City Neighbourhood - Gali Ghisi Int, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood – Gali Ghisi Int, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood - Gali Ghisi Int, Old Delhi

A street with an unusual name.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It feels like Vladivostok. Just as remote, as isolated from the crowded and familiar world. This silent Old Delhi street, on the slope of Pahari Bhojla, is the side-lane of a side-lane of a lane.

On this cold windy afternoon, most doors and windows are shut closed. The plaque bearing the street’s name is partly hidden behind a loopy tangle of black cables (see photo). The name is extraordinary–Gali Ghisi Int, the street of worn-out brick.

The only open door is that of a silversmith’s workshop. The young owner’s family has been living on the street for generations, but he cannot shed any light on its name. He instead points to a facing gate, saying it is a sufi shrine. A solitary grave can be seen through the locked grill.

The gali briefly stretches inwards, and on reaching a stately doorway, it bifurcates into two directions. These two arteries, fleeting in length, culminate into statelier doorways. One of these side-lanes further bifurcates into a severely narrow alley, stamped by a multi-storey swaddled in green vines.

This narrow alley suddenly stirs into life with muffled chitchats. The sounds are very close—perhaps those chattering people are around the turning. But no one is there. Moments later, more echoing sounds are heard, they seem to be coming from some other part of the alley. It is like being stranded in a bhool bhulaiyaa (maze) of voices.

The story behind the street name is revealed some galis away by merchant Fareed Mirza of Gali Shah Abul Khair. “Ghisi Int was famous for a house whose doorway’s arch was made of ghisi int, the worn-out and polished bricks.” The all-knowing merchant is uncertain if that house still exists. He hasn’t been to Ghisi Int for decades, it is so out of the way for him, he says. (He is talking about the gali as if it were on the other end of the Trans-Siberian Railway, although it is a ten-minute walk away.)

Truth be told, Gali Ghisi Int has many arched doorways that might be made of softened bricks. The one that gave its name to the street could be any of those. Or perhaps it has vanished long ago, like much of the original Walled City edifices. Whatever, that landmark survives in the name.