City Life – Nemat Khana, Delhi & Rampur
A way of life.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It was a household sight as ordinary as a toaster or a microwave. Usually seen in the bawarchi khana, this wooden cabinet with a steel jaali, or net, was used to store leftover dishes, or milk, or mithai. The fridge deleted it from our world. Once an integral part of every Old Delhi home, Nemat Khana has never been seen in Old Delhi by The Delhi Walla.
Last weekend, three brand new Nemat Khanas were spotted outside a small furniture workshop. Sharing a photo on the social media triggered extraordinary responses from folks in Delhi and beyond. As if a mere glimpse of the Nemat Khana contained long-forgotten memories waiting to reveal themselves. Best is to share a very few of these very many responses:
“Naani ki yaad dila di (reminded of the grandma).”
“We called it meatsafe… with a little cup of water under each leg so that the ants couldn’t climb!”
“Soon after we had one, it became clear that the food wasn’t safe in the Nemat Khana. The cat knew the trick was to climb on the top, move the hook a bit with the paw, and the milk was all his to finish. Eventually, a lock system was introduced.”
“At my grandmother’s place, it used to be called “meat shelf,” although it was an entirely vegetarian household!!”
“My grandma had at least 3-4 of these. Her area had major power cuts, and having a fridge was useless.”
“This is where all the goodies were kept locked. Andey ka Halwa, Chaney ka Halwa, Kaaley Gajar ka Halwa…”
Naturally, some of us might want to know the location of this little street-side workshop still making this object, so dear to the remembered past of so many Delhi people. Sadly, the rare place isn’t in Delhi, but three hours away in Rampur town. Luckily, artist-carpenter Yaseen is happy to accept orders from the Delhi region, as long as the buyer bears the delivery cost. His charges for building this handmade souvenir of our past is absurdly cheap: 2000 rupees. The gentleman makes it from sheesham wood in two days flat. His mobile number: 9027416799.
And here’s the most unusual of the online responses set off by the Nemat Khana photo, from tweeter Nadeem Sadeek: “But I use it to keep my pigeons!”
Lost time, found