City Neighbourhood- Gali Godo Wali, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood- Gali Godo Wali, Old Delhi

A secretive world.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

With its extreme narrowness and darkened ambiance, Gali Godo Wali has the mood of an underground tunnel . Plus, it is so secretive that it doesn’t exist even on Google (until the moment this dispatch goes online!).

Sunny afternoon notwithstanding, the short, straight claustrophobic lane is lying pickled in a cooling musty dampness. A door ajar reveals a warren of additional doors—what had seemed to be a single house might be consisting of many houses. From a window ahead comes the muffled rattle of deep freezers; that’s in fact a cold storage for a nearby biryani eatery. The next window bears a handwritten flier for festive dresses. The lane ends into an impasse.

Brushing up his oily moustache with a scooping hand, vegetable seller Furqan confidently says that each of the Godo Wali houses originally had a well. He explains that the street was so named because its first settlers adopted the gali as their home. He points out the resemblance of of Godo to Goad, a word for adoption. The assertion is contradicted by middle-aged Mustaqeem, a photo-framer. Arms folded and chin tilted upwards, he identifies himself as a fourth-generation Godo Wali wale. “Many years ago, our gali had very many ghadde (potholes), it derived its name from those.” He says quietly.

Some steps ahead, a third citizen is waiting with a third version: this elderly gent credits the street’s christening to an esteemed dweller’s nickname.

Recalling the gali as it were in his childhood, the aforementioned photo-framer slowly walks to the street’s stateliest doorway—Lal Haveli. “My home… we have eight households within, all of us living inside are rishtedar (relatives).” Two of his little nephews scutter out of the red doorway—Ishan and Umair are fifth grade school students (see photo). The photo-framer continues: “one of my brother has a jewellery business, another deals in kuccha kapra, meaning unstitched clothes…” The attention turns to the peel-like remains of a tree trunk fused into a concrete column. “It was a giant neem, it was weakening the walls of gali’s houses, it was cut last year.”

With only one opening, the sleepy cul-de-sac is linked to the world outside by a less sleepy passage lined with Shoaib’s sunken chai stall, Huma Boutique, Tuba Dairy, Ahmed Water Point, and Shafi Qadimi Dawa Khana. The passage ends at Haveli Azam Khan Chowk. There, this moment, in Modern Tea House, poet Javed Niazi is sitting in silence.