City Neighbourhood- Gali Peerji Wali, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood- Gali Peerji Wali, Old Delhi

Mystic’s lane.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

They forgot the water jug. The family must have vacated the old house in a hurry. Not much remains of the mansion except for a green door and a corner wall, the shelves still standing. The poor jug is lying abandoned on one of those shelves (see photo). Whatever, things are moving fast here. A new building is coming up on the plot—maybe the household will return after its completion. Same saga for most of Purani Dilli. Timeworn edifices are being razed down speedily. The historic quarter is getting rejuvenated with contemporary housing to compliment today’s lifestyles.

Soon, the shelves and the door too will be razed down, and then nobody will remember the mansion. Just as nobody remembers the man who gave his identity to this street. The peer of Gali Peerji Wali remains unknown. (The word must not be confused with the English ‘peer’)

Peer means guru, notes a passer-by’s trembling voice. He is draped in a white duhar. A woman overtakes the elderly gent. She insists a peer lived in her gali 300 years ago. “We have forgotten everything about him, including his name,” she says, sounding mildly furious.

Being a mystic, a quintessential peer can command a substantial following even centuries after his death. The mazar, or tomb, of such reverent figures teems with pilgrims. Gali Peerji Wali has no such mazar. A lane elsewhere in the old city is named Gali Mazar Wali though. But that must be the mazar of a different peer, argues the elderly man in duhar. Shaking his head, he walks ahead, past a cobwebbed house, whose tall door is padlocked with a rusting lock. A muffled heartbreaking cry is coming from within, as if a child were sobbing. “That’s a billi,” the man in duhar remarks dismissively, walking towards the street‘s dead-end.

The other end of Gali Peerji Wali is more airy, culminating into the busy Haveli Azam Khan, an unusually long street containing very many galis (Gali Peerji Wali being one of those). This grand street ends at Haveli Azam Khan Chowk. There, in Modern Tea House, a customer is singing a verse by poet Mir.