City Walk – Faseel Road Part 2, Old Delhi
Path by the wall.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Some uncertainly say it exists. Most say it doesn’t. The Faseel Road signage is elusive. The road’s name does occasionally pop up on shop hoardings, but no dedicated signboard is to be seen. This is unfortunate, for every self-respecting Old Delhi street possesses a white Dilli Nagar Nigam signboard identifier, with the street’s name painted in blue.
Faseel is ‘’fort wall’ in Persian, and Faseel Road—originally called Zayr-e-Faseel— ran along the historic quarter’s city wall, now mostly gone. Most of the road too has gone, existing in broken fragments. One substantial part lies between Turkman Gate and Dilli Gate— featured here. No dedicated Faseel signboard was sighted there.
Faseel Road’s only other substantial segment is this route, emanating from Ajmeri Gate monument, just around the turning from GB Road red light area. The pathway starts at Rahmani mosque, outside which lies the 40-year-old tea stall of the venerable Muhammed Raees. “I have never seen the kind of signboard you are searching for, but I can tell with confidence that this is Faseel Road,” he says, handing a glass of steaming chai.
An arm’s length away, labourer Manoj is hauling bundles of red hose pipes on his back. “This is Asaf Ali Road, bhai,” he says authoritatively. The assertion is almost the truth, for many Faseel Road shop signboards give their address as “Asaf Ali Road backside.”
The lane ahead is speckled with an unusual number of “steel house” businesses. The merchandises listed on the hoarding of one such establishment reads like a sequence of coded messages: “square, hex, angle patti, sheet, pipe fitting, seamless bush.”
No dedicated signboard anywhere.
Standing outside his “transport uploading” shop, entrepreneur Jitender Singh shrugs. “The name of Faseel is ahista-ahista receding from the public consciousness, the rickshaw wale look on blankly if you ask them the way to Faseel.” (The claim turns out to be true on engaging with rickshaw pullers at different spots in the vicinity.)
Ahead, two memorable visuals:
1. A men’s urinal, with a urine-stained flier on the wall: “We are in need of a cook who can make both Indian veg and non veg.”
2. A meat shop called Tender Bites with tender looking chicks playfully hopping about the counter.
The road passes by a Pracheen Hanuman Mandir (beautiful facade sculpted with peacocks). The facing side has a paratha stall. A man is sitting by the temple’s entrance, his eyes closed, his fingers drumming on his knees.
Some steps ahead, without a warning, between Shiva Logistics and Ajmeri Gate Extension Post Office, right beside Harish Babu’s chai shack, comes into view our Shangri-La, the semi-mythical signboard for which we were undertaking this pilgrimage.
Remains of a road