City Walk – Gali Gunna Mishra, Near Dilli Gate
A Walled City street.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Narrow, secretive. The street is 50 steps away from Dili Gate, and 10 steps away from the crowded khasta kachori kiosks of Jaipur Namkeen Bhandar and Brajbasi Namkeen Bhandar. Yet, it feels completely severed from the Purani Dilli pandemonium.
This afternoon, Galli Gunna Mishra is empty, silent. It tingles the spine to cross so easily from total chaos to total calm. The right-side wall is weatherbeaten pink. The left-side wall is weatherbeaten blue. A slightly open door to a house shows a small boy in a small room, enjoying dal-chawal. A slightly open door to the next-to-next house shows a cloistered veranda with two shafts of soft daylight falling across the floor from high roshandaans; at the meeting of their rays, a cloud of dust is floating.
Further ahead, a dense green creeper is drooping down from a multi-storey’s roof like Rapunzel’s hair, almost touching the ground.
The gali’s most graceful embellishment is a slim window, as tall as the door beside it. This is Radha Krishna Mandir, dating from 2002, the year of young Ashish Saini’s death, in whose memory his family “revived” this “pracheen (ancient)” temple—as noted on a marble slab’s fast-fading inscription.
Nearby, a flier for Anita Beauty Parlour—“Nail art available here.” The other signs read: “dog trainer” and “painter.”
Suddenly, the sound of confident footsteps. Vipin Pandey is a resident here. He arrived from his village in UP three months ago and is already a man with a job. Speaking in shudh Hindi, the security guard cranes his neck upwards: “So much more shaant (serene) than the rest of Purani Dilli.” He flicks his arm disdainfully.
The neighbourhood’s patron saint might as well be Bhagwan Shiv. His gigantic blue statue is perched atop another temple, standing at the mouth of the street. Its priest believes that Galli Gunna Mishra was named after one of the long-gone residents of the lane. “The whole street was home to Brahmin families. I am also a Brahmin. I was also living on this same street,” he remarks. “We moved to Pandav Nagar two years back… A Muslim family now inhabits our old house.” A smile breaks over his lips. “People change with time, so do their galiyan… this is sansar ka niyam.”
On stepping out, the Dilli Gate monument re-emerges, unchanged.