City Neighbourhood - Pahari Imli, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood – Pahari Imli, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood - Pahari Imli, Old Delhi

The tamarind hill.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The love song from our grandfathers’ time is streaming out from a window atop the grocery of “Shadab ki dukan.” Up there is Bhai Majid’s “embroidery ka karkhana.” The hard-at-work tailors–Salimuddin, Arif, Shahbuddin and Jawed–are notorious for playing Muhammed Rafi’s romantic ditties all through the day, making this corner of Pahari Imli a shrine to the legendary singer.

Elsewhere, the serpentine walkways of Pahari Imli, the tamarind hill, occasionally punctuates with brief flights of staircases, chipped and broken in places. Long before Old Delhi was set up by Emperor Shahjahan, this land was likely a tree-covered hill. One of those trees must have been the tamarind tree that gave its name to the place. No tree of any kind is to be seen today.

This afternoon, the lanes are deserted but sounds of sobbing, scolding, coughing, giggling are leaking out through windows and balconies. A drone-like din is coming from a moderately large printing press, just around the corner. The made-in-Germany “Original Heidelberg offset-letterset” printer there (see photo) must be spewing out fresh pages of a book-in-progress.

Nearby, a ow of stationeries is nestled close to late scholar Abdul Sattar’s book-filled residence. One of these shops often gets crowded with people holding infants in their arms. The stationery owner is well-regarded in the surroundings for performing “jhaar-phoonk” on babies diagnosed with jaundice.

Sadly, one person with an encyclopaedic insights into the old way of life in Pahari Imli is no longer alive. In his final years Naseem Mirza Changezi had grown frail, though he retained his forceful temperament. He would introduce himself as Genghis Khan’s 23rd descendant. Foreign writers dutifully visited his mansion to give local colour to their Walled City stories. The venerable gent would show them a parchment that minutely linked his lineage to the Mongol conqueror. Naseem Mirza Changezi died in 2018, aged 108. The residence in which his descendants continue to live is tucked close to Pahari Imli’s highest point, on the other side of which lies the neighbouring hill of Pahari Bhojla.

Towards the lowest altitude of Pahari Imli stands a mosque called Imli Wali Masjid. No imli tree there either.