City Walk – Faseel Road Part 1, Old Delhi
Path by the wall.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The dictionary meaning of the Persian word Faseel is ‘qile ki diwar,’ the fort wall.
Once the entire Old Delhi was gheraoed by a 5.5 miles-long city wall, punctuated with 12 gateways (+2 at the Red Fort). The world outside the diwar was considered wild. By sunset, the gateways would be shut closed, manned by night sentries armed with weapons and flaming mashal. Being Delhi’s newest edition, nobody then called Old Delhi old. Most citizens referred to the quarter as Faseelband Shahr—the city within the wall. The term has fallen out of circulation among the Faseelband Shahr’s new generation, occasionally popping up in Urdu dailies.
Logically enough, Zayr-e-Faseel (literally, the side of the wall) was the long path snaking about the city wall. Most of that stone wall is gone, the path shrunk to isolated patches, such as the one that exist alwong the stretch between Turkman Gate and Dilli Gate. Known as Faseel Road, this rutty lane flows past landmarks like the iconic Delite cinema and Hotel Broadway building, but the facades of most of these notable addresses are turned to the other side, facing the statelier Asaf Ali Road. The back-walls of these buildings though double up as makeshift facades of small businesses that line Faseel Road. Such as Sabir Bhai’s chai stall, its tea things delicately stacked on the shuttered grills of a building’s back-wall. Or Yaseen Salmani’s barber stall, its small mirror nailed to another building’s back-wall. The nooks and crevices of these back-walls additionally serve as wardrobes for the labourers and rickshaw pullers living on Faseel Road paves.
Make no mistake, Faseel Road is grand in its own way, possessing a few buildings of its own. Most look rather timeworn. Take the workshop of welder Abdul Rehman—see photo 1 below. One edifice that looks tiptop happens to be brand-new, still to be ravaged by the rotating seasons—see photo 2.
Nearing the end of the lane doesn’t mean reaching the end of Faseel Road, Another surviving segment lies about a mile away, behind the GB Road red light district, along another stretch of the vanished city wall.
Remains of a road