City Walk – Kucha Saad Ullah Khan, Old Delhi
A lane of beauty
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The dusty iron door is padlocked with a crude made-in-China lock. Yet looking so pretty with floral motifs. Even so, no passerby is caring for this poor beauty. Neither is anyone attentive to the fliers plastered on the walls of Kucha Saad Ullah Khan. Although, just studying the defaced walls makes it easy to crack this winding street behind Golcha Cinema. Sample some of the bills:
“Both Illiterates and graduates welcome… direct recruitment as security guards “
“De-addiction center, free treatment!”
“Carry six medical tests for 100 rupees—blood sugar, blood pressure, heartbeat rate, oxygen level, body temperature, body weight”
“Free dance class, hip hop and Bollywood, only for boys”
The lane’s friendliest landmark is sans a banner. Young Vijay’s tea stall (see photo) is under a peepal tree. A nearby door is all old-worldly grace; its wood an amalgam of several seasons hardened into a luminous slab of golden-yellow effervescence. (Nobody’s looking at this beauty either!) Whatever, Vijay’s adrak-tinted brew makes all the tension go choo-mantar. Now a young labourer approaches the stall to get post-lunch chai for his colleagues. His flask is a small polythene bag.
Perhaps our time-dulled inheritance is to be blamed for the fact that no passing rahgir has concrete insights on the man from whom the kucha gets its name. A venerable gent standing outside F.A. Gems Ring & Stones Supplier conjectures that “Saad Ullah Khan must have been some nawab.” Similar ignorance clouds the patrons of Hajra Gift Center and Mafia Hair Saloon.
Saad Ullah Khan is also the name of the kucha’s tallest edifice. Masjid Saad Ullah, next to Rose Beauty Parlour, is so extensive that its multi-storey staircase could actually be lengthier than the street outside. At this moment the mosque’s prayer hall on the second floor is filled with two folks. One of them is a bearded vision in white. In white topi, white kaftani kurta, white tight chooridar pajamas, he is a figure of great deportment. The man solemnly gives his take: “Behram Khan was a Mughal general who owned a substantial estate in the Walled City. His three sons inherited his property, and today their individual localities are known by their names— Galli Rohilla, Galli Pakhullah and Kucha Saad Ullah Khan.”
Out on the kucha, a cat springs down from a window above, and stands at the door by the chai stall. She stays still for a long while, staring boldly and unblinking at the kucha passersby.
Life of a kucha