City Landmark – A Light Blue Mansion, Pahari Rajaan
A piece of beauty.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The mansion looks like an aristocratic lady dressed in sun rays, fussily re-arranging them about her from time to time. The afternoon light—and its shifting shadows—have ignited a gentle glow onto its pale blue walls, turning the concrete into something lighter and softer, something that might perhaps dissolve if touched.
It’s a pity that this exquisite piece of architecture goes unnoticed. And not only these days when barely any explorer dares to venture into the crowded, cramped Old Delhi due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The edifice was ignored in the BC (before corona) era, too. Simply because it is located in a side-alley that outsiders rarely care to step in. Even the locals of this narrow street don’t really bother about this graceful structure stranded in their midst—seeing something so hauntingly beautiful every day might have dulled its qualities to their eyes. Besides, one has to crane up one’s neck to gaze upon the building.
The sprawling building lies in the hilly Walled City neighbourhood of Pahati Rajaan. More than half of its loveliness comes from its first floor balconies—each has its surface luxuriantly shaped into all sorts of floral patterns, as if it has slyly copied the intricate patterns of a bride’s wedding lehenga. The wooden windows—some are green and some are brown—are closed. A frayed mustard green curtain is swaying out of one of the balconies.
Apparently nobody lives inside, the main door is locked. “It was built by a purane raees (old rich),” informs a nearby grocer. “His daughter lives in Noida and still comes over sometimes to check on the place,” he adds.
The alley also has the honor of being the address of at least two notable Walled City families—one owns the historic Shereen Bhawan mithai shop, while the other comprise the immediate descendants of late poet Musheer Jhinjhianvi.
Just next to the building’s gateway lies its “sehan”, or courtyard, which is now a narrow lane lined with single-room dwellings. They are home to a number of butchers and their families. (Pahari Rajaan is also known as Gosht wali Pahari, or hill of the meat, for having a great number of meat shops.) This crowded tenement is attractive in a very different way, and strikes an ironic contrast to the empty spaciousness of the rest of the house.
Regardless, in a time when many old landmarks in Old Delhi are giving way to new multi-storey residential projects, the survival of this mansion makes it a vision of extraordinary fragility.
As afternoon changes to evening, the balconies start to become indistinct. As if they were but a legend.
[This is the 319th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
An under-appreciated souveneir