City Monument – Ghamandi Sarai, Gurgaon
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The gateway is bathed in the evening light with a beauty so tender you fear it might vaporise with the next heatwave. The time is altering the place in other ways however, here in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar in the Graeter Delhi Region. The elderly man who had been sitting under the gateway for many decades is no more. “He died before the coronavirus,” says Pinky.
A friendly middle-aged woman, Pinky is sorting old clothes on the exact spot where the departed man would sort the same kind of old clothes. He traded in secondhand garments, and so does she.
“Budhram was my father-in-law’s brother,” she informs.
Budhram was as much of an icon in the area as this gateway. His establishment stood right under the monument. He was the only person in the vicinity who had something to tell you about it.
“But I don’t know anything about this darwaza. I don’t even know its name!” says Pinky, laughing.
“This darwaza has been here for more than two hundred years,” Budhram had told this reporter in the winter of 2018. He had identified the picturesque gateway as Ghamandi Sarai.
Pinky says that both Budhram and her husband, with whom she works, inherited this business — and its picaresque location — from Budhram’s late father. Maujilal, the family patriarch, was a native of Paharganj in Delhi, who settled in Gurgaon before the “azadi” in 1947.
Pinky explains that, like Budhram, she and her husband source old clothes from Delhi, “and we tear them into pieces before sending them to a factory, where they are processed into dusters and mops.”
In summer, Budhram would survive the day’s sweltering heat by staying inside the small room scooped under one side of the gateway. It is currently filled with old clothes, and one of Pinky’s three sons is lounging on the top of one of the piles. In winters, Budhram would sit outside, constantly shifting his place to be directly under the warmth of the sun.
Pinky has a theory on why she wouldn’t be noticed much by people when Budhram was alive, although she too would work daily under this sane gateway. “Baba had such a personality,” she says reverently. She wonders if years later there will be any trace left of the time her family and their business have given to this gateway. “But the darwaza shall live and live.”
Looking up at the gateway’s ceiling, Budhram had pointed out that it neither has cement, nor any sariya to support it, like in modern-day structures. “It’s all stone,” he had gushed in awe.
A monument’s humans