City Neighbourhood - Brijmohan Marg, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood – Brijmohan Marg, Old Delhi

City Neighbourhood - Brijmohan Marg, Old Delhi

A lane in the Walled City.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Buildings evoke eras. With its arched doorway and carved balcony, a mansion of lakhori bricks in Gali Chooriwallan instantly transports the gazer to the late Mughal times. Some streets away within the same historic quarter, in Ganj Meer Khan, a multi-storey apartment complex resembles the contemporary aesthetics of the distant suburbia. While towards the eastern walls of the Walled City, here at Brijmohan Marg, these contemplative houses are indicative of… just which era?

These buildings are neither as ornamental as havelis, nor as toneless as flats. Take this mansion of modern-day bricks. It doesn’t look old, it also doesn’t look new. The hulky facade is partitioned into equal halves by a gash of jaali-screen running from top to bottom. In all likelihood, the jaali shelters the building’s central stairway.

Brijmohan Marg has an ample share of similar architecture. Each house has an unpretentious doorway, and wherever the door is ajar, a darkened staircase can be glimpsed. This afternoon, a monkey is lounging by one such staircase, a cat is prowling outside another.

The lane begins with a pyayu for drinking water, dedicated to the man after whom the street is named. The inscription describes “Swargiya Brijmohan ji” as a social worker. The lane’s living landmark, however, is Kamlesh. An ironing woman, her daily work with the neighbourhood laundry unfolds right outside her house door, by the roadside. Her ironing desk is sheltered from the summer sun by a black awning. The stall is 85 years old, and was founded by her late parents, Kanchan Lal and Chameli Devi. “I’m 60, I have spent all my years on this street.” Waving towards the buildings across the lane, she says that “they didn’t exist in my childhood, it was all khula (open), we could straight see the main road of Daryaganj, which goes from Dilli Gate to Lal Qila.”

The lane has two temples. Bhagwan Valmiki Mandir has a tall peepal in its sunny courtyard, but the shade of the tree doesn’t reach out to the lane. The beautiful Shri Shiv Mandir is guarded by a densely leaved bar tree, its foliage forms a green arch over the street. The temple is closed for the moment, a single bar leaf is lying by the locked gate.

World of a street

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City Neighbourhood - Brijmohan Marg, Old Delhi

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City Neighbourhood - Brijmohan Marg, Old Delhi