City Landmark – British-Era Tank, Old Delhi
On the hilltop.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Breathe out a deep sigh, before marvelling at the irony. Here’s a most amazing Old Delhi alley with a deep solid character, but without a name. This walkway strip is actually more like a bridge that connects the two hills of Pahari Bhojla and Pahari Imli. This moment, silence all.
Now, in this remote-seeming world, a clothes trader comes trundling up thoughtfully from one hill to the other. He stops to identify this little galli as tanki.
Indeed, the passageway is topped by a huge pink tanki. It marks the highest point of this high-altitude locale, and resembles the gigantic water towers spread across the capital. The trader gives way to another citizen. His hands crossed intellectual-like on his back, the elderly gent looks up towards the tank, and states that it is “angrezo ke zamane ki,” explaining that the tank dates from the time when the Brits ruled our motherland.
He leaves the gali to its silence. The topography here resembles a sloped ravine. The alley emanates from Pahari Bhojla, ascends almost vertically in a series of steep staircases, reaches a flattened peak, curves halfway round the tank, and flows down into Pahari Imli. The side walls at this sunny hour are splashed with shadows of surrounding balconies.
Now, embroider Abdul Hamid appears, approaching from the direction of Pahari Imli. He abruptly stops, shifts to the side, folds his arms, and waits for son Athar, who pops up moments later to give the wallet he had forgotten while leaving home. Abdul Hamid confirms that the tank is indeed “angrezo ke zamane ki.” Walking to his workshop in Bulbuli Khana, he casually gestures towards a pair of iron pipes jutting out of the tank. The pipes are massive—one of these is inscribed with the numbers ‘1939.’ Is it the year in which the tank came up?
The passageway’s renewed silence is intruded upon by tenth graders Rameez and Rayyan. They aren’t in school despite this being a weekday “because we are preparing for our board exams.” On their way from the market down under, the boys are returning home in Pahari Bhojla for a joint study session. They agree to pose for a portrait in this nameless alley that they have been toing and froing all their lives, everyday. Silence bolts back as they quit the scene.
A nameless passage