walk in Chirag Delhi village illustrates this point most vividly.
This afternoon the South Delhi neighborhood seems withdrawn into a self-willed isolation. As if it had nothing to do with the rest of the fast busy metropolis it is part of.
A grocery down a street called Main Bazaar, near the New Fashion Tailors, is lined with sacks filled with 16 different kinds of rice. A snack vendor is serving piping hot kachori and aloo subzi in a leaf bowl to a girl partially hidden by the shaded staircase of her home. Further ahead an elderly woman is lording over a garment store crammed with mannequins in shining salwar suits. Close by stands an easy-to-miss pavement temple dedicated to Sheetla Mata, the goddess of small pox. An expressionless woman in wheelchair is gazing at the idol.
Chirag Delhi is a historic district, which many centuries ago used to be a citadel. Most of the early construction is lost, but turn into any lane and nine times out of ten you will find at least one old house with a beautiful doorway or a lovely stenciled balcony. Some of these structures stand abandoned. Many are left with mere remnants of the original building. But even in their dilapidation these buildings lend a quality of grace to the neighbourhood.
A fussy aesthete might get upset with the smattering of multi-storey buildings filling up the narrow lanes. But these rented housing exuberantly display the domesticity of daily living through their washlines and window coolers, and of course in the glimpses of people living in them. They add a dash of homeliness to Chirag Dilli’s beauty.
And now the elderly Jile Singh passes by. Carrying a small metal trunk, he is shouting in a hoarse voice, “Get your ears pierced without pain.” He turns into a lane and ceases to be visible, but can still be heard.
Walking through a historical neighborhood