City Landmarks – A-One Flower & More A-One Places, Old Delhi & Around Town
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Galli Chooriwallan, the street of bangle sellers. Mohalla Qabristan, the neighbourhood of the graveyard. Pahari Imli, the hill of the tamarind.
Each of these names are requiems for lost worlds. Galli Chooriwallan is no longer an exclusive address of bangle sellers. Mohalla Qabristan no longer hosts burials. Pahari Imli no longer has its tamarind tree.
The names of Old Delhi places are severed from the Old Delhi of today, and barely have any connection with the wider metropolis. But one landmark is an exception. Not only is its name very modern, but it also helps reduce the gap between the Walled City and the big wide Delhi existing outside its vanished walls. A-One Flower makes wedding-specific garlands as well as “topi wala sehra, burkha wala sehra, saada sehra, jai mala kantha and all marriages and parties.” It is a modest operation, consisting of a wooden cot, laid out every morning at the entrance of a bylane in Chitli Qabar Chowk.
The stall’s roots go deep into the soil of Chitli Qabar’s daily life— old and young men sit on its cot to gossip, joke, argue and fight from late morning to late night. The motor pump of a side-lane’s entire water supply is fixed on the wall opposite. Too hyperlocal, A-One Flower is too cosmopolitan, too. There are so many A-Ones in the national capital region that if you draw a line linking all of them, you will end up with a dense A-1 map of Delhi.
There is A-One Makhan Wale Aloo Parathe snack cart in Ghaziabad’s Vaishali, A-One Hospital in Paschim Vihar, A-One International Public School in Nithari, A-One Moradabadi Chicken Biryani stall in Mahipalpur, A-One Bakery in Abul Fazal, A-One Luxury Spa and Saloon in Punjabi Bagh, A-One Store in Jorbagh Market, A-One Nursery in Kaushambi, A-1 Engineers in Netaji Subhash Marg, and A-One Books in Ansari Road. The Millennium City of Gurgaon is even richer with the A-Ones: A-One PG Hostel in Sector 22, A-One Medicos in Sector 31, A-One Academy Music School in Sector 46, A-One Properties in Sector 49, A-One Public School in Sheetla Colony, and many many others.
Chitli Qabar’s A-One florist, Muhammed Sadiq, informs that “my father founded this shop 15 years ago, and named it A-One to show the duniya that we are top class.” Picking up the roses, he says he gets them from Fatehpuri Masjid, where the flowers come early in the morning from Panipat in Haryana. He starts making a garland for a “wedding order,” entwining the roses with currency notes.
It’s 11am, and the bazar shops are gradually opening for the day. Just around the corner, shutters are coming up on… well, A-One Jewellers.