City Neighbourhood- Gali Manihar Wali, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood- Gali Manihar Wali, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood - Gali Manihar Wali, Old Delhi

A Walled City Lane.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

When the Walled City nostalgists muse about its early days, they refer to that long-ago time as “badshahi ke daur mein.” Indeed, it was “during the era of emperors” that almost all the Walled City galliyan and kuche acquired their names. These specific nouns richly tell of the past but rarely of the present, for the world has drastically altered in the historic quarter.

The story goes that “badshahi ke daur mein” Gali Choori Walan used to be the street of choori traders. Today, not a single bangle store is here. Same ended up being the fateful kismet of a Choori Walan side-lane. Gali Manihar Wali used to house a community of this name. The men living in the narrow gali were said to be employed in the choori shops of the next-door Choori Walan street. They helped the shoppers delicately slip the chooriyan over their fists and slide them on to their arms. Today, nobody in Manihar Wali has anything to do with the bangle business. This afternoon, the cramped lane is empty, dappled in cool shade. Moments pass, nothing happens; finally a man emerges out of a door. A karigar in the “paper line,” Farman Ahmad has taken a brief break from the day’s assignment—he has to rustle out hundreds of carry bags. The tiny room within the door in fact happens to be his workshop, and also his home.

There is nobody inside. Farman’s wife and son are visiting relatives. But their presence is discernible in the damp, darkened interiors—Abdul’s baby walker here, Daraksha’s dupatta there. The place is otherwise neatly stacked with Farman’s work tools, as well as with the household knickknacks, a few of which are stuffed into a big pink taak in the green wall. A small mirror on the wall is the family’s dressing mirror (see photo). There is no window. “It gets unbearably hot in May and June,” notes Farman. The family then depends on their Khaitan air cooler, perched on a wooden stool.

A sober smile breaking on his face, Farman remarks on the passing of time, and on the extinct modes of living. “My late father rode passengers on his horse-drawn tanga, so did my father’s father… their age of tange wale got over some years ago, just like the age of manihar that got over many, many years ago.”

Outside, the lane is silent, except for the wail of a rooster somewhere, continually crying –“kukroo, kukroo…”