City Walk - Gali Mochiyan, Old Delhi

City Walk – Gali Mochiyan, Old Delhi

One of the one percent in 13 million.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

If it were faithful to its name, Gali Mochiyan this afternoon would be full of shoe makers at work. Instead, the gali is resonating with the whirring of a sewing machine. No “mochi” lives in Gali Mochiyan any longer, mutters a passer-by. Another gives his dissent to the assertion, explaining that “a community of shoe makers resided in this street many years ago, but down the generations those dwellers have either moved out, or changed the profession.”

Meanwhile, a woman in black approaches the source of the machine sound. On reaching the counter at Rushda Fancy Tailor, she demands a “piko” for her dupatta. She could as well have gone to the adjoining Aqsa Piko Center, but it is shuttered for the moment.

Dense with private staircases (see photo), the narrow and straight lane is so dimly lit that it is barely perceptible from Chitli Qabar Bazar, where it starts. Not far from its mouth is the lane’s largest shop, Royal Fish Aquarium, in which three men are seated in silence, looking at the gali (where nothing is happening).

The lane remains empty until a teenager appears. He stops by an arched doorway, gingerly opening the door. Inside, a huge windowless matted hall. It is empty. “Jhoomar,” the boy says in a hushed tone, raising his arm towards a chandelier. “This is Chhoti Masjid… the masjid is in this gali, and this gali is very chhoti… I live in this gali.”

Some steps away, papad seller Raju is flicking out two or three moon-shaped papads from his straw basket. He carefully keeps the papads in a cloth bag, which is stranded in mid-air. The bag is tied to a rope. After a while, a woman on the third-floor window of an adjacent multi-storey pulls up the bag with her arms, as if drawing water bucket from a well. The bag goes upwards in jerks.

Farther, the street splits in two. The right way culminates at Subhan Modern School (English Medium). The leftward path goes past a series of arched doors. The plainest door is the most eye-catching with “No Parking” painted on it —this has to be signboard painter Shakeel Artist, whose work graces almost every street of the Walled City. Look, his famous signature!

The gali ends a few steps away, at Haveli Azam Khan Chowk. There, in Modern Tea House, poetry aficionados Taslim and Ayub are discussing the songs of the 1982 movie Prem Rog.