City Neighbourhood – Pahari Bhojla, Old Delhi
‘Hood on the hill.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The congested mohalla of Pahari Bhojla is nestled about a pahari, a hill, and is said to have been the hideout of Bhojla daku, back when the Walled City was all rocks and bushes. Here’s an anthology of some of the mohalla scenes observed across many days. Sequenced in no particular order of time.
5.30pm: The most beautiful time of the day here. Half of the mohalla’s main street is sunk in shade, the other half is shimmery with the evening sun’s aggressive gold glow. The light and shade are intersecting in front of Aslam Tea Parathe Wala.
7am: This little unnamed storefront, underneath Zoya Beauty Salon (“Trained by VLCC”), is a meat shop. Manned by Zubair Bhai.
7pm: The same little unnamed storefront, underneath Zoya Beauty Salon, is now a kebab shop. Suhail Bhai is expertly sliding a fresh fried burra kebab between two buns, burger style. (The shop sells meat in the morning, and kebabs in the evening. And Zubair, Suhail are brothers.)
6am: A man is lying flat in front of the signage of Getwell Pharmacy, by the turning to Gali Andheri. His eyes are closed, his head atop a huge sack overfilled with street discards (probably collected by him the previous night).
4pm: The stately door to the deserted house is shut close with two locks. On peering inside through the narrow crack: collapsed roof, cobwebby columns, lots of rats, and a grey cat.
2.32pm: A man in torn pants is ambling up and down the lane. He tells a passerby, “You’ll forever stay happy.”
6pm: Shop no. 2185. “Watch repairer” Shaukeen Ahmad is mending a customer’s wall clock, while gupshuping with Muhammmed Suleman, the longtime imam of the facing Unchi Masjid—the mosque is perched on an unchi height.
3.30pm: Three women are chatting by the turning to Gali Mandir Wali, oblivious to the fliers on the wall. One flier says: “Loan from 5,000 to 200,000 in just one hour”. Another: “Coaching class. Nursery to 10th Class. Medium—English, Hindi, Urdu.”
10am: The bearded Mehtab, elderly cook at Young Sweets House, is deep-frying pooris in a huge black cauldron. He is simultaneously tossing polite greetings at passers-by.
7pm: Shoe repairer Chiranji Prasad is sitting cross-legged on his longtime spot “I’ve been running this stall for 45 years.” He shows his right arm, tattooed with his name.
7pm: Equipped with a hand-saw, Mirza Nawab at Nawab Huggies and Diapers is rustling out a wooden chair on the shop counter. “I do carpentry only for myself.” The man’s diction is flawless, the tone of his voice extremely courteous.
Midnight: Two brown dogs are sleeping on a cart beside Sajid Chicken Corner, their paws touching.
This way to Pahari Bhojla