City Neighbourhood - Gali Andheri, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood – Gali Andheri, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood - Gali Andheri, Old Delhi

The darkened street.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

No darkness tonight in Gali Andheri, not even a spot of it—though the name translates to ‘darkened street.’ The twisty long-winded Old Delhi lane is momentarily landscaped with unwieldily patches of white and orange luminosities. These lights are emanating out of scores of street lamps and house windows.

Young Moosa, a Gali Andheri dweller, is standing at the street’s colourfully painted gateway, where it meets Pahari Bhojla’s crowded bazar. He informs that his street had no wayside lamps until about the turn of the century, and that it would return to total darkness each day after sundown. An eighth grade student, the boy naturally doesn’t have a lived experience of the street’s legendary dark age. He however insists on the accuracy of his claims, passed down to him from the street elders. He furthermore insists that Gali Andheri used to be haunted by ghosts at night. “It would fill up with djinns, and with headless sarkate bhoot.” These were the spirit of people who had suffered violent unnatural deaths, he points out matter-of-factly.

Further ahead along the hilly street, past a warren of staircases and curtained doorways, lies a small manufacturing workshop for artificial jewellery. Owner Mohsin, who lives in nearby Gali Ghantewali, vividly remembers the era (he was then a child) of Gali Andheri’s “total darkness.” He dismisses the ghosts as “afwah,” or rumour.

After passing by Getwell pharmacy and Masjid Hanifa, the street suddenly jerks into a ninety degrees turn. Three figures are lingering here (see photo). Envelope manufacturer Naseer is chatting with Abdur Rahman, who runs a chicken eatery near Jama Masjid, and with Hammad, who works in an “eye optical shop” in Daryaganj. The men are unanimous about their gali’s past association with the ghosts. Hammad says he has often heard about the “bhoot log.” Naseer says that ghost sightings were so common in the gali that nobody would step outside their doors after nine at night. The arrival of the street lighting finally forced the ghosts to go away, says Abdur Rahman.

Hours later, as midnight nears, some of the lamps in the deserted gali continue to stay lit. But the narrow band of sky stretched out over the cramped street is pitch dark.